Brick Swarm

[Image: From “Flight Assembled Architecture” by Gramazio & Kohler].

Semi-autonomous flying robots programmed by Swiss architects Gramazio & Kohler “will lift, transport and assemble 1500 polystyrene foam bricks” next month—starting 2 December 2011—at the FRAC Center in France. The result, they hope, will be a “3.5 meter wide structure.”

[Image: From “Flight Assembled Architecture” by Gramazio & Kohler].

According to the architects, this will serve as an experimental test-run for the construction of a hypothetical future megastructure—presumably requiring full-scale, autonomous, GPS-stabilized helicopters. However, I’d think that even a small insectile swarm of robot bricklayers piecing together a new low-rise condominium somewhere—its walls slowly materializing out of a cloud of rotors and drones—would be just as compelling.

(Earlier on BLDGBLOG: Flying Robotic Construction Cloud and Robotism, or: The Golden Arm of Architecture).

8 thoughts on “Brick Swarm”

  1. Hopefully, no one at Forest City Ratner sees this post…if they hold off a few years, they could manage to eliminate even the jobs of the factory workers who will be constructing the pre-fab high rises…

  2. Yoon, many people had similar ideas over the years, using bees or other kinds of fictional and imaginary robots. I think that the point here is that this is one of the first proposals to actually make it possible to use automaton builders with the use of current technology.
    I think that this idea is incredible because of its simplicity. You can "easily" program these inexpensive flying machines to collect and deliver the bricks within very accurate spatial coordinates and within a certain wanted geometrical outcome.
    Bravo Gramazio&Kohler!

  3. problems with this:
    1. highly controlled indoor environment, highly unrealistic.
    2. anyone who has flown a helicopter knows that they are not precise machines. The robotic brick layers are still the most efficient and accurate solution.
    3. the wind from the propellers alone will move the "foam" blocks below.

    This idea will live as a rendering.
    Sorry for anyone wasting their time on this..

  4. @anonymous – If everyone thought like you, there would be no technological progress. Thankfully, there are people who don't think like you.

  5. Luddism needs to make an urgent comeback in today's architectural discourse if this is the sort of future we are promised.

    Between robotic prison guards, BigDog, robotic gun turrets, drones, and now robot construction bees – we are at serious risk of completely destroying the human relation to the physical realm in favour of a misguided belief in the innocence of technology. In today's networked world, technological innovations can no longer be considered politically neutral.

    Our future urban environments will be totalitarian in their inescapability, Kafkaesque in their opressive dominance.

    Modernism's progressive legacy lives on in work like this, but only in its reductive technological guise which limits the agency that individuals can exert on their own environment (a power that existed traditionally through acts like self determined architecture) whilst all the while playing into the hands of centralised systems of urban control.

    Beyond the technological gimmickry, I don't understand the progressive aspect of this at all.

    If you want something really progressive take a look again at Aravena's Iquique project. No gimmickry, just a clear understanding of architecture's political role in determining social and civic space.

    At the OMA show in London there was a little postcard with the slogan, "Modernism once destroyed the relationship between man and nature, now only Modernism can return us to that conception." I'm paraphrasing but I found the idea interesting. Its indicative of an evolving Stockholm syndrome on the part of the master who is increasingly being held hostage by his tools.

    I write more about the juncture between architecture, power and politics at

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