Thursday, October 01, 2009

Unveiling R-O-B-ot

Last night outside the Storefront for Art and Architecture the robot that will help build the Pike Loop installation was unveiled. Literally:

[photos and animation by archidose]

On display now in the Storefront space are videos of previous installations by Gramazio & Kohler, Architecture and Digital Fabrication in Europe -- this is the first 1:1 scale installation in the States -- and information on the Pike Loop. A few blocks away the robot will be on full display for four weeks constructing a brick wall of "more than seven thousand bricks aggregate to form an infinite loop that weaves along the pedestrian island."

[robot unveiled | photo by archidose]

The installation is part of the ongoing research of Gramazio & Kohler , ETH Zurich and Keller AG Ziegeleien. A previous design includes the Martha und Daniel Gantenbein Winery in Fläsch, Switzerland by Bearth & Deplazes Architekten, in which bricks in a concrete frame express an image of overlapping circles from a distance.

[safety sticker on side of robot | photo by archidose]

Part of me really wants to like the wall-building robot, but I'm skeptical of the intentions behind the implementation of its technology. Basically it responds to the lack of craftsmanship today, the prevalence of surface image in architectural expression, and the continuity between drawing and building, where the computer is the constant not the individual. Certainly the technology allows for the exploration of form and process in architecture, though much of what I see is a slight variation on undulating masonry forms achieved years before computers infiltrated architectural production. Regardless, in drawing form Pike Loop looks to be doing some interesting things structurally, not just formally, so I'm curious to see how it turns out. The wall's targeted completion is October 27th.


  1. I agree with you that there is a lack of craftsmanship today. However, I think that if the engineering and programming end of the robitics is done with care and precision, it could benefit the detail of a design. It could show 'craftsmen' that their work can be replaced by a machine because of their lack of attention to detail. Vision sensors on robots could recognize the color or shape of a brick and be capable of things like patterning a masonry wall... something we don't see too often anymore. Maybe this would drive craftsment to compete and rediscover their skills that we pay them for?

  2. The craftman is probably the least deserving of the blame when it comes to the lack of highly-skilled masons. It's unfair to characterize the current state of things when there is often very little demand, and very little will to pay for detailed and interesting work.


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