MAS 2019 / 20


Rapid Clay Formations, 2019-2020 © MAS ETH DFAB, Gramazio Kohler Research, ETH Zurich, Photo: David Jenny

Rapid Clay Formations, 2020

Full-scale Mock-up for the SE MusicLab project, Brunnen

The Rapid Clay Formations project implements an in-situ robotic fabrication process for building with expressive soft clay bonds by robotically compressing clay cylinders at a large scale. The project makes use of accurate robotic positioning, spatial orientation, and controlled pressing of clay cylinders to form interlocking aggregations. It uses computational design and fabrication strategies to arrive at a sustainable construction technique as an alternative to labor-intensive rammed earth structures.


Preliminary material and robotic assembly research were conducted for a pavilion at the World Congress of Architects UIA 2020 during a 10-week design research workshop where students of the MAS ETH DFAB, together with researchers of Gramazio Kohler Research, were able to develop an apposite earthen material mix for the cylinders and a series of fabrication- and material-aware computational design strategies. The team implemented robotic processes that allowed building at full-scale and set up the tooling for controlling the robotic end-effector for picking, placing, and pressing the clay cylinders onto the main wall structure.

The development was continued by our team together with our industry partners Lehmag AG and Seforb Sarl, aiming for its application in a real-world construction project. In September 2020, the results of this study were carried out at Lehmag AG in Brunnen, Switzerland, where the team realized a full-scale mock-up of an undulating clay wall of 5m height for the SE MusicLab in Bern. The prototype consists of more than 8000 cylinders, divided into 25 fabrication segments each with its respective robot position, and has been built over a period of 3 weeks.


Gramazio Kohler Research, ETH Zurich

Client: SE MusicLab

Collaborators: David Jenny (project lead), Coralie Ming, Nicolas Feihl, Selen Ercan Jenny, Hannes Mayer

Students Trimester 2 Building Workshop: Edurne Morales Zuniga, Anton T Johansson, Jomana Baddad, Indra Santosa, Eliott Sounigo, Tsai Ping-Hsun 

Students Trimester 2 Project: Maria Pia Assaf, Jomana Baddad, Frederic Brisson, Yu-Hung Chiu, Rémy Clemente, Ioulios Georgiou, Mahiro Goto, Anton T Johansson, Laszlo Mangliar, Dinorah Martinez Schulte, Edurne Morales Zuniga, Fatemeh Salehi Amiri, Emmanuelle Sallin, Indra Santosa, Eliott Sounigo, Chanon Techathuvanun, Ping-Hsun Tsai

Project partner: Lehmag AG

Engineering: Seforb Sarl

Industry partner: Brauchli Ziegelei AG
Support: Mike Lyrenmann and Philippe Fleischmann (Robotic Fabrication Laboratory, ETH Zurich), Andi Reusser (Institute for Building Materials, ETH Zurich), Lydia Zehnder (Institute for Geochemistry and Petrology, ETH Zurich)

Sponsors: Brauchli Ziegelei AG, Welti Furrer AG