WHAT

Delft University of Technology (DUT) is the oldest and largest technical university of the Netherlands. Its Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment is one of the top 10 architecture schools in the world ranking as 4th in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2015 and plays a key role in design-oriented and technology-driven research.

Within the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment at DUT, in the department of Architectural Engineering and Technology, and since 2018 in the chair of Architectural Engineering, the Robotic Building (RB) group implements research and education focusing on physically built robotic environments and robotically supported building processes. With a team of dedicated tutors, researchers, and programmers, RB caters to up to 70 students per year, who after graduation successfully practice architecture in internationally known offices (such as Foster, UN Studio, OMA, etc.) or implement research at relevant institutions (such as ETHZ, US, etc.).

Internally, RB collaborates with researchers from aerospace engineering, computer science, industrial design, and roboticists from Delft Robotics Institute. Internationally, RB has initiated and collaborates since 2016 with members of the International Framework Adaptive Environments. Furthermore, RB collaborates since 2017 with Dessau Institute of Architecture at the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences.

In addition to 4TU funding, RB receives support from industry partners such as ABB, KUKA, 3D Robot Printing, etc. The ambition is to advance robotics in architecture.

The Robotic Building group implements research focusing on physically built robotic environments and robotically supported building processes. The RB aims to answer this question by critically reflecting on the achievements of the last decades in applications of robotics in architecture and furthermore outlining potential future developments and their societal implications. The focus is on robotic systems embedded in buildings and building processes implying that architecture is enabled to interact with its users and surroundings in real-time and corresponding design to production, and operation chains are (in part or as whole) robotically driven. Such modes of production and operation involve agency of both humans and non-humans. Thus agency is not located in one or another but in the heterogeneous associations between them (inter al. Latour, 2005) and authorship is neither human or non-human but collective, hybrid, and diffuse.

Robotic Building exploits emergent results from interactions between human and non-human agents not only at design and production level but also at building operation level, wherein users and environmental conditions contribute to the emergence of multiple architectural configurations. In this context, design becomes process- instead of object-oriented, use of space becomes time- instead of program- or function-based, which implies that architects design increasingly processes, while users operate multiple time-based architectural configurations (Bier and Knight, 2014) emerging from the same physical space that may physically or sensorially reconfigure in accordance to environmental and user specific needs.

If spatial reconfiguration may be facilitating multiple, changing uses of physically built space within reduced timeframes, interactive energy and climate control systems embedded in building components and employing renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, may reduce architecture’s ecological footprint (Oosterhuis and Bier, 2013). Both rely on virtual modelling and simulation that interface the production and real-time operation of physically built space establishing thereby an unprecedented design to production and operation feedback loop, which is focus of the RB session.