Pike Loop by Gramazio & Kohler


Construction will begin on a wall to be built entirely by a robot - designed by Swiss architects Gramazio and Kohler - in New York later this month. Update: this project is included in Dezeen Book of Ideas, which is on sale now for £12.

Above and top image: Structural Oscillations, at the 2008 Venice biennial.

The same robot, R-O-B, was used to construct the award-winning Structural Oscillations installation at the 2008 architectural biennial in Venice (shown here).

Above: trailer-mounted R-O-B constructing Pike Loop.

The new sculptural brick wall - called Pike Loop - will be constructed on Pike street, New York, in full public view over a period of four weeks. Construction will commence on 5 October.

Above: trailer-mounted R-O-B.

The robot has been mounted on a low-bed trailer, allowing it to manoeuvre along the wall as it places more than seven thousand bricks.

The wall is the next step in three years of research into full-scale digital fabrication in architecture using industrial robots, conducted by the architects at ETH Zurich.

Gramazio and Kohler will also be exhibiting their research at the Storefront for Art and Architecture gallery in New York.

See also our story about a similar robot-built brick wall built at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard earlier this year.

Further details from the Storefront Gallery:


On September 29, Storefront for Art and Architecture will inaugurate a new exhibition showcasing research conducted over the past 3 years at ETH Zurich by Swiss architects Gramazio & Kohler into full-scale digital fabrication in architecture using industrial robots. At the same time, construction work will begin on Pike Loop, the first architectural project to be built on site by an industrial robot in the US.

Located on Pike Street, the robot, R-O-B, will work for up to four weeks—in full view of the public— to construct a brick wall, a highly sculptural response to the specific identity of the site. The same robot unit recently built the award-winning installation, Structural Oscillations, at the 2008 architectural biennial in Venice. For the Pike Loop installation, more than seven thousand bricks aggregate to form an infinite loop that weaves along the pedestrian island. In changing rhythms the loop lifts off the ground and intersects itself at its peaks. The installation was coordinated through the New York City Department of Transportation’s Urban Art Program.

Developed through their research at ETH Zurich Faculty of Architecture, Switzerland, Gramazio & Kohler's work explores highly complex architectural artifacts, built by industrial robots typically used to assemble automobiles and perform other high-precision tasks. The accuracy, strength and speed of these robots allow them to fabricate architectural forms of unprecedented complexity and intricacy. Gramazio & Kohler's work represents the cutting edge of innovation in the field of digital fabrication in architecture. For many years architects have relied on digital manufacturing processes such as CNC milling or 3D printing as a tool for formal research at model-scale. For the first time, Gramazio & Kohler’s work explores the potential of mobile digital fabrication techniques that can fabricate at 1:1 scale on site.

The exhibition at Storefront Gallery will present the results of Gramazio & Kohler’s ongoing research into digital fabrication in architecture at ETH Zürich Faculty of Architecture. The same robot, R-O-B, unit recently built the award-winning installation, Structural Oscillations, at the 2008 architectural biennial in Venice.

Exhibition location:
Storefront for Art and Architecture, 97 Kenmare St., NYC
Exhibition opening reception:
Sept. 30, 7p.m.  (Exhibition ends Nov. 14, 2009)
Installation location:
Pike St. between Division St. and East Broadway
Installation construction period:
Oct. 5 – Oct. 27
Inauguration of completed installation:
Oct. 27, 7p.m.

Posted on Wednesday September 16th 2009 at 4:52 pm by Brad Turner. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Finally! Masons are so smelly.

  • slater

    So, will R O B clean up all that brick when it is time to disassemble the piece…? Nice results and high precision, but it seems that a few humans could do the job in less time…

  • On the same subject, you can also read this post:

  • bagelwithcreamcheeseplease

    slater you are so missing de point bumbaclaat! people bedda know dem robots gon dun rule de eart!

  • Jambo

    Oui Oui Oui

    Absolutely fantastic gizmo! No further need for Rob the builder.

    I do however feel that the human sensitivity is lost in such a composition. The smell, feel, weight, temperature and viscosity of mortar in the human hand is a sensation not matched by any other form of manual building work.

    I wonder if a coexistence between man and the machine could be born out of this invention on site. Maybe Rob could jump on the back of the machine and the two of them could lay the brick courses together.

    Builder and the machine, Adam and Steve.

  • Tod

    this is absolutely cutting edge in building technology! i got to know their work with that robot at the lecture they gave for the students of the architecture school of TUC at the Centre of Mediterranean Architecture, in Chania of Crete last year and i was amazed!
    it’s great to see them evolving the idea with more elaborate tasks for the robot!

  • rodger

    the future is here. bring it on.

  • kim

    Where there is a robot or a machine there’s always a luddite.

    This is a great response to sustainable design, economical independence and design control for architects from building corporations. this is an opportunitu to change modern slavery in non democratic emerging oil based country,

    and as always you have people just whinging…
    Look forward!

  • silicon m

    I wish universities would invest more time energy and resources into making this technological philosophy viable, affordable and diverse enough to incorporate into everyday construction.

    one day we may have to.

  • Harhar

    Complete rip off from Harvard Graduate School of Design project

  • pibongas

    Lets make the world a faker place

  • gr8!

  • Ruth

    and…who was first now…Gramazio and Kohler or Rocker Lange?

  • gaque

    Harhar, thats a joke right? Otherwise, I might suggest you inform yourself..
    G&K have been doing this for years.

  • LOW

    wasn’t this posted months ago?

  • gaque

    gramazio & kohler was certainly before rocker lange. g&k have been doing this for so long, with many different materials and fabrication techniques.

  • jh

    if u consider that the same machine could assemble cars, airplanes and spaceshuttles, this is pretty stone-age i have to say

  • new technolodies with old methods!

  • I.Anantha

    wow…. the construction worker will be out of job…

    i never thought now we have a machine that build homes…

  • corps
  • jac_oli

    @Harhar: Come on! It was kind of polemical in spring 2009 when GSD Harvard & Rocker Lange did their project with wood, because it was precisely riped off from Gramzio & Kohler. Read the comments on the Dezeen post at that time… everybody is outraged by the copycats at GSD:

  • Kong


    Besides that isn t this an old ETH Project ?

  • Kong

    Forget the last sentence i didn t read the text

  • HC

    Just to point out a few things I learned from a G&K lecture in Copenhagen 2or 3 years ago. :
    The robot has not been constructed entirely by ZTH, it’s a standard robot. which could be programmed to do anything from welding, painting or building cars. ZTH has, however made the brick-laying feature (the “hand”) and programmed the software, in order to do this.
    Another important point, is that this has not been conceived to eliminate human masons, but to be able to make complex structures, so precise, it would be impossible for even the best mason to construct.
    The bricks are glued together, so no mortar is spilled.

    G&K has built several projects with this technique, starting in 2005, I recommend visiting their website!

  • @ HC, et al:

    Yeah, because it is certainly NOT possible for a human mason to lay a brick wall that is a ruled surface…Unless you’re the masons who built the Church of Christ the Worker. http://www.archidose.org/Blog/AE009f.jpg

    The robot is a cute use of what is now a pretty old (or at least tried and true) assembly system, but it is not doing anything that is impossible.

  • elDiego

    does the robbot also puts mortar in place? or this is just for temporaly shows and not to built structures that would last…

  • francisco

    Yah, those Gothic cathedrals were so primitive, and the Baroque buildings… my kid brother could have built them! Finally, robots can show us some truly "unprecedented complexity"! Man, we should send these things to the 3rd world – and solve their housing crisis! The possibiilties are endless… Architects are so smart, sometimes it just blows me away!

  • Phil

    Read about the patent on this a few years ago. However there was a brick road paver invented in the late 1800's, but it didn't catch-on because asphalt came on the scene.

  • potential is great but i see the approach of the robotic arm to be childishly impractical. I am no mechanical engineer but something tells me that a clip loaded with bricks that simply precisely drops them with maybe 4 push pins to press it down and a "butter knife" robot that applies the adhesive would actually be an applicable concept in brick construction (which in general is outdated and not Green!)