Since the dawn of the modern era, there has been a strong relationship between architecture and the car, especially in the works of Le Corbusier.
Le Corbusier was fascinated by his car (the Voisin C7 Lumineuse); the aesthetics of this functional, mass produced machine deeply influenced his designs. Its focus on function translated into his concept that houses should be "machines for living" and inspired a series of experiments of mass produced, pre-fab houses (such as the Maison Citrohan). Most of these concepts were later materialized in the iconic Villa Savoye, whose floorplan was even designed to accommodate the car's turning radius.
“If houses were built industrially, mass-produced like chassis, an aesthetic would be formed with surprising precision” - Le Corbusier, Toward an Architecture
Recently I had the unique opportunity to visit the Audi factory in Ingolstadt and found myself fascinated in the same way that Corbu would have been, but now with robots. Seeing a car go from raw materials, assembled by robots with a unique precision in a seductive choreography, and go out of the assembly line as a complete car every 30 seconds makes you wonder, what would have happened if Le Corbusier had succeeded in making the house an industrialized object?
The precise engineering of the robots at the Audi factory would allow us to design cars that are more lightweight, made from hybrid aluminum structures, with weldings and joints precise to the millimeter. But - you might wonder - what about the equalizing, boring standardization that an industrial production line would create? Well, trust me that no car looked the same as the previous one in this assembly line; just a slight change in the variable inputs for the robot's software makes millions of different combinations available for customers to choose from.
As the urban population rapidly grows, with an estimated projection of 3 billion more people living in cities by 2050, we as architects should wonder how robots could help us face this exponential growth. How could we scale the solution to create not just more efficient and sustainable parts for houses, but for larger machines - the cities themselves?
Recently I had the chance to see the HygroSkin-Meteorosensitive Pavilion at ArchiLab, an experiment on climate-responsive architecture designed with digital tools and fabricated with a robotic arm by a team of architects at the ICD University of Stuttgart. In this video we see a glimpse of what can be achieved with these technologies.
How do you think robotics could influence architecture? Let us know in the comments below.