Return of the Brick Swarm

A short video has been released documenting the brick swarm project mentioned here last month, in which Swiss architects Gramazio & Kohler deploy semi-autonomous flying robots to assemble a structure of foam bricks. However, it’s as if the architects underestimate the interest of their own work, fast-forwarding through the bulk of the assembly process as if no one would want to watch such a thing (or perhaps their robots were less graceful than originally hoped). Either way, check out the results, embedded above.

(Thanks to phenrydelphia for the tip!)

Modular Advances

[Image: Constructing with BeadBricks by Rizal Muslimin, courtesy of Brickstainable].

The winners of this year’s Brickstainable design competition were announced last week, and two of the technical award-winners are actually quite interesting.

[Images: BeadBricks by Rizal Muslimin, courtesy of Brickstainable].

I’m particularly taken by a submission called BeadBricks by Rizal Muslimin, described as able to facilitate the design of microclimates “in and around buildings” by allowing variable levels of porosity in the facade. BeadBricks could thus allow architects “to modulate the environmental factors including sunshine, wind, thermal mass, and evaporative cooling.”

The system, Muslimin explains, consists of “two bricks (A and B) with four basic rules that can generate shape in one, two and three dimensional space.” Further, “the bricks are decorated with a pattern that can generate various ornaments by rotating them along its vertical or horizontal axis.”

[Image: Constructing with BeadBricks by Rizal Muslimin, courtesy of Brickstainable].

The overall technical winner is also worth checking out: the EcoCeramic Masonry System, a “Recombinant and Multidimensional” molded terracotta brick devised by Kelly Winn and Jason Vollen.

[Image: The EcoCeramic Masonry System by Kelly Winn and Jason Vollen, courtesy of Brickstainable].

As Brickstainable describes it, their brick system “showcases the ability to look at new ceramic-based wall assemblies. Strategies include thermal dynamics, self-shading, moisture reduction, hydroscopic, evaporative, and termite behavior studies.”

[Images: The EcoCeramic Masonry System by Kelly Winn and Jason Vollen, courtesy of Brickstainable].

Meanwhile, a related project comes to us from designer Dror Benshetrit, who recently invented his own modular system, called QuaDror. On the other hand, it’s not really a “brick”; Fast Company describes it as “a structural joint that looks a little like a sawhorse, but can fold flat, making it both stunningly sturdy, remarkably flexible, and aesthetically pleasing.” Check out the video:

The suggested uses for QuaDror “include support trestles for bridges, sound buffer walls for highways, a speedy skeleton for disaster or low-income housing, and quirky public art.”

All in all, I would love to see more exploration with all three of these ideas, and I look forward to seeing all of them utilized in projects outside the design studio.

(Thanks to Thomas Rainwater for the tip about QuaDror and to Peter Doo for keeping me updated on Brickstainable).

The Blobwall and the Bomb

[Image: Operation Sailor Hat, before detonation, via Wikipedia].

It’s a house, it’s a ziggurat, it’s… 500 tons of TNT stacked in a dome on the Hawaiian island of Kaho’olawe. A later test-detonation of these architecturally arranged fissile materials left a huge, still-extent crater that “currently contains unique sub-species of shrimp” that have “evolved to survive the hypersaline conditions” in the artificially excavated hole.

Bringing to mind Greg Lynn’s Blobwall—amorphous and multicolored plastic “bricks” whose puzzle-like stacking produced (unfortunately quite garish) enclosures—or even Gramazio & Kohler’s robot-built wall in New York City, Pike Loop, the dome implies a kind of militarized vernacular through which new, functional architectures can be constructed.

20th-century prefab modularity by way of well-placed bricks of TNT.

[Image: Greg Lynn’s Blobwall, on display at SCI-Arc].

But perhaps someday we’ll see autonomous instruments of robotic war crawling behind enemy lines, building fantastically elaborate, Dr. Seussian architectures on the shores of foreign continents. Artificially intelligent 3D printers, producing bomb-domes—explosive ziggurats—vast and terrible buildings awaiting their detonative spark from the sky.