Make Architecture



07. Form Work: Brick_OPTIC

The goal of this project is to make a repeatable form work with variability. I choose to cast hollow bricks with varying thicknesses.

Make Time:

  • 1-1/2 hours – Form work design
  • 1 hour – Making form work
  • 2+ hours – Assembly & Casting
  • 3+ hours – Remove form work

Tools and Components:

  • Universal Laser Cutter (Bed size 18″ x 32″)
  • Laser Cut File
  • Dowels, 1/4″  & 3/8″ Ø
  • Acrylic sheet 18″ x 32″
  • Masking tape
  • Rockite 5 lbs
  • Paper cup or plastic bucket
  • Stirrer
  • Electric hand sander


FORM WORK DESIGN. The form work is designed to be 6″ wide x 6″ high and have interchangeable side pieces allowing for varying thicknesses of 3/4″, 1-1/4″, and 2-1/2″ thick.

Export Rhino file to .dxf using 2004 Polyline setting. While this will convert curve lines into many short segments, this particular setting will maintain the overall shape and not simplify the curve.

Proceed to laser cutter. My first attempt is to make the form work out of chip board and push acrylic rods through the opening. I sealed the intersection of the rod and form work with clay. Also, be sure to slather Vaseline on both the rod and interior of the form work.

CASTING. Pour Rockite into mixing bucket, add water, and stir. Make a high slump mix to make sure the cement can get in between the rods. The demold  time is 10 min. However, moisture on chipboard means that the form work falls apart when demolding.

Recommendation for 1/8″ acrylic sheet is 95 power and 6 speed for cutting on the Universal Laser Cutter.

Thoughts and lessons learned this week:

I started this exercise intending to make the form work with 1/32″ aluminum sheet on the water jet machine. However,  Omax Layout had difficulty converting the DXF into usable tool path.

Issue > Coating the form work with Vaseline took quite some time, and assembling a greasy form work was much more difficult and slippery. Suggestion > Spray Pam or vegetable oil on form work is a time saver.

Issue > Acrylic rods are difficult to remove from cast object even with lubricant. Suggestion > Replace acrylic rods with cast rubber rods or use cone shape object to make perforation.


One Response

  1. jeff g. says:

    I’ve found that cement will not stick to polyethylene, which I use to create knock-outs in the bottoms of planters/vases that are cast in corrugated cardboard forms. I still slather everything in Vaseline just as a precaution. I do use a different product called Rapid Set Cement-All, available at Home Depot. It’s very easy to use and they have a line of additives to retard setting time as well as make the cement less viscous.

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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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