On the Bri(n)ck at Graduate School of Design,
Harvard University



Professor Ingeborg M. Rocker of Rocker-Lange Architects and students at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, USA, have used a robot to build an undulating double-wall structure.


The robot arm was programmed to place 4,100 wooden bricks to create complex double-curvature walls.


The project, called On the Bri(n)ck, was a collaboration between the school's computer-aided design and computer-aided construction departments.


The wall is on show at the school until 30 June.


Here's some text from Rocker-Lange Architects:


"On the Bri-n-k"

Professor Ingeborg M. Rocker, Rocker-Lange Architects - developed with students at the GSD, Harvard University a robotic built wall

May 2009, Boston


The exhibition currently shown at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, presents a digitally generated and fabricated wall consisting of wooden bricks.

The Project is the outcome of a synthesis of computer generated design and computer aided construction research at the GSD under the guidance of Professor Ingeborg M. Rocker.

The aim of the project was to produce a 1:1 scale wall using the GSD’s Robotic facilites.

Going beyond the model scale, and working with the Robotic arm set up new design challenges which were tightly linked to the construction techniques, material constraints, and structural limitations encountered in full scale building modus.

Using a modular unit of the masonry brick the team developed a systematic aggregation creating a wall consisting out of 4100 bricks.

The wall’s double layered running bond varies from a straight line to a maximum undulation, which creates an inhabitable space.

The emerging space and pattern is the resultant of a set of principles (algorithms) applied to a simple rectangular brick module, taking into account its material and technical parameters.

The scale, precision, and vast number of units of the final design scheme necessitated an automated process based on script and robotic construction.

Materials, adhesives, work flow optimization, and production techniques were among the many considerations that had to be researched and tested prior to and during each stage of the process.

Ultimately the design manifests the performative potential of bricks, expressed through the wall’s curvature and porosity as it affects the acoustic and visual qualities of the wall-space created.

Using digital technology these affects were pushed to a new extreme.

Inspired and advised by Professor Rocker the project became realized through the enthusiastic work by student team leaders, Jeff LaBoskey, Teresa McWalters, Misato Odanaka, Benjamin Franceschi, and the Students of the March1, 1st year.

The teams work was made possible through the coding by Jessica Rosenkrantz, Jesse Louis-Rosenberg and Christian J. Lange, Rocker-Lange Architects.

The studio design by Mathew Swaidan and Jeff LaBoskey served as an initial inspiration for the wall’s scheme.

Overall the project hopes to highlight the potential of digital fabrication techniques and the role these have in the education of architects.

Images: Anita Kan


The Pit
Harvard University
Graduate School of Design
48 Quincy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

Posted on Monday May 11th 2009 at 12:08 am by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • ArchStudent

    As T.S. Eliot – an alumnus of Harvard University, is alleged to have once said, “Good poets borrow, great poets steal.” For any designer in this world to make claims of novelty would take great hubris, which is unfortunately often the case in architecture. One could say that Eladio DiEste and G&K in fact copied the serpentine brick walls in the gardens of the University of Virginia by the American Thomas Jefferson (not to be chauvinistic), but this sort of bickering is counterproductive. The fact is that this is an early experiment at the GSD on the capabilities and limitations of robotic fabrication, which happens to have been largely done by first year architecture students in their free time. The real question here should be, if a fledgling group of students with a new (to them) technology, and a limited budget can do this in a few weeks, what could be done with more experience, time and money? I suspect far more than some petty wall installations, even if with all due respect they are in Venice.

  • mp

    Interesting, but people… you are discovering gun powder here!, this was done in the mid 60’s by Eladio Dieste. If you want to see true genius in the use of brick and simple component logic.. google The Uruguayan Engineer.

  • kos

    In this case: borrowing means mere copying. “stealing” means incorporation and advancement of previous acheivements. In other words “stealing” means do it your own way.

    @.n It is not too sound to support that GSD (Master) students are mostly first-year architecture students. After all, I know some people entered GSD after 6 years of studying architecture. If you take into account that the overall team that build the prototype consists of 35 people (including some experts), then it is not such a miracle.

    If a robotic arm can lead only to such a wall type in both sides of the Atlantic, so computational design and parametric architecture can take on very little comparing to what have promised. I hope not!

    It is more than obvious that parthenogenesis does not exist and humankind proceed by advancement based on previous knowledge. Academic Practise is not about playing with bloody robots but it regards to prototypical contribution to a field.

    The serpentine wall at Virginia University has little connection to what we are talking about(building technology advancement, component-like architecture e.t.c.). This wall is about mere building, expressing aeshetic theories regarding landscape architecture.

    Of course GSD do great at crediting the contribution of students.

    Finally @ArchStudent, G&K (as well as Dieste) have realised with this method buildings and pavillions not just bienalle art installations.

    P.S. if students really get into the parametric modelling of component-wall or in the programming of g-code it will be very useful for them.

  • yimyim

    @G-had “another example for the retarded state of design in the US.”
    this is the point for me.
    PS i could learn to code too, but then I would be learning IT or something…perhaps it is the future, but i just hope the students have a firm grib on design first, otherwise the product will be alot of what we see from ^coded^architecture at the moment, almost irrelevant. Still all extremes start as just that, extremes…

  • jeff

    jeesus you design guys are being pricks! enough with the G&K comments blah blah blah, stop bitching and go do something interesting. well done, students, looks great.

  • yinyang

    certain GSD professors do not seem familiar with citing sources… and this in a school like harvard, that actually should act as a world model of education!!!???