While, architecture and architectural production are increasingly incorporating aspects of non-human agency employing data, information, and knowledge contained within the (worldwide) network connecting electronic devices, the relevant question for the future is not whether robotic building may be implemented, but how robotic systems may be incorporated into building processes and physically built environments in order to serve and improve everyday life; how these systems may offer solutions for energy-efficient building, demand-driven production and operation, and efficient use of resources.
The RB session of the GSM #3 symposium aims to answer this question by critically reflecting on the achievements of the last decades in applications of robotics in architecture and furthermore outlining potential future developments and their societal implications. The focus is on robotic systems embedded in buildings and building processes implying that architecture is enabled to interact with its users and surroundings in real-time and corresponding design to production, and operation chains are (in part or as whole) robotically driven. Such modes of production and operation involve agency of both humans and non-humans. Thus agency is not located in one or another but in the heterogeneous associations between them (inter al. Latour, 2005) and authorship is neither human or non-human but collective, hybrid, and diffuse.
Robotic Building exploits emergent results from interactions between human and non-human agents not only at design and production level but also at building operation level, wherein users and environmental conditions contribute to the emergence of multiple architectural configurations. In this context, design becomes process- instead of object-oriented, use of space becomes time- instead of program- or function-based, which implies that architects design increasingly processes, while users operate multiple time-based architectural configurations (Bier and Knight, 2014) emerging from the same physical space that may physically or sensorially reconfigure in accordance to environmental and user specific needs.
If spatial reconfiguration may be facilitating multiple, changing uses of physically built space within reduced timeframes, interactive energy and climate control systems embedded in building components and employing renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, may reduce architecture’s ecological footprint (Oosterhuis and Bier, 2013). Both rely on virtual modelling and simulation that interface the production and real-time operation of physically built space establishing thereby an unprecedented design to production and operation feedback loop, which is focus of the RB session.
Henriette Bier (Founder RB/ RB session chair/NGB#3 editor)
Architectural Robotics: Ecosystems of Bits, Bytes, and Biology | Keith Evan Green looks toward the next frontier in design computing: interactive, partly intelligent, meticulously designed physical environments. Green calls this “Architectural robotics”: cyber-physical, built environments made interactive, intelligent, and adaptable by way of embedded robotics, or in William Mitchell’s words, “robots for living in.” In architectural robotics, computation—specifically robotics—is embedded in the very physical fabric of our everyday living environments at relatively large physical scales ranging from furniture to the metropolis. In this talk, Green examines how architectural robotic systems support and augment us at work, school, and home, as we roam, interconnect, and age.
Swarm Robotics, or: The Smartness of ›a bunch of cheap dumb things‹ | Not only recent Science Fiction – that is, the movie Star Trek Beyond – celebrates the capacities of robot collectives. Also RoboCup, an annual robot soccer competition, or Harvard University’s Kilobot Project show stunning examples of the central idea behind Swarm Robotics: »[U]sing swarms is the same as getting a bunch of small cheap dumb things to do the same job as an expensive smart thing.« My presentation critically examines the techno-history of a research field which intertwines engineering and biological knowledge and whose applications deal with compelling questions about synchronization and self-organization in changing environments – on the ground, in the air, and under water.
Robotic Fabrication beyond Factory Settings | To fully exploit Digital Fabrication within architecture, robotic fabrication must be expanded in prefabrication, but also fully implemented directly on construction sites. Achieving in-situ fabrication using mobile construction robotics is the goal of several research projects within the NCCR Digital Fabrication.
This talk will focus on concepts of how to bring robots directly to the construction site and autonomously fabricate structures beyond factory conditions. A short introduction and overview to this branch of research will be followed by the presentation of the “In Situ Fabricator”. This augmented system will reduce the need for manual input and should be able to accurately build complex structures to construction tolerances, while simultaneously being able to deal with the uncertainties of a construction site.
From architectured materials to the development of large-scale additive manufacturing | The classical engineering material-by-design approach has been extensively perfected by materials scientists, while engineers have been optimising structures geometrically for centuries. The purpose of architectured materials is to build bridges accross the microscale of materials and the macroscale of engineering structures, to put some geometry in the microstructure. This is a paradigm shift. Materials cannot be considered monolithic anymore. Any set of materials functions, even antagonistic ones, can be envisaged in the future. The development of architectured materials is involving materials scientists, metallurgists, chemists, physicists, mechanicians and engineers, but also biologists, computer scientists, architects, designers, mathematicians, etc. In this presentation, we intend to demonstrate the necessity of computation for developing architectured materials, and the incidental outcome which led us to developing large-scale additive manufacturing for architectural applications.
Inhabiting Adaptive Architecture | Adaptive Architecture is concerned with buildings that are specifically designed to adapt to their environment and to their inhabitants. Its history stretches back at least a hundred years and relevant work spans from the commonplace to the experimental. This talk seeks to first map out this field to produce the necessary context as proposed at www.adaptivearchitectureframework.org. Drawing on examples constructed at the Mixed Reality Lab and elsewhere, it will then focus on how architects and inhabitants co-‐create Adaptive Architecture, how the emerging feedback loops shape people’s behaviours and how inhabitants and environment become interaction partners.
The Institute for Materialdesign IMD at HfG Offenbach is involved in the experimental intersecting of the design process with the diverse analogue and digital processes for materialization and form generation. Analog and digital methods are combined to create cross-material innovations. Special attention is paid to the sometimes conflicting and contradictory processes and their inherent potential in a creative-scientific and interdisciplinary dialog. Ideas are frequently generated through the characteristics of the material itself, its qualities and its possibilities as well as its limits. Through the speculative combination of materials, transferring traditional processes of fabrication into innovative contexts, surprising results are achieved. Implementing randomization into the research establishes various remarkable starting points for the design process. The experimental approach and freedom of creative research is a characteristic of the IMD. Many of the works exhibited address the relation between man and material. The extended understanding of the material shifts toward the role of the actual object. This new role of materials also comprises the intersection of nature and artifact. Materials are brought to life through layering and combining natural and synthetic elements and blending in digital techniques. The borders of perception are erased and the material itself is redefined. Designing with materials creates a new context between art and science. Material-centred design opens up the field of design to new possibilities and creates a broad space of conceivable tasks.
Does the emerging discipline of architectural robotics present an umbilical cord to the good ol' days of Late Modernism? Is it a nostalgia for a vitality in architecture long lost, or the coming about of an architectural practice that is supply rather than demand driven? Do robotics allow to bridge the vitality in the ‘field’ of architecture with the stasis in the ‘discipline’ of architectural practice?
Sina Mostafavi is a practicing architect, researcher, and educator with expertise in computational design and robotics in architecture. Since 2011, he is a PhD researcher at TU Delft. He is currently managing the Robotic Building lab at Hyperbody, TUD. He has been lectured, published and exhibited his work internationally.
Serban Bodea is an architect involved in academic education and research at Robotic Building - Hyperbody, TU Delft. He graduated Cum Laude in 2014 and pursues research in Discrete Automation for robotic fabrication in architecture. He is motion designer for several robotic fabrication projects featured in China, United Arab Emirates, and across Europe.
Ana Anton is a designer involved in academic research and education implemented at Robotic Building, Hyperbody, TU Delft She graduated in 2014 with distinction (Cum Laude) and Archiprix nomination for her project.
Ana’s work enjoys international recognition and is featured in Asia, Middle East and Europe. She is an expert in computation-driven design, she explores complexity and emergence using intense computation, artificial intelligence and robotic fabrication with the aim to enhance spatial experiences.
Alexander Liu Cheng is a Ph.D.candidate at Hyperbody, TU Delft. His work on intelligent built-environments situates Cyber-Physical Systems within the Adaptive Architecture discourse. Alex obtained a B.Sc. in Computer Science from the New York Institute of Technology; a professional M.Arch. from The University of British Columbia; and a post-professional M.Sc. in Advanced Construction and Building Technology—Automation, Robotics, Services from Technische Universität München. In addition to his academic pursuits, Alex previously worked as Architectural Designer at GRAFT Architects.