Workshop 15: Interlocking-based Robotic Fabrication of Segmented Shells: Formwork-free and mortar-free assembly

Workshop 15: Interlocking-based Robotic Fabrication of Segmented Shells: Formwork-free and mortar-free assembly 2018-08-21T19:50:45+00:00


The aim of this workshop is to demonstrate an advanced interlocking strategy using robotic assembly for formwork and mortar free segmented shells. Participants will learn skills in computational design strategies and robotic fabrication. They will gain expertise in Grasshopper by working with algorithms specifically designed for the AAG workshop and first-hand experience using an industrial 6-axis robotic arm. Participants will design and fabricate structurally sound complex prototypes in an iterative manner. The methodology can be applied to a wide range of compression-only materials and is scalable to large structures.

Shells are widely used in construction due to their structural capacities, stability and force-resistance. However, unreinforced masonry is challenging due to the structural instability of the incomplete shell, requiring the utilisation of formwork which is labour- intensive in construction, takes time and effort to be designed and produces a large amount of waste material. The mortar used to hold the masonry together has limited binding capacities and increases the time of assembly as well as tolerances within the system. The workshop showcases an alternative formwork & mortar-free, friction-based system for complex, compression-only shell structures. It addresses problems of the current state of shell assembly, e.g. material inefficiency, lack of precision and dependence on human-labour.

Workshop participants will create structurally stable and material-efficient structures by incorporating various segmentation and interlocking strategies. Participants will learn how to implement digital optimisation techniques to create designs without compromising their structural performance. By testing segmentation patterns and interlocking strategies suitable for shell structures, which are dependent on curvature parameters, the difference in longitudinal and transversal direction of interlocking, as well as the significance of directionality in robotic placement and toolpath limitations will be explored. Workshop participants will develop their own digital robotic simulation code which will be tested physically on KUKA Agilus mobile robot.

The workshop questions the conventional separation between design and fabrication. Data for the production and assembly of each segment is embedded within the geometry of the shell and can be altered parametrically in the design. Rather than a linear process with separated stages of design, fabrication and assembly, the proposed strategy offers a continuous feedback loop between design and fabrication, tying together advanced digital tools with novel design methodologies and industry-leading technologies.

Expected Skill Level: Basic Rhino and Grasshopper skills


Elena Shilova and Taole Chen


Taole Chen is a designer and maker with an interest in algorithmic design thinking and computational fabrication methods. He is a recent graduate from the Architectural Association Design Research Laboratory, his dissertation looked at additive manufacturing technologies for custom-tailored housing in London. He holds a B.Arch with high distinction from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco where he received the AIA Henry Adams Medal. He is currently working at the Code, the Computation and Design Group at Zaha Hadid Architects.

Elena Shilova is a graduate from Moscow Architectural University (State Academy) and holds a March degree in Emergent Technologies & Design from the Architectural Association, London. She exhibited her projects in Central House of Architects in Moscow and had publications in MArkHi 2016 Conference, University Talks Moscow and Pasajes de Arquitectura. The recent project, ‘Entwine’ pavilion was exhibited on Timber Expo 2017 in Birmingham. Her areas of research are a structural optimization, digital simulations, material computation and automated robotic fabrication. She currently holds a position at Grimshaw Architects.

The workshop leaders have expertise in design and robotic fabrication of complex geometries by incorporating digital tools and structural simulations. The fabrication technique used in this workshop was developed in extensive research at the Architectural Association. Workshop leaders are aiming to use their knowledge in advanced architectural geometries in order to help the participant to develop specific skills.