When Buildings Build Themselves

In the second part of our popular series “How 3D Printing Will Change Our World,” we took a look at the work of Neri Oxman, an MIT professor 3D Printing fantastic, nature-inspired designs that actually respond to their environment.

But an MIT colleague and fellow architect, Skylar Tibbits, and his partner Arthur Olson of the Scripps Research Institute, are taking Oxman’s thesis one step further. Similarly inspired by natural properties that allow for interaction with the environment, these two are trying to figure out: ”Could buildings one day build themselves?”

The two recently exhibited the Autodesk-sponsored BioMolecular Self-Assembly at TED Global 2012 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The project? Take the basic ingredients for molecular assembly, put them in individual flasks, and shake well. The result? The independent parts actually find each other and self-assemble various structures themselves.

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Bio-Molecular Self-Assembly, by Skylar Tibbits and Arthur Olson. Photo via SJET.

It looks pretty small-scale right now, but Olson and Tibbits have already applied self-assembly technologies for larger installations – which means that buildings might not be so far off…

Find out how this technology could create buildings, and check out more photos/video, after the break… 

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VoltaDom, a complicated installation by Skylar Tibbits, which inspired him to look into self-assembly.

According to Tibbits, “The first large-scale applications will likely take shape in extreme environments of near-zero gravity or neutral buoyancy, where the application of energy can lead to increases in interaction. Imagine using wave energy underwater to trigger the self-assembly of multistory structures, or parts dropped from high altitudes to unfold fully erected structures, or even modular, transformable and reconfigurable space structures!”

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The Self-Assembly Line, a large-scale example of self-assembly. Courtesy of Skylar Tibbits and Arthur Olson.

Tibbits thinks his technology will be most applicable in space, but he urges us to imagine further. In his TEDxBoston talk (shown below) he challenges people from all walks of life to consider: how could these self-building machines be applied in other ways? How could they change the world for the better?

For now, we leave that question to you.

Story via SJET

About this author
Cite: Vanessa Quirk. "When Buildings Build Themselves" 20 Jul 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/255918/when-buildings-build-themselves> ISSN 0719-8884

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