Members press release

KUKA, Germany - IFR-Partner

A KUKA robot created urban art in the heart of New York

New York/Augsburg - For years, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich has used a KUKA robot as a digitally controlled master builder. The latest project by the Swiss professors of architecture Fabio Gramazio und Matthias Kohler was recently demonstrated on a traffic island in the center of New York: a KR 150 stacked the traditional New York bricks, known as brownstones, into walls with a highly unusual surface appearance. This installation, entitled "Pike Loop", was on display until mid-January in Pike Street in the center of Manhattan.

Photo by Gramazio & Kohler

Photo by: Gramazio & Kohler

Mobile creativity that can be applied worldwide

The robot's mobility is ensured by a mobile production container, called R-O-B, that enables the robotic builder to work at any location in the world. The KUKA robot was transported by sea from Zurich to New York, where it was transferred to a low-loader. This served both to transport the container and as a mobile platform for the robot on site. Once it had arrived at its destination, all that was needed was to open the container, and the KR 150 could begin its artistic endeavors. The low-loader moved the 4.5 m wide working range of R-O-B up and down the building site, thereby allowing the continuous construction of "Pike Loop". On the basis of complex calculations, over 7,000 bricks were piled up, layer on layer, to form a 22 m long wall on Pike Street in China Town. The huge mass of bricks - held together by quick-drying clay - was in a sensitive state of balance. As no brick was laid in the same orientation as the one underneath it, the wall had an unusually plastic effect. It rose up off the ground in places, and intersected itself at several points. "Pike Loop" was a striking feature of China Town's cityscape from mid-November to mid-January.


Modern architecture made by Gramazio & Kohler and KUKA

The two Swiss professors Fabio Gramazio and Matthias Kohler combine architecture and digital production in their faculty at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. They have been collaborating with KUKA since 2006 and have already realized many spectacular projects with the robot. For example: a wall built by the KR 150 was exhibited at the International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2008.

The fact that the robot, unlike its human counterpart, is able to position each brick differently, without the need for calibration, opens up new architectural aspects: the individual alignment of each brick makes it possible, for example, to completely redefine the translucency, air permeability and structure of a wall. "We create architecture not only at the drawing board, but also by shaping the spatial relationships by means of programming. To this end, we harness the potential of digital production that the KUKA robot gives us," explains Matthias Kohler. In this way, the combination of traditional building materials with contemporary construction techniques gives rise to completely new materialities.



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