Nexus Network Journal

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 583–604 | Cite as

Recovering Cannibalism in Architecture with a Return to Cyclopean Masonry

  • Brandon Clifford
  • Wes McGee
  • Mackenzie Muhonen


Each year, the United States discards 375 million tons of concrete construction debris to landfills. But this is a new paradigm. Past civilizations cannibalized their constructions to produce new architectures. This paper interrogates one cannibalistic methodology from the past known as Cyclopean Masonry in order to translate this valuable method into a contemporary digital procedure. The work contextualizes the techniques of this method and situates them into procedural recipes which can be applied in contemporary construction. A full-scale prototype utilizes the described method; demolition debris is gathered, scanned, and processed through the virtual algorithm. Each rubble unit is then minimally carved by a robotic arm and set to compose a new architecture from discarded rubble debris. The prototype merges ancient construction thinking with advanced digital procedures. It poses material cannibalism as a means of combatting excessive construction waste generation.


Digital fabrication Cyclopean masonry Computation Algorithm Robotics Stone 



This research is funded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with support from the MIT Sloan Latin America Office, the MIT HASS Fund, and the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation. The prototype is designed by Matter Design and realized by Quarra Stone Company. All figures are provided by the authors.


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Copyright information

© Kim Williams Books, Turin 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brandon Clifford
    • 1
  • Wes McGee
    • 1
  • Mackenzie Muhonen
    • 1
  1. 1.Jamaica PlainUSA

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