Robots build a stone tower with one piece of thread

A jammed rock structure built by machines is a prelude to the future of sustainable architecture.

There seems to be a newfound appreciation for earthen materials in the architecture industry. We are seeing growth in new and sustainable, low-cost housing projects as well as modern interpretations of traditional vernacular models. Gramazio Kohler Research from the ETH University in Zurich and The Self-Assembly Lab from MIT approach this field of interest from a technological perspective with their collaborative installation Rock Print, created specifically for the Chicago Architecture Biennial.

The jammed rock installation is made up only of rocks and a single piece of thread, which has been constructed entirely by robotic machines. The breakthrough technology is the first of its kind to aggregate granular material like stones into a load-bearing structure of any shape, without the need for support construction or adhesive. Existing technology of this kind operates on a smaller scale but this technology is suited to architectural practice as it is able to build on a macro level.

The two teams involved see their installation and technology as a prelude to a new building science, which is all at once sustainable, economic and structurally sound.