Intelligent Making and Robotic Structure

  • Yan Gao Department of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong
  • Xin Guo Department of Architecture, The University of Shenzhen
  • Victor Leung Media Lab, MIT


This article proposes a more design-orientated making process with the emerging robotic technologies through the “Intelligent Wave Project” (IWP).This research project went through three stages including physical experimentation, computational simulation, and the design & making of a robotic installation. The research process synthesises abstract geometries, Complex System Theory, 3D Print, and automatic control through computational protocols. The core objective of the IWP is to achieve a self-supporting surface mass from a simple rule-based component system that transforms its shape. The breakthrough of this robotic installation is that the identical cells that are repeatedly connected under the reciprocal frame principles and the triangulated geometry constraints are capable of generating emerging global reconfigurations of both the spatial structure and the intricate geometric pattern. The surface responds to different external forces accordingly, i.e. the location, the intensity and the sequence of the force. Such behaviour is scripted into the digital modelling before the realisation of the final programed structure. Instead of using dynamic pistons, the transformation is achieved through local sliding and rotating in particular sequences; these trigger the global surface transformation into either concave or convex. This article also compares the above research project with the concurrent experiments of robotic applications in architectural research. It embraces design intelligence for a more holistic perspective in order to explore the meaningful and applicable design opportunities for the future of architectural robotics.
Keywords: Robotic Structure, Intelligent Fabrication, Complex Behaviour, Surface Transformation, Self-organised Complex System, Design Orientated Research
Published online
How to Cite
Gao, Y., Guo, X. and Leung, V. (2016) “Intelligent Making and Robotic Structure”, Periodica Polytechnica Architecture, 47(2), pp. 79-88.