With the collapse of the facade into the superficial plane of the envelope under Postmodernity, the brick as a procedural and method based building technique has been relegated to the role of wallpaper; a signifer or wealth and the ability to afford physical labor thought of as a swatch of paint on the wall. Taking this as a given, the coursework for Ingeborg Rocker’s, on the Bri[n]ck at the Graduate School of Design sought to deny the brick of this surface ornamental treatment use in front of a contradictory white interior and extract from the process of creating a bottom up aggregation strategy that becomes much more about the space of occupancy and an integral facade system. In order to conceive of space as the unit of the facade, then in turn the constructed member needs to become the mortar which became the point of investigative research. Traditional prefabrication in architecture, despite Le Corbusier’s declarationin 1931 that “[m]ass production is based on analysis and experiment,” has been associated with the repetitive production of factory homes using static elements. As Walter Gropius stated in 1964: “…the idea of prefabrication was seized by manufacturing firms who came up with the stifling project of mass producing whole house types instead of component parts only. Repetition, in the workshop context, has been approached as the process by which the multiplication of an object, with certain properties, produces a whole. On the other hand replication has been studied as the process of multiplying an object while altering its properties to produce a whole. Consequently, by varying those properties of the replicable objects, one is able to explore multiple design solutions within a generated family of results. As such replication was able to generate adaptable systems which corresponded to certain design requirements. The processes of modernist repetition emblemized in the stack based brick project give way to tessellation and mass customization of the rapid prototyping devices such as 3-axis milling and 2 axis laser-cutting.
Beginning with a similar logic to stack based brick processes, the conception of the project surrounds the idea of a unit of space that is wrapped in mortar. This unit a triangulated prism of space is aggregated as bottom up accretion system, the faces of the triangles were eroded into the purist expression of their structural connections the edge to edge; removing the inessential and complex joinery associated with the corner condition. The plasticity of the material of mortar was considered in the way in which the installation designed for a relaxation station was developed as both a thin structure with more porosity light and eroded space as well a thicket of structural support. In both situations the material is able to support itself as it is the mortar alone without the dead-load of the fired clay.
The edge joint was developed to allow for two or three piece to interlock requiring a finger connection which in this case was satisfied with splines, laser cut to fit. The fabrication process involved the construction and aggregation of triangulated clusters which were then scripted via an erosion process in grasshopper generative modeling, wherein the splines and miter were created. These pieces were then individual unrolled and prepared for flatbed milling as well as laser-cutting prior to assembly. The material selection process investigated several options of paper stone and economic and green materials before settling on birch plywood for its relative unilateral structural grain and its dense ply construction. Cherry plywood was used for the strips to accentuate the burn produced in the laser-cut process as well as to distinctly call attention to the tectonic of joinery.
The project was developed in several scales and media, beginning with chipboard as an accurate representation of the plywood process to milled half-scale plywood joint samples, and finalized in the 3/4” plywood “totem pole” that demonstrated how it could be constructed as a wall or in the greater conception for a relaxation station. In its final stages the project was scaled down to be reproduced for the arts first festival in which the piece was conceived of as an ornamental facade system that could be used for shading. An isotropic cube of this system was constructed for the festival including three by three by three units stacked on top of each other. This piece was constructed out of 3/8” plywood and 1/4” plywood splines. The assembly time was done over the period of two weeks.
1 Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture (Dover Publications, New York, 1986), p. 148.
2 Walter Gropius, quoted in Herbert Gilbert, The Dream of the Factory-Made House: Walter Gropius and Konrad Wachsmann (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1984), p. 318.