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Robotic Gravity: Workshop with Brandon Clifford and Daniel Piker

Robotic Gravity: Workshop with Brandon Clifford and Daniel Piker

Robotic Gravity
Anthropologist Carl Lipo recently discovered that (some of) the Rapa Nui(1) Moai were not rolled from the quarry to the podium on their backs, but rather transported standing upright.(2) In a similar manner to how one might shimmy a refrigerator into place, the Moai were pulled back and forth by ropes, employing momentum to transport these unwieldy megaliths. This (re)discovery brings new meaning to the folklore that the statues ‘walked themselves’. Simultaneously a retired carpenter named Wally Wallington is spending his retirement moving heavy things, by himself.(3) He is successfully constructing a stonehenge in his backyard with his most useful tool—gravity. There is a great deal of speculation surrounding the artifacts created by our megalithic era ancestors. Much of this is a result of marvel, wonder, intrigue, and most importantly ignorance. When one entertains that these civilizations held a focused knowledge surrounding gravity, mass, and volume (topics we have since lost) these marvels transform from curious speculations into potentials for productive knowledge.

This workshop siphons the potentials of this method of thinking and conflates it with the technology of our own time. With the aid of computation, architects are now capable of merging physics information into the design process. We are also blurring the line between thinker and maker. This workshop will obtain control over the center of mass by increasing and decreasing the density of mass through robotic fabrication processes. The deliverable of the workshop will be to construct a large-scale artifact that defies the perception of gravity through the principle aid of computation.

(1) Commonly known as Easter Island.
(2) Carl P. Lipo, Terry L. Hunt, Sergio Rapu Haoa, “The ‘Walking’ Megalithic Statues (Moai) of Easter Island”, Journal of Archaeological Science, 2012.
(3) www.theforgottentechnology.com


Saturday, February 21, 2015 at 10am-5pm in the FABLab and Room 1227
Sunday, February 22, 2015 at 10am-5pm in the FABLab and Room 1227
Monday, February 23 and Tuesday, February 24 schedule based on student availability

For questions about workshop registration, please email Deniz McGee  

Brandon Clifford
Brandon Clifford is currently the Belluschi Lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as well as Principal at Matter Design. Brandon received his Master of Architecture from Princeton University in 2011 and his Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the Georgia Tech in 2006. From 2006-2009 he worked as project manager at Office dA in both Boston and New York where his contributions varied in scale and program—silverware, installations, restaurants, a professional soccer stadium, and numerous urban planning studies. Brandon also served as editor of Pidgin Magazine from 2009-2011, the 2011-2012 LeFevre Emerging Practitioner Fellow at The Ohio State University Knowlton School of Architecture, and the founder of the Malleablist Movement in architecture.

In 2008 Brandon founded the award winning practice Matter Design with Wes McGee. The practice solidified with Matter Design’s rapid success in design competitions such as the international West Cork Arts Center competition and the provocative winning entry for the 10up competition, Periscope: Foam Tower. In 2011 Brandon was awarded the prestigious SOM Prize launching an ongoing research project in volume. The results of this fellowship can be seen in the self-titled publication 'Volume'. This body of research is dedicated to translating past knowledge into contemporary practice. Brandon is a highly acclaimed designer winning prizes such as the Design Biennial Boston and the Architectural League Prize for Young Architects and Designers in 2013. His work has been published widely in journals—such as Pidgin Magazine and Metropolis Magazine—and recent books such as ‘Fabricate 2014’, ‘Young Architects 15: Range’, ‘Archive: Design Biennial Boston’, ‘Performative Materials in Architecture and Design’, and ‘Stereotomy: Stone Architecture and New Research’ to name a few. His recent authored work includes ‘Volume: Bringing Surface into Question’, ‘Range: Matter Design’, and ‘Volumetric Robotics: MIT Architectural Design Workshop’. Brandon is dedicated to re-imagining the role of the architect in the digital era. 

Daniel Piker
Daniel Piker is a researcher on the use of computation for design and realization of complex forms and structures. After studying architecture at the AA, he has worked as part of the Advanced Geometry Unit at Arup, and currently for the Specialist Modelling Group at Foster+Partners. He has taught numerous studios and workshops (including the AADRL, and 2 clusters at SmartGeometry) and presented his work at conferences around the world.
He is the creator of the widely used form-finding physics engine ‘Kangaroo’, software which he continues to develop.