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M. Oliveira, J. Campos, J. Azevedo, N. Maia, G. Veiga, A. P. Moreira, J. P. Xavier, R. Póvoas and J. P. Sousa

With the beginning of the XXI century, the use of CAD/CAM technologies in architecture has challenged the standardization paradigm, which ruled the building construction industry since the industrial revolution. Relevant works like the Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum  in Bilbao or the Herzog&Meuron’s Olimpic Stadium in Beijing, demonstrates the growing interest in the exploration of formal and building solutions that would be very difficult to attain without these digital technologies.

In this context, this paper describes the IJUP project developed by a group of students and researchers from FAUP and FEUP. To investigate that condition, the team proposed to explore the use of the most advanced and flexible manufacturing technology available today – the industrial robotic arm – in the construction of free form walls using regular components like bricks. Given that these kinds of materials are standard and are manually assembled on site, masonry construction is traditionally limited to the materialization of simple forms. Thus, the problem consisted in: how to design and build complex geometries in architecture based in using standard building components?

Drawing from the pioneering work of Gramazio & Kohler developed at ETH Zurich, the team selected cork as the material to be investigated under this robotic construction approach. As the first research of this kind in Portugal, this work implied a interdisciplinary collaboration between architecture and engineering to define communication protocols between the design information and the manufacturing instructions. From the development of parametric models of free form walls made by cork bricks, the team implemented a workflow, where all the unique spatial coordinates of each building element are extracted to inform their material assembly by the robotic arm. The production of physical mock-up proves the possibility to expand the applications of cork in architecture towards the production of non-standard building forms, without having to change the current industrial set-ups in factory