Norman Foster Foundation Atelier 2018—Robotics

November 2018

The second edition of the Norman Foster Foundation Robotics Atelier investigated new ways of reflecting on the physics of architecture, its design and materialization.

The second edition of the Norman Foster Foundation Robotics Atelier took place on 12-16 November 2018, with the support of the Rolex Institute and under the mentorship of Fabio Gramazio, Co-Founder Gramazio Kohler Research, Zurich, Switzerland.

The Academic Body spaned a wide range of practitioners working in different fields interrelated with robotics, including Todd Eckert, Founder of Tin Drum, Pittsburgh, United States of America; Anne Faucheret, Curator at Kunsthalle Wien, Wien, Austria; Ruairi Glynn, Director of the Interactive Architecture Lab at the Bartlett, UCL, London, United Kingdom; Iñigo Lazkanotegi, Project Manager in Instrumentation and Intelligent Maintenance at Tecnalia , Alava, Spain; Jonathan Ledgard, Former Director of Afrotech and founºder of Rossums Studio, Lausanne, Switzerland; Antoine Picon, Professor of History of Architecture and Technology at Harvard GSD, Cambridge, United States of America and Mette Ramsgaard Thomsen, Head of the Centre for Information Technology and Architecture (CITA), Copenhagen, Denmark.

‘Building with the robot takes architecture far beyond the creation of static forms to the design of formative material processes.’ stated Atelier mentor Fabio Gramazio. ‘We mean to convey that the robot can act as a catalyst to impart cultural significance to digital architecture. Through the robot, the digitalization of architecture becomes physical and tangible. As such, we aim to enter a dialogue between human  and machine, designer and maker, to explore the distinct aesthetic significance and identity of digitally fabricated architecture.’

After reviewing applications submitted by hundreds of candidates from around the world, the selection committee awarded ten scholarships to students from the following universities and institutions: Ashesi University, Berekuso, Ghana; Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London (UCL), London, United Kingdom; Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Lausanne, Switzerland; Technische Universität Darmstadt, Darmstadt, Germany; Tecnológico de Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico; Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, India; Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IaaC), Barcelona, Spain; University of California in Los Angeles, Los Angeles (UCLA), United States of America; University of Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany; University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan.

These ten students engaged with a group of specialists through a series of seminars and lectures culminating in a five-day Atelier. During the week, the students also manipulated sand to create a highly informed and geometrically complex formwork element to cast and construct architectural artefact. They explored the direct relationship between computational design, tooling, feedback systems and robotic motions to steer granular material formations processes, with the help of three highly flexibles robot arms.

The Robotics Atelier included seminars, lectures, one-to-one tutoring and urban architectural tours to learn more about the context of Madrid. During the course of the Atelier, participants had the opportunity to engage with the Norman Foster Foundation’s archive and research projects.