Robots In + Out of Buildings

New forms of mobility are currently being developed for the transport of both people and goods. From autonomous container ships and trucks, to autonomous buses and cars, to autonomous aerial and land drones, logistics and transportation is being reformulated. These 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 move freely around building interiors as well as across thresholds between interiors and exteriors.

The premise of the research seminar is that robotic vehicles promise to alter building typologies no less profoundly that did the elevator and escalator in their respective eras. The studio will focus in particular on “land” drones and their potential interactions with smart buildings within smart cities, with special attention to electronic systems, furnishings, elevators, and other mobile or moveable components of buildings. How might these elements merge and mesh in ways that will allow for new varieties of adaptive architecture? How might interiors themselves be redesigned to optimize the functionality of machine vision or machine intelligence? Could buildings and the robotic systems that inhabit them share the same algorithmic infrastructures?

• various scales, speeds and rhythms of transportation systems that move around, through, between, and within buildings
• 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 robotics
• 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?
• Typologies: As furniture gains location awareness and mobility what new spatial arrangements and opportunities are possible?
• 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?

The format envisaged a seminar-like research course using design thinking about possible discrete generic transformations of building spaces, components, or systems due to the introduction of intelligent, localized robotics.  This design speculation could take the form of digital modelling, simulation, robotic physical models, or working full scale mock-ups.  This will not be a studio and so design tasks will be delimited but there is an expectation that the seminar will culminate in creative architectural opportunities drawn from the research.

Students from architecture and engineering as well as other disciplines are welcome in the seminar.