111th ACSA Annual Meeting Proceedings, In Commons

Additive Envelopes: Robotic Volumetric Porous Bricks for Habitat Reformation

Annual Meeting Proceedings

Author(s): Jonathan A. Scelsa

The story goes that Lou Kahn, gathered his students into a room and began pontificating over personified bricks in what has now become a canonic conversation: “You say to a brick, ‘What do you want, brick?’ And brick says to you, ‘I like an arch.’ And you say to brick, ‘Look, I want one, too, but arches are expensive, and I can use a concrete lintel.’ And then you say: ‘What do you think of that, brick?’ and the Brick says: ‘I like an arch .’ While this rhetoric pronounced the brick’s structural potentials due to the intrinsic disciplinary problems of stacking volumes, it undermined the Brick’s other potential capacities inherent to its volumetric nature. As such, with the arrival of post-modern construction that transformed the architectural envelope into a series of monofunctional layers within a rainscreen, it is not surprising that brick became flattened into a ‘sticker’ as an image-oriented scenographic pursuit neutered of its structural capacity. A two-dimensional graphic element easily commodified by neoliberal corporate culture, as evident from the thinly applied arches in recent facadist developer minded gentrification practices.In lieu of complicity in this culture of thinning, the research pedagogy showcased in this studio championed a resistance to the thinning of the brick based on its volumetric capacity to perform other roles such as thermodynamics or playing host to ecology towards habitat restoration. The promise of this new constructive principle suggests a volumetric wall construction that rebalances the flora and fauna within the urban ecology, while simultaneously lowering the albedo of our buildings’ contribution to the Urban Heat Island. This advanced option studio worked closely with a brick heritage museum sited within a village historically associated with the manufacturing of brick for the 20th century. The studio worked closely with the docents and curators of the existing museum in the processes of site selection, immersive brick production history, and community engagement.


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