(Re)Thinking the Brick

Digital Tectonic Masonry Systems

Team: Matías Imbern

The introduction of digital tools in the production of architecture undoubtedly constitutes the main force behind contemporary architectural innovation. Complex geometry, combined with new fabrication technologies, opens new domains currently addressed from multiple angles of study and experimentation. In addition, the interaction of digital technologies with analog craft manufacturing -a rather unexplored field of study- suggests a wide range of novel opportunities.

Video: (Re)Thinking the Brick

 

CoverThis proposal focuses on developing a framework for deploying digital design techniques with the production of bricks under Argentinean vernacular technology as a medium of achieving geometrical variations and functional complexity in domestic-scale projects, to invigorate the use of brick as a contemporary material for architectural production.

Solid clay bricks are embedded in Argentinean traditional ceramic-construction culture. Thus, this thesis faces the challenges of making a feasible innovative system in a country where digital fabrication is not an economically viable option, and engaging a design that can be easily accepted by Argentinean hand-labor. Consequently, the bricks would be massively introduced in the construction market, allowing new formal and functional possibilities for designers.

Though the proposal is about the ‘mutation’ of solid clay bricks, the aim of this thesis is to develop an efficient procedure that can be followed using diverse types of bricks or even other vernacular construction systems.

In light of what was previously described, the thesis hypothesis states the following:

“The application of digital design tools and their capacity of rapid iteration while designing allows for a strategic approach to create a new set of pieces, a ‘plug-in system’, that can enhance traditional brickwork to achieve complex geometry in domestic-scale projects. This system, combined with current bricks, can bring new formal and functional possibilities to masonry construction, a well-known technique in countries with low-tech resources.”

The proposal seeks to strategically enhance the complexity of selected modules in order to increase functionality and complexity of the overall pattern. The new brick system does not try to replace current bricks but to allow more flexibility to brick constructions by adding a limited range of special pieces; designed to increase functional and aesthetic complexity of the overall brick assembly.

Genealogy

The research explores solid clay bricks from their existing conditions and adds a small degree of complexity, step by step, to this traditional material by making several testing iterations. This bottom-up strategy is divided into stages, starting by executing simple geometric operations onto current bricks and then studying possible (re)combinations, structural performance, and texture variations affecting their tactile perception and light conductance capacities. Regarding the design method, the use of digital tools constitutes a key part of the process, to test not only the specific geometry of the module but also its combinations and tolerances.

The chart above expresses the assembly sequence proposed by the system: from module to component, then to architectural entity, and finally to architectural space. As in common brick construction, architectural spaces can be the result of the proliferation of a single module. Nevertheless, this material system was conceived following an intermediate stages’ logic as a method to anchor the results of the bottom-up strategy during the design process. This procedure also enables and enhances the construction of complex spaces by dividing the ‘problem’ into minor components that can be easily assembled.

 Modules and Components

Digital Generation:

Video: Digital Generation

Today, the influence of complex geometry in the development of different branches of contemporary architectural discourses is unquestionable. This thesis embraces this statement as a starting point. Notwithstanding, in the context of this investigation complex form is understood as an enabler of new functional performances for masonry construction.

Architectural Spaces

Materiality is understood as a deterministic factor that immanently affects architectural performance, and the digital approach described in these pages cannot be dissociated from the tectonic expressivity of this structural material. As for the range of application of the newly developed warped bricks, although the proposal was developed under vernacular conditions, the fabrication could be easily implemented in a more industrial production environment as is typical in developed countries, thereby expanding the contribution of the research. Finally, the true ambition behind this thesis is to embrace a collective knowledge in order to put brick back into the architectural agenda as a contemporary material.

Prototypes

Video: Fabrication Process

 

Nano Micro Macro 2016: Selected Student Projects
ALivE Project
Nano Micro Macro 2016: Selected Student Projects
Nano Micro Macro 2015: Selected Student Projects
ALivE Project
Nano Micro Macro 2015: Selected Student Projects
Nano Micro Macro 2014: Selected Student Projects
ALivE Project
Nano Micro Macro 2014: Selected Student Projects
Ceramic Morphologies
Cevisama
Ceramic
Ceramic Morphologies
Exploring Adaptivity
ALivE Project
Exploring Adaptivity
Interactive 3D Ceramic Printing: Sydney RobArch Workshop 2016
Ceramic, Design Robotics
Interactive 3D Ceramic Printing: Sydney RobArch Workshop 2016
Extruded Tessellation: Ceramic Tectonics
Cevisama
Ceramic
Extruded Tessellation: Ceramic Tectonics
ALivE Exhibition: Auxetic Surfaces
ALivE Project
ALivE Exhibition: Auxetic Surfaces
Ceramic Material Systems
Ceramic
Ceramic Material Systems
Protoceramics: Tile Tectonics
Cevisama
Ceramic
Protoceramics: Tile Tectonics
Ceramic Re:Visions: 2015 Cevisama
Ceramic
Ceramic Re:Visions: 2015 Cevisama
Protoceramics: Preview Cevisama 2015
Ceramic
Protoceramics: Preview Cevisama 2015
Dynamic Daylight Control System
ALivE Project
Dynamic Daylight Control System
Ceramic Shell @ Cevisama 2014
Ceramic
Ceramic Shell @ Cevisama 2014
GSD student work on ceramics in WIRED
Ceramic
GSD student work on ceramics in WIRED
ALivE Exhibition @ Invivia
ALivE Project
ALivE Exhibition @ Invivia
DRG at the 2013 Milan MADE Expo
Ceramic
DRG at the 2013 Milan MADE Expo
Form|Rule|RuleForm
Design Robotics
Form|Rule|RuleForm
Robotic Casting | Toyohashi, Japan, 2013
Ceramic, Design Robotics
Robotic Casting | Toyohashi, Japan, 2013
(Re)Thinking the Brick
Ceramic
(Re)Thinking the Brick
Public Lectures CalPoly / LBNL
ALivE Project, Design Robotics
Robotic Casting | RobArch 2012
Design Robotics
Robotic Casting | RobArch 2012
Surfacing Stone
Design Robotics
Surfacing Stone
4th Wyss Institute retreat – DRG presentation
ALivE Project
4th Wyss Institute retreat – DRG presentation
DRG Life Cycle Design Exhibition at the GSD
DRG Life Cycle Design Exhibition at the GSD
ACADIA 2012 – DRG presentations
Design Robotics
Nathan King to speak at Penn State
Design Robotics
Nathan King to speak at Penn State
Sky Garden
Ceramic
Sky Garden
Tectonics Tessellation: Ceramic Structural Surfaces
Ceramic
Tectonics Tessellation: Ceramic Structural Surfaces
CeramicsLAB student work featured in MISC article
Ceramic
CeramicsLAB student work featured in MISC article
Flowing Matter
Ceramic
Flowing Matter
Adaptive Materials now called Adaptive Living Environments (ALivE)
ALivE Project
Adaptive Materials now called Adaptive Living Environments (ALivE)
Robot Motion Controller
Design Robotics
Robot Motion Controller
RoboKline
Design Robotics
RoboKline
Metal Sky
Design Robotics
Metal Sky
Flexible Tooling
Design Robotics
Flexible Tooling
SmartGeometry 2012: Ceramics 2.0
Ceramic, Design Robotics
SmartGeometry 2012: Ceramics 2.0
3-D Printing Ceramics
Ceramic, Design Robotics
3-D Printing Ceramics
Robotic Tile Placement
Ceramic, Design Robotics
Robotic Tile Placement
CNC Symposium, Norwich University
Design Robotics
Keynote at Qualicer Conference in Castellon, Spain.
Ceramic
Ceramic LAB students featured at Cevisama 2012
Ceramic
Ceramic LAB students featured at Cevisama 2012
Ceramic Futures featured at Cevisama 2012
Ceramic
Ceramic Futures featured at Cevisama 2012
Ceramic LAB students featured at Cevisama 2012
Ceramic
Ann Arbor Municipal Center Sculpture
Design Robotics