Make Architecture



8 – The Laziest Susan of All


For this week’s assignment, I constructed a gear system that can change rotational direction.

For a precedent, I used Filippo Brunelleschi’s design for an ox-hoist used in the construction of the Florence Duomo during the early 15th century.

What is notable about this ox-hoist is that it uses a single direction of rotation (oxen walks counterclockwise around post) to provide a forward or reverse rotation depending on which gear is connected.

What you will need:

(1) 12×18″ masonite board

(1) gear motor (360:1 torque ratio motor used for this assignment)

(1) 1/8″ dia. wood dowel

(1) 1/4″ dia. wood dowel


lasercutter machine

The process:

With the ox-hoist as my design template, I constructed a model which featured two gears attached to a sliding base. The two gears are spaced such that only one gear can be connected to the turntable surface above at any time. The gears drive the turntable surface by engaging downward-facing teeth on the underside of the surface (worm’s eye axon below).

In order to switch between gears, one rotates the pivot arm to slide the base over (axons below).

The Physical Model:


As designed, the pivot arm is too weak to regularly and reliably move the sliding base (the base does move, however). This is due to the lack of structure holding the axel of the sliding base gear. The other aspects of the design were successful – both gears can connect and disengage with the turntable surface, allowing for two directions of rotation.


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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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