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The Brick Labyrinth

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Robotic Fabrication in Architecture, Art and Design 2018 (ROBARCH 2018)


This paper presents a project developed within the Master of Advanced Studies in Architecture and Digital Fabrication programme at ETH Zurich. The Brick Labyrinth is the first large-scale construction built in the Robotic Fabrication Laboratory, a unique multi-robotic setup for automated prefabrication at architectural scale. The project continues the tradition of robotic brick laying started at Gramazio Kohler Research but increases the significance of computational design and robotic control by solely working with a dry-stacked construction method. The paper introduces the design methodology, the computational framework and the robotic fabrication setup and addresses the structural challenges of the constructive system. It introduces strategies for an automated multi-robotic brick laying process at large-scale including custom-made robotic end-effectors to increase the speed of the process. The unique setup of the project and its material system demonstrate a fully reversible construction process at architectural scale, suggesting a new approach to physical prototyping, which could fundamentally change the way we design buildings. While this paper highlights the design explorations leading towards the final structure – featuring the development of a flexible dry-stacked brick bond and its potential to create unique spatial sequences – it also provides an outlook on how the integration of computational tools into automated fabrication processes can lead to new design typologies.

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  1. 1.

    Placing time per brick was reduced to an average of 15 s (4 min for 16 bricks). Two ABB robots each placing 8 bricks per cycle, with minimised gantry travel time. This speed was comparable to the process done in the group in 2006 setup (see [3]).

  2. 2.

    Keller AG Ziegeleien donated 12000 standard bricks of the type kelesto, dimensions 24.5 cm × 11.5 cm × 7.0 cm. Keller AG Ziegeleien homepage,, last accessed 2018/03/05.

  3. 3.

    COMPAS framework offers a pure Python base with flexible data structures and algorithms, independent geometry processing, interoperability with external libraries used in structural design, methods and solvers for numerical computation, high performance computing capabilities, visualization tools as well as interfaces to common CAD software and ecosystems. Full list of features and extensive documentation can be found on its GitHub webpage (see [8]).

  4. 4.

    The 40 kg maximum payload of the robotic arm with approximately 15 kg weight of the tool itself limited the amount of bricks in the magazine to eight (8 × 3.2 kg + 15 kg = 40.6 kg).

  5. 5.

    The work area RFL is 765 m2 as compared to the 2006 setup (see [3]) of around 30 m2.


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The Brick Labyrinth described in this paper was developed and built as a design and fabrication project of the Master of Advanced Studies in Architecture and Digital Fabrication at ETH Zurich in June 2017. The programme is run jointly by Gramazio Kohler Research and Digital Building Technologies and directed by Hannes Mayer.

The project was developed and executed by the students of the MAS year 2016/2017: Marco Caprani, Samuel Cros, Rodrigo Diaz, Ahmed Elshafei, Federico Giacomarra, Hakim Hasan, Marirena Kladeftira, Iakovina Kontiza, Thodoris Kyttas, Matthias Leschok, Coralie Ming, Wataru Nagatomo, Matteo Pacher, Maria Pachi, Sambit Samant, Theodora Spathi and Dai-Syuan Wu. The team of researchers and tutors consisted of Luka Piškorec, David Jenny and Stefana Parascho, with Hannes Mayer. Students were mentored by Prof. Fabio Gramazio, Prof. Matthias Kohler and Prof. Benjamin Dillenburger. Special thanks goes to the RFL technicians Michael Lyrenmann and Philippe Fleischmann and Andreas Reusser from IfB, as well as to our sponsor Keller AG Ziegeleien for supplying the bricks and for the long research partnership in robotic brick building.

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Correspondence to Luka Piškorec .

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Piškorec, L., Jenny, D., Parascho, S., Mayer, H., Gramazio, F., Kohler, M. (2019). The Brick Labyrinth. In: Willmann, J., Block, P., Hutter, M., Byrne, K., Schork, T. (eds) Robotic Fabrication in Architecture, Art and Design 2018. ROBARCH 2018. Springer, Cham.

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