Digital Fabrication & Design Robotics

The study researches mass-customisation methods that permit novel ornamental effects in brick cladding systems, and, at the same time, point towards new sustainable design opportunities for cost-effective, self-shading façades. This paper presents an integrated workflow for the development of robotically configured ruled-surface brick units and their digitally informed aggregations. Computational design methods and robotic fabrication technologies are integrated into traditional methods of masonry production and construction. The redesigned brick unit is made possible through a strategically devised robotic intervention in the clay extrusion process. Prototyping confirmed both the validity of the design for production, as well as the thermal effect of self-shading brick façades.

Through the strategic employment of robotically re-mastered clay units and their digitally informed aggregations, the new brick system vastly expands the formal repertoire present in traditional brick construction. In order to combine ornamental effects with sustainable design in architectural ceramic systems, this work also developed strategies to improve the energy efficiency of brick envelopes. In particular, by combining material proprieties and geometric parameters, the research showed that it is possible to optimise the material configuration to generate solar-selective thermal mass systems that include self-shading. Exploiting the advantages of the geometric complexity available through the proposed shaping process, the new material system merges aesthetics and environmental performance by creating design pattern articulations that respond to variable climatic and diurnal cycles.

By merging computational design methods and robotic fabrication technologies with traditional methods of masonry production and building construction, new sustainable and aesthetic design opportunities open up.

Typology: Research
Location: Harvard GSD, Cambridge, USA
Year: 2012 – 2013
Researchers: Martin Bechthold, Stefano Andreani
Themes: Digital Fabrication, Design Robotics, Building Systems



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