Why Robotic Construction? / Philip F. Yuan for the Shenzhen Biennale (UABB) 2019

The Gantry Robotic system for off-site prefabrication ©DDRC at Tongji University and Fab-Union, 2015

What happens when the sensor-imbued city acquires the ability to see – almost as if it had eyes? Ahead of the 2019 Shenzhen Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (UABB), titled "Urban Interactions," ArchDaily is working with the curators of the "Eyes of the City" section at the Biennial to stimulate a discussion on how new technologies – and Artificial Intelligence in particular – might impact architecture and urban life. Here you can read the “Eyes of the City” curatorial statement by Carlo Ratti, the Politecnico di Torino and SCUT. If you are interested in taking part in the exhibition at UABB 2019, submit your proposal to the “Eyes of the City” Open Call by May 31st, 2019: www.eyesofthecity.net

Why Robotic Construction_Diagram ©Philip F. Yuan and Chao Yan

Since digital infrastructure and automation technology made it possible to correlate “eyes,” “hands” and “brain” with the workings of the city, a virtual machine has emerged to integrate matter, energy and information in the lived environment. Urban sensations have become inseparable from the effects of this machine’s production on the interactions between the city and its inhabitants. In investigating the new condition of social assemblage, one question could emerge naturally – why robotic construction?

To address this question, the diagram performs as an intellectual field that territorializes a series of concepts/actions/events regarding robotic construction and its interventions into social life. In this diagram, the terms are distributed across the field according to their correlation to the triangles of “Matter-Energy-Information” and “Eyes-Hands-Brain of the City,” while the distances between the terms are determined by their internal “intimacies” and oppositions. In general, the diagram is intended to offer a loosely constructed network of ideas that could cultivate further speculations on the role of robotic technology in the constant reform of our living environment.

With industrial robots as the revolutionary construction platform of the digital era, the architectural profession is experiencing a great paradigm shift from traditional crafts and industrial reproduction to cyborg craftsmanship techniques combining human with a machine and new human-to-human collaborations. This hardware-software platform integrates the “hands,” the “eyes” and the “brain” of the city with an information network for building. It circulates matter, energy and information to mix our virtual living environment with actual building processes.

With the robotic construction platform, the materialization process of the city could be constantly manipulated and altered through various invented fabrication technologies, continuously forming and reshaping the living environment.

Meanwhile, new possibilities of collaboration brought by this robotic platform challenge traditional design authorship and question authority within the cycle of architectural design and construction, decentralizing the control of energy consumption within the system of production.

Both off-site prefabrication technology and in-situ robotic construction make “architecture without architects” a possibility. Through the reciprocal feedback loop between cloud computation and cloud production, a tendency toward de-professionalization within the building industry emerges. The shared knowledge and liberated creativity between robots and humans brought forth by the robotic platform encourage citizen contribution in the constant building process of the lived environment.

3 Generations of in-situ masonry construction robots © DDRC at Tongji University and Fab-Union, 2013-2017

Through open-ended mass production and mass customization, cities become distinct in their growth and reforming processes as the collective creativities of various participants interact in both the virtual and spatial dimensions to reach collaboration.

In this citizen-involved production process of the city, the robotic platform allows for a subjectivity that produces a new capacity for expressing the individuality of citizens as design participants in the ongoing negentropy of the living environment. The robotic platform acts as a form of resistance toward mass uniformity, serves to de-territorialize social assemblages and eventually frees us for an empowered urban living experience.

“Cloud Village” for the Chinese Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale © DDRC at Tongji University and Fab-Union, 2018

About the Author

Philip F. Yuan

Philip F. Yuan is Professor at the College of Architecture and Urban Planning (CAUP) at Tongji University, where he is the director of the Digital Design Research Center (DDRC). He is also the Founding Partner of Archi-Union Architects and Fab-Union Technology. His research mainly focuses on the field of performance-based tectonics in architecture as well as robotic fabrication, and he is able to realize many of his research theories in his architectural practices. Since 2011, Yuan has been the co-organizer of the annual academic event series DigitalFUTURES, which encourages theoretical and scientific research on computational design and robotic fabrication internationally. He has published a number of books on his works and related fields in both English and Chinese. His research and projects have received many international awards, have been exhibited worldwide – including at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, 2017 Chicago Biennale, Milan Triennial, UABB (Shenzhen) – and have formed parts of several renowned museum collections.

For more info about the Call: https://www.archdaily.com/914096/shenzhen-2019-bi-city-biennale-of-urbanism-architecture-eyes-of-the-city-exhibition-section-call-for-submissions

"Urban Interactions": Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (Shenzhen) - 8th edition. 15 December 2019, Shenzhen, China

Opening ‪on December 15th, 2019 in Shenzhen, China, "Urban Interactions" is the 8th edition of the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture (UABB). The exhibition consists of two sections, namely “Eyes of the City” and “Ascending City”, which will explore the evolving relationship between urban space and technological innovation from different perspectives. The “Eyes of the City" section features MIT professor and architect Carlo Ratti as Chief Curator and Politecnico di Torino South China University of Technology as Academic Curator. The "Ascending City" section features Chinese academician Meng Jianmin and Italian art critic Fabio Cavallucci as Chief Curators.

"Eyes of The City" section
Chief Curator: Carlo Ratti.
Academic Curator: South China-Torino Lab (Politecnico di Torino - Michele Bonino; South China University of Technology - Sun Yimin)
Executive Curators: Daniele Belleri [CRA], Edoardo Bruno, Xu Haohao
Curator of the GBA Academy: Politecnico di Milano (Adalberto Del Bo)

"Ascending City" section
Chief Curators: Meng Jianmin, Fabio Cavallucci
Co-Curator: Science and Human Imagination Center of Southern University of Science and Technology (Wu Yan)
Executive Curators: Chen Qiufan, Manuela Lietti, Wang Kuan, Zhang Li

About this author
Cite: Philip F. Yuan. "Why Robotic Construction? / Philip F. Yuan for the Shenzhen Biennale (UABB) 2019" 30 May 2019. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/918077/why-robotic-construction-philip-f-yuan-for-the-shenzhen-biennale-uabb-2019> ISSN 0719-8884

Pond Society (Chi She) © DDRC at Tongji University and Fab-Union, 2016


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