The Swiss architects Fabio Gramazio and Matthias Kohler are developing a multidisciplinary practice marked by computational design and research with new materials. These founders in 2005 of the first laboratory robotics at the ETH Zürich, acquired an industrial robot that is capable of executing a very large number of tasks, thereby undertaking a new stage in the evolution of so-called “non-standard” architecture. The question of assembly, often given little consideration or poorly dealt with, finds its resolution in a coherent formula, i.e. the computer-controlled machine enabling direct interaction between information and construction. The implementation of such machines completes the phases of computer-assisted conception and fabrication to deliver an end-to-end digitized construction process. To describe this decisive evolution, Gramazio & Kohler have developed the concept of Digital Materiality, whereby they emphasize the necessity of technological pragmatism. Digital technology cannot be limited to self-referencing research. The scope of its potentialities must be measured and tested in the domain of built and material reality. Thus, the research undertaken on modular “brick walls” assembled by robot was put to the test in the field in 2006 with the construction of the façades of a cutting-edge wine-making establishment (Gantenbein Winery, Fläsch). In 2011, aiming to test their procedures on every scale, from the 1:1 prototype all the way to the apartment tower, Gramazio & Kohler passed another milestone in the automation of construction by successfully developing with the engineer Raffaello D’Andrea the use of aerial robots (Flight Assembled Architecture), thereby opening vast new territories to architectural experimentation.
Fabio Gramazio (1970, Langenthal, Switzerland) and Matthias Kohler (1968, Uster, Switzerland) met in 1990 at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) where they would later teach after graduating in 1996. In 2000, they created the firm Gramazio & Kohler, Architecture and Urbanism and built several projects that gained attention (the sWISH* pavilion, presented at the Swiss National Exhibition Expo.02 for IBM and SwissRe; Biel, 2000-2002 ; mTable, a series of customizable tables, 2002-2003, and a house in Riedikon). In 2005, they took over the chair of architecture and digital fabrication at the ETH (occupied up to that time by Greg Lynn) and developing a series of prototypes built by industrial robotic arm. In 2006 they built the façade of the Gantenbein Winery in Switzerland and in 2008, in the Swiss Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, they installed a continuous wall of bricks over 100 meters long, built in situ by robot. Often recognized (Swissfiber Award, 2005; Swiss Art Award in the architecture category, 2004; 5th prize in the Corporate Design competition for small buildings, 2004), their projects have been the object of numerous publications and international exhibitions (Venice Biennale of Architecture, 2008; Storefront Gallery for Art and Architecture, New York, 2009; FRAC Centre, Orleans, 2011).