The integration of robotic technologies in architectural education was tested with the robotic fabrication of a non-standard brick structure in one assignment of the 3rd year Constructive Geometry (CG) course at FAUP. During 5 classes, the students had to consider 500 bricks (25x25x5cm) at their disposal, and design a self-supporting brick structure that should demonstrate the potential of robotic technologies. One of the solutions would then be selected by the class to be fabricated with the robot at the DFL.
The techniques for the design exploration were purposely unrestricted. Organized in groups of two, the students started by manual experimentations with small EPS bricks while using the computer to develop some explicit and parametric models. To help framing their design imagination, an introduction to the robotic fabrication process was given at an early stage, during a visit to the DFL. A mid-term review was organized in the 4th class, when the students had to present their solutions with the help of posters and 3D printed models and vote for the best project. This process elected a beautiful curvilinear column to be fabricated at 1:1 scale. The students gathered at the DFL and experimented programming and controlling the robot. The CG Column was fabricated and assembled in two parts and presented interesting material effects out of its differentiated brickwork.
This was an innovative and successful pedagogic experience in the school. In a short assignment, the students were able to develop a design project from its conception to its fabrication, which, furthermore, dealt with some geometric complexity. They also realize that the use of EPS bricks instead of ceramic ones resulted only from limitations of the Lab in moving heavyweight constructions. This experience also recalled the influence that material and building methods can have at early stages of the design conception in architecture.