Robots In & Out of Buildings

New forms of mobility are currently being developed for the transport of people and goods. From autonomous container ships and trucks, to autonomous buses and cars, to autonomous aerial and land drones, transportation and logistics are being reformulated. New forms of intelligent motion are already beginning to reshape urban, suburban, and rural environments. But little thought is being devoted to how buildings, their circulation and envelopes, and their interconnection to the urban landscape will be transformed by the proliferation of robotic agents whose electric drive trains allow them to cross thresholds and move freely around and between building interiors and exteriors.

The premise of the research studio is that robotic vehicles promise to alter building typologies no less profoundly that did the elevator and escalator in their respective eras. Research will be conducted to familiarize the students with the various scales, speeds, and rhythms of transportation systems that move around, through, between, and within buildings in smart cities, and assess their impact on human activity and experience at a range of scales. Only current technologies will be considered, including: autonomous trucks, semi-autonomous cars, autonomous land drones, autonomous aerial drones, warehouse robotics, security robots, autonomous fork lifts and pallet carts, health care robots, and domestic cleaning and security robots. Once participants are familiar with the capacity and sensibilities of these intelligent moving vehicles and platforms, the course will shift to devising problem statements regarding design opportunities for architects such as, but not limited to: Circulation: Do people and robots share the same circulation spaces within buildings?; Envelopes: Do robots enter buildings with people, with vehicles, or in new locations?; Systems: How can mechanical, electrical, plumbing, communication and fire suppression systems be mobilized throughout buildings?; Landscape: Can the territory of a building expand and contract throughout the day, season, or lifecycle with the introduction of intelligent mobile robotics?; and Typologies: How might these domains and elements merge and mesh in ways that will allow for new varieties of adaptive architecture? Could buildings and the robotic systems that inhabit them share the same algorithmic infrastructures?