p3_final_Andy McCarthy_#001

Practical Application: P3 – Wall Segment

Some comments on my P1 post pointed out that there are very few brick-laying robots available for contemporary architects to use.  Although this is true, my intention for the post was to show how bricks could be lain in the future, and that this wouldn’t necessarily affect construction now.  I was imagining that one day everything would be built with technological precision by robots.  After doing a bit more research into fluid forms made of brick, I came across the Church of Christ the Worker, designed by the Uruguayan architect Eladio Dieste.  He designed a roof for the church with a thin membrane of brick, only one wythe wide.  The double-curvature catenary arch he invented is called a gaussian vault.  The church was designed in 1950 and completed in 1956.  I’m not sure if it took six years to build, but every part of the church was built by hand and onsite using scaffolding that connected taught rope.  Even though a robotic arm can build a complex brick wall, so can the human hand.

Cristo Obrero:

Image courtesy of http://www.urbanhabitatchicago.org/blog/pioneering-engineers/

Image courtesy of http://www.digitalfutures.info/1/sinusoidal-wall-of-eladio-dieste-studies-001%20/

Grasshopper script of Christ the Worker:

Dieste GH 6.ghx

Fabrication technology today makes more precise stencils, dies, and molds than the handiwork of the 1950s.  The CNC machine and powder printing machine can make molds with great specificity for poured concrete modules.  The laser cutter can create amazingly accurate dies, which is what I originally thought I would use to lay out the concrete slabs.  I decided to build a retaining wall/bench for my final project, one without mortar but a highly durable epoxy.  This project was just a demonstration, and since I wouldn’t be gluing each course to the ones below and above it, I decided to plot stencils of the layout on 36″-wide rolls.  The plots had to be exactly to scale, with just enough information per sheet to place the slabs correctly.  A 7′-long, 3′-wide stencil was plotted for each of the six slab courses in this retaining wall segment.  A black outline showed the location for that particular slab, plus a gray outline of the slab that was just lain below it.  This way every slab’s location was demarcated by the location of the slab below it.  Originally I planned to laser cut a length-wise die for the undulating wall, and have those six dies anchored by two dowels, one on each side of the wall segment.  This would have hypothetically worked as well.  At the final critique Ming suggested that several top-to-bottom dies could have also been used to ensure accuracy of the wave surface.  The success of this project is its exploration of constructing a parametric design without using heavy machinery.

I first tried a script by Walter Zesk.  It only allowed one course of bricks to be created, so I changed everything on the script that was for curves into surfaces.  However, what I ended up with was too twisty.

I first tried the script by Walter Zesk. It only allowed one course of bricks to be created, so I changed everything on the script that was for curves into surfaces. However, what I ended up with was too twisty.

A parametric design for a brick structure allows for many changes to the variables and parameters of a project that would be incalculable for a 20th century architect.  This wall segment was built by hand after first using standard-performance computers, affordable and user-friendly software, and the use of complex, although accessible, fabrication technology.  There were many options for each student to choose from in designing their final project.  Some students had higher performing computers and chose to work outside of the lab.  Some people downloaded software that wasn’t available on the Daap computers, specifically Galapagos, which was used in one project.  Most students used Maya or Rhino/Grasshopper.  Most students laser cut or powder printed their projects.  For my project, I found that the software that can modify parameters for the most nuanced result was Grasshopper.  In GH the parameters such as wall height, wall width, module dimensions, the number of courses and the space between them, etc, are connected to number sliders.  The range of variation was set, and I would adjust the parameters with the sliders to find the best outcome.  However, there were a few scripts that were published on the internet, including Ming’s site, that used sliders to modify voxels and how they were stacked.  It took three tries to find the most direct result.

Ultimately, I used Ming Tang's explode script to make the project.

Ultimately, I used Ming Tang's explode script to make the project.

I then sectioned each brick course.

I then sectioned each brick course.

After sectioning the brick layout, I plotted six 3'x7' stencils.

After sectioning the brick layout, I plotted six 3'x7' stencils.

The retaining wall/bench was originally conceived as a seat for about three people.  It was ultimately designed as a wall that had three nooks where people could step into from the sidewalk and send a text message, or wait for a car to pull around.  The wave is like a shelf or high bench at some points, and like a wall with a slight lean backwards at other points.  Because retaining walls must resist the lateral force of the earth they hold back, the orientation of the concrete slabs would be best lain parallel to that force.  However for a seat, the preferred orientation would have the 16″ side perpendicular to the person, not the 8″ side.

Presentation1

First attempt using Walter Zesk’s script (http://www.zesks.com/walter/grasshopper-scripting):

make CA wall along curve 2 wythes

make CA wall along curve 2 wythes, modification

Ming Tang’s explode script (http://www.ming3d.com/DAAP):

explode

I later found a very good script by Ted Ngai (http://www.tedngai.net/experiments/parametric-brick-tiling.html):

brickTiler02

Watch the R-O-B at work in Chinatown:

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