While solar panels have become increasingly common, the ones usually found on rooftops and the like can convert at most between 17 and 19 percent of received solar energy to usable electricity. This average yield has plateaued, increasingly only about 3.5 percent since the 2000s. More efficient panels are available, like those used on satellites, but they remain cost prohibitive. Insolight, a Swiss startup from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), claims to have developed a scalable alternative, however. The company's new technology uses the same high-efficiency cells found in orbiting satellites but assembled in such a way that minimizes cost differences. Insolight's Mathieu Ackermann, Laurent Coulot, and Florian Gerlich have constructed arrays of very small versions of these high-efficiency cells, mounted with an optical magnifier that concentrates sunlight around 100 times, resulting in cells that take up less than .5 percent of the panel’s surface area but harvest a much larger percentage of the light hitting the panel. Most concentrator-operated solar systems require constant maneuvering to be tilted towards the sun. In order to maximize efficiency without requiring new mounting technology or complicated tilting mechanics, each of the cells is detailed so that it can make tiny, millimeter-level movements to position itself to track the sun without all the cost, space, and reliability issues found in many already available concentrator systems. Insolight's “microtracking” can reportedly capture 100 percent of the light that hits it, regardless of its angle of incidence. The ultra-thin panels can be mounted similarly to any traditional photovoltaic cell, even in a hybrid array layered with standard panels, which is especially useful for cloudy days. The panels spent a year on the roofs of an EPFL pilot site and worked “without a hitch,” according to the trio. In addition to the obvious environmental benefits, Insolight projects that the panels could cut electricity bills by as much as 30 percent, as well as provide a greater return on investment than other commercially-available solar options. The company hopes to bring its first products to the market in 2022. For more on the latest in AEC technology and for information about the upcoming TECH+ conference, visit techplusexpo.com/nyc/.
Posts tagged with "Switzerland":
A seemingly simple, six-story apartment complex is going up in Zurich, Switzerland, and is putting to the test a number of new technologies that showcase a more sustainable approach to new construction. The project, Hohlstrasse 100, is designed by Dietrich Schwarz Architekten and is rising next to an existing, two-story commercial space that's also being renovated and connected to the new building underground. The firm's namesake principal has written extensively on environmental concerns in architecture and advocates a view of architectural history “from modernism to the ‘one planet society,’” which has manifested itself in projects like the 1996 Solarhaus I and the 2007 Eulachhof "zero-energy" housing complex. Claiming that “architectural and spatial planning” is the cause of greater than 40 percent of global energy consumption, Schwarz has proposed that future structures "will be created in which the building envelope and building service systems complement one another optimally." That ethos is being advanced in Hohlstrasse 100, which is, in part, supported by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy. Loaded with new technology, the residences will be a pilot for a new form of vacuum-insulated glass windows, hot water, and other monitoring systems, as well as new phase-change materials. The windows will also feature unique soundproofing, tested at Empa at ETH Zurich, that will allow them to be opened to the noisy street below for natural ventilation. Hohlstrasse 100 is also testing ground for aerogel insulating technologies, designed in the lab of Jannis Wernery at Empa. While aerogels have been used in many renovations, and also recently at the research-showhome DFAB HOUSE, Wernery says this is first new construction in Switzerland to create a facade entirely using aerogel. The material, an ultralight gel that uses gas instead of a liquid, has incredibly low density and thermal conductivity. Overall, the building is extremely high-efficiency in terms of insulation abilities for its size. The ultra-thin wood, MDF, and aerogel facade make it a primarily a wood structure coming in at just 135mm. Although aerogel is costly, in expensive cities like Zurich the gain in interior square footage (and its attendant profitability) more than compensates for the additional price while providing long-term energy efficiency, according to Wernery. For the architects, this thinness and space efficiency is also part of the building's conceptual conceit. It reads with the “compression” that so distinctly defines modern urban buildings and cities themselves.
Brought to you with support fromBehnisch Architekten's AGORA Pôle de Recherche Sur le Cancer in Lausanne, Switzerland, overlooks the historic core of the centuries-old city from a prominent ridgeline within the city center, contorting itself into multiple planes of curtain wall shaded by a continuous band of aluminum apertures. As an approximately 240,000-square-foot cancer research institute, the complex's program calls for easily navigable and well-illuminated corridors linking offices and research spaces for hundreds of practitioners. Additionally, the central meeting place of the facility—dubbed "AGORA" in homage to the ancient Greek sphere of public assembly—is topped with a semi-translucent ETFE canopy. "AGORA was our first effort at developing a stationary, responsive solar shading system, which developed out of the original competition design," said Behnisch Partner Robert Matthew Noblett. "The concept is essentially moving the sophisticated technology involved in responding to solar angles that change throughout the day and year and deploying it on the design side in the form of parametric modeling and fabrication, optimizing shading elements according to orientation and season."
Facades+ New York conference, a two-day event at the beginning of April focused on the design and performance of facades.The second skin of the building consists of a continuous aluminum screen that runs across the underlying glazed facade. Each of the facade's nine distinct planes is shaded with a unique variation of the screen; the skin on the north has relatively large openings while that on the south is more constrained. The panels consist of two folded aluminum pieces joined together to resist bending. For the shading requirements of the building, Behnisch Architekten developed a set of parametric guidelines for Rhino, Grasshopper, and AutoCAD. The length of the "P" line, the protruding-perforated aluminum flap, was determined by the "V" plane perpendicular to the facade, and the "H" plane parallel to the facade. After producing scores of digital simulations for sun and heat protection, light enhancement and glare, the design team built multiple physical models that were tested under artificial lighting. "The optimization of the facade is controlled both by the aperture and its orientation, which respond to the orientation of the glass surface and its type of glass," said the design team. "The same solar performance can be achieved for every given angle of the sun with an array of different geometries that offer all the different view openings and qualities." The second skin is located approximately 2.6 feet from the inner facade, allowing for the insertion of a maintenance catwalk and over half-a-foot of space for the secondary structure supporting the shading panels. The secondary structure is composed of a series of diagonal steel rails running parallel to each other. Every short end of the panels are connected to the steel rails via simple fastener connections. Armatures extending from the inner facade support both the catwalk and the steel rail system. According to the design team, one of the greatest challenges of the project was the connection of the bands of aluminum apertures across nine unique facade planes. To maintain the visual continuity of the second skin, Behnisch Architekten collaborated with manufacturer and installer Sottas SA to produce a unique seam of aluminum pieces for each corner. In the coming years, Behnisch will monitor the performance of the complex's enclosure system. Lessons learned from the study of the structure will inform the design of similar systems for ongoing projects such as Harvard's School of Engineering an Applied Sciences and the ARENA HQ in Germany. Robert Matthew Noblett will be joining a panel, "Facade Syntax: Changing Context and International Regulations," at The Architect's Newspaper's upcoming
Tucked at the base of the Jura Mountains in Switzerland lies the Jan Michalski Foundation, a place where international writers can complete their residencies with sweeping views of the Alps. Residents are invited to live out their visits, which can last anywhere from two weeks to six months, underneath a concrete canopy, where nine “treehouses” are suspended around the Foundation’s central buildings. That includes the recently completed “Suspended Forest” by Kengo Kuma, a polygonal hanging family house that focuses on timber both inside and out. The programming is linear and continuous, and Kengo Kuma & Associates describes the design philosophy behind the building as cocoon-like and enveloping. Residents can walk straight from the main entrance through the living area and out onto the floating balcony. That linearity necessitated the triangulated steel exterior that gives Suspended Forest its distinctive shape, and gives the cabin extra strength and rigidity. For waterproofing and soundproofing, the exterior of the house was clad in white steel plates, which were then topped with untreated timber shingles. As the shingles are exposed to the elements, they will change color to create nuance along the facade. Every shingle was hand-cut from local wood, with smaller oak and larger larch shingles arranged in a random pattern to make the facade seem more organic and dynamic. A series of non-aligned windows seem to “float” between the shingles evoking glimpses of shapes caught through a forest. Inside, larch plywood panels were used to wrap the walls and floor to create a space that is the “inverse” of the cabin’s exterior. While the shingles follow the structure’s form, the plywood instead expands in relation to the program. Skylights have also been punched in the cabin’s roof to lighten up the live-work area within. Kuma’s addition to the hanging “campus” marks a departure from the previously-built cabins that adhered to boxier, multi-story forms and curated midcentury modern-style interiors. A heavy use of timber and expansive views of the natural landscape are prevalent throughout each cabin. Kuma isn’t the only big name to build for the Jan Michalski Foundation. Pritzker Prize–winner Alejandro Aravena was responsible for the Elemental treehouse, a glass cube that floats atop a hanging concrete slab. Rather than being a workspace for residents, the Elemental treehouse is a cabin where writers and Foundation staff can cook and share meals. Granite floors, a common kitchen, dining table, and a living room area lend the cabin a more communal feel. Six of the resident cabins look out over Lake Geneva, while a seventh, a simple white cabin designed by the Swiss studio Décosterd, faces the Jura mountains. The Décosterd treehouse is clad in white, perforated steel panels that spell out in Morse code: “In addition to simplicity, nudity,” a Henry David Thoreau quote from Walden or, Life in the Woods. The Elemental cabin was the eighth treehouse in the complex, and now that Suspended Forest is complete, the total is up to nine. That isn’t the end of the Foundation’s expansion plans, as the group has mapped out multi-year expansion goals that include multiple new cabins.
Deep in the Swiss Alps, buried below the remnants of a 12th-century monastery in the town of Susch, is Switzerland’s newest private art museum. Muzeum Susch opened to the public on January 2 and is expected to bring international attention to a village where the population tops out at 200. The museum, designed by the Zurich-based Voellmy Schmidlin Architektur (founded by Chasper Schmidlin and Lukas Voellmy), is the personal project of Grażyna Kulczyk, Poland’s richest woman; she’s the founder of the museum, has fully funded its construction, and the institution will display pieces from Kulczyk’s private collection. This isn’t the first time Kulczyk has attempted to get her museum off (and under) the ground. As the Wall Street Journal noted, Kulczyk had attempted to bring a Tadao Ando–designed collection to Poznan, Poland, in 2008, and later to Warsaw. Both attempts fell through. The completed complex in Susch spans a collection of five existing buildings, most historically protected, which restricted how thoroughly their exteriors could be modified. As such, the two central buildings are connected via an underground passage that took over a year to dig through the mountainous terrain. Muzeum Susch holds over 16,000 square feet of gallery space for rotating and permanent exhibitions, as well as Instituto Susch, an academic institute that will host lectures on gender and art. Acziun Susch, also located on the campus, will instruct on modern choreography. The area’s natural rock formations have been highlighted as heavily as the existing architecture and poke through the staid gallery interiors throughout. A grotto near the museum’s entrance has been left exposed and will serve as a backdrop for future site-specific installations. Kulczyk's ambitions for the museum aren't finished, as she recently announced the purchase of a sixth building for the institution. The museum’s inaugural show, A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women, has a pointed focus on the work of women artists internationally. The exhibition, curated by Kasia Redzisz, will feature work of many types, from paintings to sculpture to multidisciplinary art and will run through June 30, 2019.
In October 2018, Switzerland-based 3-D-graphics software company Imverse released a public beta version of its LiveMaker modeling tool. This powerful virtual reality interface allows for the transformation of 2-D inputs into immersive 3-D environments. While the use of VR in the field of architecture and design is by no means novel, it has primarily remained a tool for the final visualization of a project. LiveMaker not only allows the user to navigate and interact with spaces and objects within a rendered 3-D environment, but also facilitates the real-time manipulation of details such as geometry, color, and placement. Within the digitally rendered environment, specific details imported from 2-D images are easily replicated and moved about the space. The foundation of Imverse’s ability to create this malleable VR interface is its proprietary voxel-based gaming engine. According to Benoît Perrin, head of marketing and communications, “most 3-D graphics today are based on polygons that complicate what should be the seamless creation of content, LiveMaker is the first application of a voxel engine as a 3-D modeling tool.” One of the more impressive tools stemming from the use of a voxel engine is the dynamic shading and lighting characteristics applied to objects–the shadow cast by a column at any time of day is immediately available. How is the application most useful for architects and designers? The platform presents a number of positive implications for firms involved in historic restorations or reconfigurations of protected sites. For example, with 360-degree imaging of Austria’s Hellbrunn Palace, a user can interact with walls, columns, and other elements. If the user comes across a specific detail or object of interest, they can be copied and exported as 3-D models across different rendering platforms. Going forward, features within LiveMaker will be upgraded and expanded by Imverse following feedback from users of the public beta release.
A research team led by Jamin Dillenburger, an assistant professor at ETH Zurich, has recently produced and installed a concrete ceiling shaped by 3D-printed sand formwork. Dubbed the “Smart Slab,” the 1000 square-foot ceiling is significantly lighter and thinner than comparable concrete ceilings. The concrete slab is a component of ETH Zurich’s ongoing DFAB House project. The DFAB House is a load-bearing timber module prefabricated by robots. According to ETH Zurich, Dillenburger’s research group “developed a new software to fabricate the formwork elements, which is able to record and coordinate all parameters relevant to production.” In effect, the design of the ceiling is the product of the team-created software rather than analog design or planning. Following the design and digital testing phase of structural elements, the fabrication data was exported for the creation of 11 pallet-sized, 3D-printed sand formworks. After fabrication, each segment was cleared of sand particles and prepared for concrete spraying. The spray consisted of several layers of glass-fiber reinforced concrete. At its thinnest point, the concrete shell is less than one inch thick. After hardening for two weeks, the 11 concrete segments were joined to create the approximately 15-ton floor plate. While the underbelly’s contours were formed by 3D-printed sand casts, the ribbed grid above was shaped by CNC laser-cut timber formwork. The load-bearing ribs, resulting from timber formwork, were outfitted with a series of tubes for the insertion of steel cables both horizontally and vertically. These post-tensioned ribs carry the principal load of the “Smart Slab.” In placing the principal load above the concrete shell, the research team was able to insert complex geometric features below. The “Smart Slab” is not ETH Zurich’s first execution of an ultrathin concrete unit. Earlier this year, the university fabricated an undulating, two-inch thick roofing unit for a new live-work space in Zurich.
The Swiss Institute for Contemporary Art has opened its new 7,500 square foot Selldorf Architects-designed location on St. Marks Place in New York City. Taking over four levels of a former bank built in 1954 and designed by Alfred Hopkins and Associates, the renovation is, in the words of Swiss Institute director Simon Castets, a “counter narrative” to the building’s former financial, low-occupancy use. The Selldorf redesign uses a seemingly minimal touch. Though there have been significant changes—full stairwells and elevators have been added along with a total plan rework—the overall architectural sensibility feels light and unimposing. White walls remain unadorned. Flooring is understated. On all ceilings, ductwork, lighting, and structural elements remain exposed—a departure from many recent galleries in the city that have instead focused on hiding every functional detail, even the lighting, as much as possible. Curators generally aren’t keen on losing space to the workaday trappings of administrative necessity. Swiss Institute has filled every corner, wall, stairwell, and even the elevator with art to allow “artists to reclaim the space lost to New York City building code” as part of the SI ONSITE program. Stairwells feature sculptures and frescoes by Shahryar Nashat and Latifa Echakhch. The elevator has been turned into an artwork, skinned in a welcoming pink from Sherwin Williams called “Memorable Rose,” which is taken from the color of a tongue by artist Pamela Rosenkranz for an installation appropriately titled Color of a Tongue (Director) (2018). A cellar gallery remains honest about what it really is with layers of gray paint applied by Dusty Baker. https://www.instagram.com/p/Bkd-vN1FN80/?taken-at=1339491416095759 Like the building itself, the current exhibition, Readymades Belong to Everyone (open through August 19), is packed with art. The first floor, which features ceilings that soar over 17 feet, is dense with all variety of sculpture and 2D work. Despite lower ceilings, the new location's upper level is airy, wrapped in windows with exposed wood shining on the ceiling. There is a reading room, currently taken over by a project from Heman Chong in collaboration with Ken Liu. Chong and Liu’s Legal Books (Shanghai) features hundreds of books selected by Liu, a sci-fi writer and attorney, inspired by thinking on the Chinese legal system. The art instillation-cum-reading room features painted curtains by Jill Mulleady, another way in which the Institute is packing in the art. https://www.instagram.com/p/BkVg-UtlioO/?taken-at=5122362 One enters from Second Avenue to find a visitor welcome desk and a bookshop from Printed Matter. The entire space is decked out in the clean lines of USM’s furniture, and behind the visitor information desk is John Armleder’s Royal Flush (2018) installation of mirrored tiles reminiscent of a disco ball. https://www.instagram.com/p/BkYmINDnsN8/?taken-at=5122362 The Swiss Institute also takes the art outdoors with a terrace that places visitors in the midst of the city. The current plein air setup includes work by Valentin Carron, Nancy Lupo, and Michael Wang. In Wang's Extinct in the Wild series, the artist references Peter Stuyvesant's original orchard, composed of native plants that now only grow with human care and populated what is now the East Village. Signage on the building is multilingual, not merely with the four official languages of Switzerland, but also with the most spoken languages in the Swiss Institute's new surrounding area: English, Spanish, and Chinese. The Swiss Institute, which has free admission, has also been collaborating with local community organizations for artist-led workshops and is actively celebrating the artistic history and present of their new East Village location. The Swiss Institute’s new 38 St. Marks location opens with the exhibition Readymades Belong to Everyone, on view now, curated by Fredi Fischli and Niels Olsen. In addition to the artists described above, the show features many architects and designers including OFFICE, Rem Koolhaas, MOS Architects, and Sauter von Moos in collaboration with Herzog and de Meuron.
https://vimeo.com/273390191 Presented at the Venice Architecture Biennale, Automatic Architecture examines the space of automation and algorithms in architecture through two projects, Wall and Space. The projects were realized as part of a workshop led by Riccardo Blumer at the Academy of Architecture at the University of Italian Switzerland in Mendrisio, Switzerland with support from U.S. non-profit MADWORKSHOP. Automatic Architecture presents two different collaborative projects. Walls is a series of roboticized bars pulling planes of soap bubbles, stretching them to their physical limits until they lost their form. “It contemplates a space in which tangible walls can be there one minute and gone the next,” as Blumer says in a video produced on the project by PLANE—SITE. The 11 rods that stretch out the panels of the wall begin together but invariably fall out of sync with one another as they attempt to create a complete, continuous wall. Defined by its ephemerality, Wall generates a space that “simultaneously does and doesn’t exist.” Walls is a collaboration between Lorela Arapi, Stefano Clerici, and Andrea Cappellaro. Space presents a grid of automated blocks that rise and fall in a constantly shifting pattern determined by an algorithmic model that can run without repeating a form for 250 years, suggesting that architecture is itself constantly in flux and highlighting the tension between order and expression. Space was created by Georgios Voutsis.
Traditionally, the one-liner is derided in architecture as something crude, unsophisticated, and anti-intellectual. It gets abuse from all angles, from conceptually-minded curators, traditional architecture critics, and even virtuosic architects who prefer “multiple readings” of objects, or “difficult wholes.” It seems the one-liner is the most isolated and hated syntactic metaphor in the architect’s tool bag; the last frontier of architectural bad taste. Even Patrik Schumacher complained on Facebook about the National Pavilions. “"Pavilions were...given over to one-liner installations, which could be absorbed by stepping in and out for 30 seconds." However, one-liners finally got their due at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale, where simpler, conceptual installations took home the Golden Lion of National Participation as well as the special mention in the same category. The Swiss Pavilion, "Svizzera 240: House Tour" was a delightful funhouse where the everyday elements—doors, windows, handles, and kitchen appliances—of a typical new apartment were exaggerated to be too small and too big, creating a disorienting space that explored the banality of contemporary residential construction and the distortions of scale that are caused by photography in the real estate industry. It was a one-liner that executed one concept well enough to provoke not only happy visitors, but also allowed personal reflection on whatever the topic at hand. The actual pavilion avoided over-complication (which plagued many of the national pavilions), and provided a “freespace” for contemplation and reflection. Because after all, even the simplest pavilion cannot be fully understood in every single aspect, and the most complicated book-on-the-wall exhibition can’t fully explain anything anyway, even if you took the biennale's full six months to read it all. The winning pavilions avoided many of the problems faced by some of the other national participants. First, there is an increasing trend of pavilions getting overrun by curators who want to foreground curatorial practice pyrotechnics over smart delivery of content, obscuring the point of the exhibition. The one-liner doesn’t do this. Secondly, some pavilions looked to appropriate the headlines and buzzwords of the day, delivering incoherent and scattered exhibitions that paradoxically make arguments against the possibility of freespace today. And thirdly, the one-liners actually provide respite from the book-on-the-wall urbanism exhibitions, which ended up falling flat. One-liners, like deadpan humor, often do not have punchlines, and leave an open-ended silence at the end of the joke, as is the case for the special mention–winning British Pavilion, "Island," where Caruso St. John emptied the pavilion out and constructed a large plinth over the top. It is unclear what the point was, but the effects were spectacular, lifting the user over the Giardini, causing a certain estrangement from the Biennale itself, and forging a connection with the city beyond. Of course, one-liners always hint at more. They are short and seem simple, but with a little thought, can reveal the layers beneath, like a good Rodney Dangerfield or Norm Macdonald joke. Both the Swiss and British installations rearranged bodies in particular ways, which gave them not only multiple interpretations, but highly individualized experiences that could be taken with layers of meaning. One-liners are funnier than zero-liners. And one-liners can avoid many of the pitfalls of 15-liners, which end up being zero-liners anyway. The Belgian pavilion, "Eurotopie," also stood out as a one-liner: a simple concentric series of blue circles created a forum of sorts in the building; as did the Nordic, which simply featured inflatable sculptures. Instead of over-complicating things with over-curation, the one-liners produced this “freespace,” allowing the visitor to become part of the exhibition, but without sacrificing intellectual rigor or content.
At the 16th Venice Biennale of Architecture, the Golden Lion for National Participation was awarded to Switzerland for a minimal yet amusing installation Svizzera 240: House Tour, a mock luxury apartment that had been multiplied and re-scaled throughout the pavilion’s spaces. The humorous interpretation was meant to challenge our perceptions of scale in the domestic environment, as well as draw attention to the banality of these spaces. The Golden Lion for best individual participant went to Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura for a pair of photographs showing a before and after of a renovation of São Lourenço do Barrocal estate in Alentejo, Portugal, which was barely perceptible. The focus on architecture here, rather than a grand political statement, is in line with the overall character of the show, as well as the judge’s choices. A special mention went to the British Pavilion, for a dramatic structure, Island, that hovered over the building, which was left completely empty. On the plinth above, a cafe was setup and visitors could feel isolated from the Giardini below, while enjoying a beautiful view. Special mentions were given to Indian architect Rahul Mehrotra and Indonesian architect Andra Matin. New York–based British historian Kenneth Frampton won the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. Critic Peter Lang told AN, “Grabbing the Golden Lion trophy like a brick, Frampton hoisted it up to shoulder height and beamed with no small amount of delight. In an exchange of banter between him and the curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelly McNamara, where they referred to his hugely influential legacy and his role as a “barometer of truth,” Ken responded wryly that they were the best architects in the world. Ken stood firmly by Hannah Arendt and his belief that modernism is an unfinished project. Clearly there will be more reflections from this British critic to come.”
Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland, are giving timber construction a mechanical leg up with the introduction of prefabricated, robotically-assembled timber frame housing. Together with Erne AG Holzbau, a contracting firm that specializes in timber, researchers at the institute’s Chair of Architecture and Digital Fabrication have developed Spatial Timber Assemblies, a system for digitally fabricating and constructing complex forms from timber. After a model of the structure has been laid out, robotic arms mounted in the ceiling of the assembly chamber are capable of building the required parts as well as putting them together. First, one arm picks up a beam and holds it while a human trims the piece into the proper size and shape. Then, a second robot arm pre-drills the holes needed for attaching the beam to the structure; finally, both robot arms work together to precisely place the beam as a human attaches it. Thanks to algorithms developed by the researchers, the arms are able to constantly recalculate their location in space and how to move forward without bumping into each other (or humans on the job site). A major advantage of Spatial Timber Assemblies is that the structures built this way carry their load-bearing capacity structurally, and don’t require reinforcing plates or any additional steel. If the overall design changes during construction, researchers are able to calculate a new, optimized framing solution using load-distribution algorithms. The system is more than theoretical. ETH researchers are currently using it to assemble six unique modules, which will join to frame the top two floors of the experimental DFAB HOUSE in Dübendorf, a suburb of Zurich. Once installed on site, both floors will have distinct rooms across 328 square feet of floor space. The final design, which uses 487 individual beams, will be wrapped in a clear plastic facade so that the underlying timber structure can remain exposed. Advancements in robotic construction are advancing rapidly, and ETH researchers have been developing robots that weld, spray concrete, and stack bricks to create forms that would have been difficult to build previously. And if the ETH needs help decorating the interior of their research house, robots can now assemble IKEA furniture, too.