We’re in an age of unprecedented technological innovation. The architecture and construction industries are increasingly becoming more and more automated, as firms seek to take full advantage of new machinery and new ways of working to make the design process more efficient. With this increase in automation, however, comes lots of questions too. Will robots ever replace architects? Will the near future see a fully automated construction industry? A pertinent question, too, is the complicated case of automation and the individuality of design – does automation take away from the individuality of design?
Gramazio Kohler Research: The Latest Architecture and News
Since 2015, Gramazio Kohler Research has been in the process of developing "Mesh Mould Metal," a project that studies the unification of concrete reinforcement and formwork into a single, robotically fabricated material system. The project is based on their first phase of research, Mesh Mould, which spanned from 2012 to 2014, and developed a robotic extrusion process for a polymer mesh.
Now, as a second phase, Mesh Mould Metal “focuses on the translation of the structurally weak polymer-based extrusion process into a fully load-bearing construction system” by replicating the process in metal. Specifically, the current research delves into the development of "a fully automated bending and welding process for meshes fabricated from 3-millimeter steel wire."
Rock Print: The Remarkable Deinstallation of a Standout Exhibit at the Chicago Architecture Biennial
It’s a shame that the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial has already come and gone, and that the Windy City will have to wait until next fall for another dose of architectural euphoria. But it’s worth revisiting one of the event’s standout exhibits, an installation equally exemplary for its display as for its expiry. “Rock Print,” created by Gramazio Kohler Research of ETH Zurich and Skylar Tibbits of MIT's Self-Assembly Lab, was a four-legged, neo-primitive tower of stones and string that was erected without mortar or other reinforcement, meaning its disassembly would be the exact inverse action of its construction. The string, laid down by an algorithm, was the binder for stones laid by hand in thin stacks – the team called them “slices” – in what amounted to a type of analog version of 3D printing. The material process has been given the name “reversible concrete” and could be a paradigm shift in construction for its portability and versatility.
In the above video, the deconstruction of “Rock Print” is shown in abridged stages, where the structure’s string is dislodged and returned to a motorized spool on the gallery floor. The small stone fragments spew from the top of the structure like debris from the top of a volcano in the midst of eruption, and all that remains at the end is a small mound of concrete pebbles occupying a large circumference. A structure like “Rock Print” emphasizes that detritus can be avoided by adapting the process of building to vanguard materials that seek to match the brevity of contemporary construction with materials that curtail the waste.
Two quadcopter drones just autonomously built a footbridge that is capable of withstanding the weight of a human. Outfitted with a motorized spool and plastic tubes that dispense Dyneema, a "material with a low weight-to-strength ratio," the flying machines were able to construct a lightweight tensile bridge that spans 7.4 meters between two scaffolding structures at the Flying Machine Arena in Zurich.