Make Architecture



8 – Form-making Machine

My goal for this exercise was to make a simple shape in concrete that could be aggregated and combined into larger elements, all cast using the same machine.  I was thinking about the most simple interpretation of ‘digital fabrication’, such as legos…


  • 1/4″ plywood
  • thicker backing material (3/4″ ply)
  • screws
  • rockite


  • lasercut the formwork and ‘stops’
  • Laminate the layers of the form and screw to a sturdy piece of backing material
  • set the appropriate ‘stops’ into the form for your desired piece
  • line with saran wrap so concrete doesn’t bond with formwork
  • mix + pour rockite into mold


Using a simple box-joint along the edges of the form, I was able to make a variety of variations in the pieces.  First, the large stop can be placed to limit the length of the cast panel.

Second, holes in the bottom can be either plugged or extruded(using a second set of stops) to create a solid surface or one with slots to join with perpendicular pieces.

The Casting Process

1- the lasercut pieces

2- the built formwork machine

3- casting the first panel into the saranwrap

4- this proved to be a Fail with saranwrap.  The Rockite was not heavy enough at this scale to overwhelm the saranwrap and press into the corners.  The creases created weaknesses and the tabs broke off taking the panel out of the form…

5- So, I spray painted the form-machine in the hopes of adding a release agent and making better forms.  here it is covered in vaseline.

6- casting into the improved form

7- impossible to get the cast panel out of the form!

lesson learned here: a better version of this form-machine would separate in two halves so that once the panel is set, you can pull the form away instead of destroying the panel trying to get it out!


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Instructor: Nick Gelpi TA: Skylar Tibbits TA: Varvara Toulkeridou
Class Times, Monday, 1-4pm - room 5-216
4.184 is an intensive introduction to methods of making explored through a wide range of brief but focused 1-week exercises. We'll engage the real and leave behind representation in the focused context of this class gaining skills for utilizing a range of fabrication machines and technologies from lasercutting, waterjet, 3D printing, welding, formworking-molding, casting, gears, joints and composites.
In this workshop we'll constrain ourselves to the territory of the 1:1. Students will represent architectural constructions at full scale and develop a more intimate relationship with technology by engaging the tools and techniques that empower us. We will gain access to the most cutting edge machines and technologies in the MARS lab at the Center for Bits and Atoms.
The second layer of information for this course will be to look at a series of case studies in which construction methods and technologies have played a dominant role in the design process .
Over the past 20 years, architects have focused on the technology of representation to create new ideas of what architecture could be. Looking back today, much of that research failed to substantially change the way we design buildings by focusing on apriori formal configurations. This class makes the contention that this failure comes from a lack of considerations of the potentials within fabrication knowledge. We look to the future of what building might become, given the expanded palette of personalize-able technologies available to us as architects. Students will participate in curious technological and material investigations, to discover the potentials, known and unknown, for these various technologies.
The sub-disciplines of what's drawn and what's built have been compartmentalized and disassociated as the representational tools of architecture have distanced themselves from the techniques of making. At the same time the technologies for “making” in architecture have provided us with new possibilities for reinventing how we translate into reality, the immaterial representations of architecture.


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