The robotic bricklayer | Íñigo García Odiaga

Store in the Gantenbein Vineyards, Bearth & Deplazes | Photography: Ralph Feiner/Ambrosetti Tonatiuh

The enthusiasm for advancing and for crossing new ways has done that the contemporary architecture has managed to revile even the traditional systems of construction based on the brick and on the workforce of a bricklayer.

Overcome Eladio Dieste’s works that from the rational language of the modern movement they were proposing the use of the brick as an element that could unite the tradition together with new formal experiments, the architecture of forefront has rejected the brick, correcting it of obsoletely and outmoded.

The department of architecture of the ETH of Zurich, one of the more prestigious schools of architecture of the world, has a specific workshop of architecture and digital manufacture directed by the teachers Fabio Gramazio and Matthias Kohler. One of the aims of this workshop is the determination of the strategies to continuing for the adjustment of technologies of industrialization automated to the construction of the architecture. Somehow one seeks to move the results of precision and quality carried out by the robots of assembly of for example the utilitarian cars to the complex world of the construction of a building.

His major contribution to this field, for the present time, has been ROB, a unit of robotic manufacture got in a standard skip of transport, so that it could be displaced to any place of the world and therefore to be rented by any person who needs of this one would machinate of precision.

Pike Loop

e of his first works was an installation in the public space named Pike Loop realized in Manhattan, New York, in the year 2009. Pike Loop is a piece of 22m of length, a structural wall constructed with bricks, a material of widely present construction and of traditional character in New York. More than seven thousand bricks are adding to weave a wall constructed with a precision of millimeters, impossible to execute by means of the human hand. The brick turns this way into an element capable of constructing geometries that resemble the surfaces of Frank Gehry’s sheet or the sheets of Richard Serra’s steel. Beyond the technological capacity of the robot ROB, his utilization has making the recovery of the brick possible for the architecture of forefront and it has opened new routes of experimentation.

Pike Loop

When the architects Bearth and Deplazes received the order to realize a store in the Vineyards Gantenbein, they decided to use this technology of manufacture to elaborate the fronts of the new building.

The initial design was proposing a simple stuffed skeleton of bricks: the bricks act as the material one as good thermal inertia, besides since filters of the solar light in order that the fermentation takes place after the lattices.

The method of automated production allowed to place each of 20.000 bricks of precise form of agreement with the mathematical parameters, the wished angle and the exact prescribed intervals.

The this front shaped by 72 prefabricated units generated of highly technological form by means of the robot. The elements of the wall were manufactured as a pilot scheme in the areas of production of the ETH of Zurich, and were transported one by one to the work.

The image of the front wants to be alike an enormous basket full of grapes. In a more nearby vision, in contrast with the pictorial effect of the distance, it is the materiality, the texture of the wall the one that acquires the protagonism opposite to the mass of bricks. It surprises the contradiction between the soft and rounded resultant forms that really consist of hard and rigid units of bricks. The front appears as a solid but dynamic form. On having observed the precision of the execution of the front, the design turns into a manifest of his exact and rigid modulation produced by the highest technology.

Front of the amacén in the Vineyards Gantenbein, Bearth and Deplazes

Nevertheless, the architectural implications of this front of brick are more elaborated and diverse than those of the used technology. For the human eye, the subtle differences between color and lighting and the reflection of the bricks create an appearance and plasticity that is changing constant together with the movement of the observer and of the Sun with the course of the hours.

This building that in certain way might be considered to be still experimental reflects the efforts that the architecture realizes for be reinterpreting and for changing not only his exterior image in search of the showiness but his own productive systems. This process is based on the belief of which a technology modern and contemporary, according to the modernization of the current company, will generate also an architecture of our time, in addition continuista with the history of the architecture on having updated the use of the brick, maybe the first material of construction manufactured produced by the human being.

íñigo garcía odiaga. architect

san sebastián. september 2011

It´s published in ZAZPIKA 11.09.2011

Íñigo García Odiaga

Doctor Arquitecto y profesor asociado de Proyectos Arquitectónicos, ETSASS. Editor de NOMU. 1/5 del estudio de arquitectura VAUMM. Vivo en Donosti.

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