Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Blobwall and Bricks

A team of designers, architects and engineers led by Greg Lynn has developed a unique modular construction system which they call “Blobwall.” This is an interesting construction method, so we’re taking a look at it today.

The Blobwall is comprised of unit shapes which are called “bricks.” These shapes are quite interesting, and fun to look at and arrange. However, they are definitely not “bricks” as known to masons and masonry. These bricks are “…low-density, recyclable, impact-resistant polymer. The blob unit, or “brick,” is a robotically cut mass-produced hollow tri-lobed shape formed through rotational molding, which is then assembled with interlocking precision to form the wall.”

It is interesting how these shapes are arranged.  There is a free-form interlock which is aesthetically pleasing.

These bricks do not have a high compressive strength; they are not mass produced as standard bricks are made. Each shape must be robotically produced. These “bricks” are also cut into as they are arranged and assembled.  By contrast, manufactured blocks can be produed at a rate of around 1.7 seconds per block (6 at-a-time, 10 second cycle time)

If we go back to some basic definitions, masonry is defined as (1) “the craft or occupation of a mason.” (2) “work constructed by a mason, esp. stonework.” A mason is defined as “a person whose trade is building with units of various natural or artificial mineral products, as stones, bricks, cinder blocks, or tiles, usually with the use of mortar or cement as a bonding agent.” This modular unit is not really a brick at all, and should not be considered masonry.

The assembled forms of the Blobwall result in large holes or gaps between the unit shapes. While this provides an interesting aesthetic, it does not keep out the elements, wind, rain, etc. as do regular bricks, or the interlocking triangular bricks described on this blog.

This is an interesting technology and design, but it does not quite fall within the realm of masonry. The unit shape is not a brick, there is low compressive strength, it cannot be inexpensively mass-produced, and the resulting shell is not weatherproof or suitable for habitation.

I’d say it’s pretty cool to look at though.

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