Swisspearl invited professors Fabio Gramazio and Matthias Kohler to carry out the Swisspearl Summerschool together with the students. The professorship of Gramazio Kohler Research at ETH Zurich has been concerned with digital fabrication in architecture since 2005, and founded the world’s first robotics lab for non-standardized fabrication processes in an architectural context.
This opened up an entirely new research area. Swisspearl has long been involved in the education and promotion of young architects and almost every two years since 2011 has carried out a two-week Summerschool focusing on topical, architecturally relevant issues. At the 2015 Summerschool, the goal was to examine the architectural potential of a robotically controlled spatial wire cutting process. For the “Robotic Wire Cutting” workshop, the students developed designs and with the help of programmed robots cut three-dimensional molds out of polystyrene blocks. Serving as cutting instrument was a hot wire, led on each end by a robotics arm, and shaped by the resistance of the polystyrene. This path curve made of wire changes continually during the cutting process. The molds thus produced, formed the basis for manufacturing fiber cement panels in a desired form: the cut polystyrene was later laminated with a layer of fiber cement. In the molding shop of the factory in Payerne, the experts familiarized the students with the conditions and tricks for molding fiber cement.
By combining the digital, robotic cutting of polystyrene with the hand molding of fiber cement, we can manufacture novel façade panels. The Swisspearl Summerschool has shown us entirely new possibilities for both processes.”
David Jenny, project director, ETH Zurich
Finally, the workshop participants used the self-fabricated panels to assemble prototypes for façade walls. Depending on the students’ developed method, the material appeared at times solid and hard, at times filigree and soft. The results reflect the forms possible when using a particular process and show the degree of complexity enabled by digital fabrication. The Swisspearl Summerschool students thus acquired valuable knowledge about both digital fabrication and how to deal specifically with a building material. Those responsible for the project are extremely pleased with what was accomplished.
The results were filmed and publicly exhibited at the Architekturforum Zürich.
Gramazio Kohler Research, ETH Zürich
Fabio Gramazio, Matthias Kohler
Sarah Barras, Li Bo, Marco Caprani, James Chenault, Ahmed Elshafei, Victoria Fard, Alix Gasser, Aurèle Gheyselinck, Ana Grgurac, Marco Palma, Julien Prudhomme, Ludwig Schilling, Stavroula Tsafou, Stéphane de Weck