Robotic fabrication has the potential to rethink even the oldest building module in the world. It enables us something not possible anymore under the modern economic paradigm: precise and highly differentiated placement of every module in the structure.
Column, additive robotic assembly
Student project done at Gramazio Kohler Research, ETH Zürich
ETH, Zürich, Switzerland
0.5 m x 0.5 m x 4 m
Standard bricks connected with construction glue
Kuka KR 150 L110 on linear track
Michael Knauß (project lead), Ralph Bärtschi, Jennifer Furstenau, Lorenz Lachauer, Mike Lyrenmann
Sebastian Cramer, Jari Fischer, Benjamin Heller, Pierre Levy, Claudio Meletta, Stephanie Monney, Florian Strohmaier, Thomas Summermatter, Rainer Vock
Keller Ag Ziegeleien
Additive processes, the ones where we don’t throw any or little material away, become one of our most powerful tools in an attempt to transform our building processes from waste-creating to waste-using. Brick, as one of the most ancient building materials, as well as one that can be recycled, became our material of choice to investigate the potential of building in height with robotic resources. The goal here was not automation, but potential for mass customization. Precision, not speed, could enable us to translate our designs into the physical world that were before impossible, or in the best case, that required artisans rather than construction workers. Starting from a simple shape transformation rules on a circle based on an iterative algorithm, building layer by layer, we were able to achieve a variety of spatial effects with just three parameters. Tests with physical models as well as computer simulations enabled us to narrow our design space and to pick the production piece. Based on the findings of the elective course The Programmed Column, the students were challenged to design and fabricate three prototypical brick columns of 4 m height each within a four-week workshop. Functional load bearing criteria had to be integrated with the column design in a parametric system. By the means of models, prototypes in 1:1 scale and digital simulations within a software package for structural analysis the students designed three different prototypes that were subsequently assembled on a robotic fabrication unit. The course was conducted in collaboration with BLOCK Research Group - Chair of Building Structure, prof. Philippe Block.