Robotic Timber Prefabrication
The field of robotics in architecture is on the verge of breaking out of academia and into the construction industry. Although robots have been omnipresent in manufacturing since the 1980s their presence in architecture has been hindered by the fundamental requirement of manufacturing the custom rather than the standard. Today architects, practically only knowing how to construct the bespoke, have reached a level of robotic fabrication proficiency so that it is no longer bound to the theoretical environment of academia but is finding its way into practice. The lecture will present three timber projects where the robotic arm and its ability to manipulate material in space plays a pivotal role. The project Gradual Assemblies presents a novel constructive system made solely of wood that exploits wood’s characteristic to change shape relative to temperature and moisture content. Spatial Timber Assemblies bridges to industry by enabling the full-scale production of prefabricated timber modules using ETH Zurich’s Robotic Fabrication Lab for the DFAB HOUSE project in Duebendorf, Switzerland. The third project marks an early step by industry towards robotically prefabricated architecture, building on research conducted in academia.
Andreas Thoma is the Director of Digital Fabrication at the New York based construction startup Toggle. Prior to Toggle Andreas worked for ERNE AG Holzbau in Stein, the Professorship for Architecture and Digital Fabrication, Gramazio Kohler Research, at ETH Zurich and Herzog & de Meuron’s Digital Technologies group in Basel. During his time at Gramazio Kohler Research he co-led the projects Iridescence Print, Rock Print and Spatial Timber Assemblies. In 2017 Rock Print was awarded the Ars Electronica STARTS Prize. He holds a Master of Science in Architecture from ETH Zurich and a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the Bauhaus-University Weimar. His work has been exhibited at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, Chicago Architecture Biennial, Museum of Digital Art in Zurich and the Swiss Institute in Rome. He focusses on scaling up digital fabrication techniques with industrial robots while using wood as the main constructive material. This is highlighted in both the Spatial Timber Assemblies contribution to the DFAB HOUSE project and the Gradual Assemblies project in Rome as well as his contributions at ERNE AG Holzbau.