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MAS 2018 / 19

Up Sticks, Dundee, 2019

‘Up-Sticks’ is an informal turn of phrase dating back to at least the 19th Century to express leaving your home in haste. It is thought to originate from the rough cut, unseasoned timber frame architecture of the Scottish croft designed for temporary occupation. These sticks from which the croft was partly fabricated were of great value and were taken and reused when the household moved on. 

V&A Dundee commissioned Gramazio Kohler Research, the Chair for Architecture and Digital Fabrication at ETH Zurich, and their students from the Master of Advanced Studies in Architecture and Digital Fabrication MAS DFAB programme to revisit traditional Scottish construction methods and to combine it with their expertise in computational design and robotic fabrication. The result is Up-Sticks, an expressive timber structure that twists and curves using only spruce wood planks and beech wood dowels. No glue or nails were used to hold the planks in space; it is the hygroscopic behaviour of the dowels, which shrink and swell according to their moisture content, and their computationally defined position that lock all planks into position. Up-Sticks was assembled from large elements all prefabricated in the Robotic Fabrication Laboratory at ETH Zurich, the largest of its kind in the world. This facility allowed for a collaborative robotic fabrication process where one robotic arm prepared the planks by drilling oriented holes for all dowels at bespoke angles, while the second robot picked, placed and supported the planks during the manual insertion of the dried dowels. With limited resources of our planet, Up-Sticks presents a strategy of how contemporary knowledge in computation and digital fabrication technology can be combined with traditional knowledge about construction methods in order to innovate the construction sector.

VA_Hello_Robot_Upsticks GKR

Gramazio Kohler Research, ETH Zürich


Collaborators: David Jenny (project lead), Jesús Medina,  Hannes Mayer (MAS programme coordinator)

Students: Antonio Barney, Aya Shaker Ali, Chaoyu Du, Eleni Skevaki, Jonas Van den Bulcke, Keerthana Udaykumar, Nicolas Feihl, Nik Eftekhar Olivo, Noor Khader, Rahul Girish, Sofia Michopoulou, Ying-Shiuan Chen, Yoana Taseva, Yuta Akizuki, Wenqian Yang 

Support: Mike Lyrenmann and Philippe Fleischmann (Robotic Fabrication Laboratory) 

Up Sticks was commisssioned by V&A Dundee and realised in partnership with Gramazio Kohler Research, ETH Zurich
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