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Most architecture is like a puzzle: The pieces of a building only fit together in one way. You can’t just take the components of a building—the walls, the floor, the ceiling—toss them into a bag, shake ‘em up, dump them out, and expect them to assemble into a useful structure.
Architecture is about planning. There are plans for assembling structures and plans for disassembling them. There’s not much fluidity to the process. But what if we could construct our buildings out of a material that required no blueprint at all? An even crazier idea: What if that structure could re-configure on demand?
The most recent research pavilion from the University of Stuttgart’s Institute for Computational Design (ICD) is investigating these questions with a series of experimental structures built from thousands of pieces of injection-molded plastic. The experimental designs examine how we might use heaps of small, individual objects to build architecture that requires no dedicated support system or formwork. They’re calling this process “aggregate architecture,” and the gist is this: Instead of welding the steel frame of a building or pouring concrete into a mold, a robot could simply dump small plastic particles into a pile, causing them to form a self-stabilizing structure on their own. […]