Robots are now being used, left, right, and center in the field of architecture. From using them for hard labor work, like cutting marble, to integrating them into buildings as architectural elements, robots have certainly secured their place in the AEC industry. The latest robotic achievement has taken place at ETH Zurich, in Switzerland, where a construction robot has erected a temporary pavilion from mere stones and string.
As part of the exhibition “Hello Robot. Design Between Human and Machine,” a construction robot erected the “Rock Print Pavilion”. The temporary structure is supported by stable columns, created using the “jamming” technique so that the pillars of loose stones and string can support a roof as heavy as 8.8 tons. Jamming is a method where the material is packed tightly together so that it can hold its shape.
ETH Zurich’s project “Design and Robotic Fabrication of Jammed Architectural Structures” focuses on creating structures out of loose and granular materials, using a robot. Through this project, researchers show the transformative process of digital construction, converting ordinary objects into a resilient and durable structure. It is undertaken by Gramazio Kohler Research, ETH Chair of Architecture and Digital Fabrication. Gramazio Kohler Research has built a similar pavilion titled “Rock Print,” in collaboration with the Self-Assembly Lab at MIT at Chicago, also using the jamming method. Working for four weeks straight, the construction robot—also called the “in-situ fabricator,” has created 11 three-meter-high pillars using 30 tonnes of loose stones and 130 kilometers of string. The structure’s stability was ensured by adding layers of string between the stones. These layers were precisely calculated by the robot, so as to lock the loose stones together. In addition to its enhanced stability, the Rock Print Pavilion is recyclable. Constructed without the use of any mortar, the temporary structure can be dismantled and reused, with very little waste. This project is a peek into a world of new possibilities, deemed achievable through digital and robotic manufacturing. It delves into the different architectural designs that could be constructed owing to the developments in the field of digital construction.
The Rock Print Pavilion is on view at the Winterthur’s Gewerbemuseum from 4th October 2018 till 4th November 2018. Public tours of the pavilion, guided by researchers, are scheduled on the following dates