In their project Walking Assembly, the team of the studio Matter Design went in search of forgotten ancient knowledge about the transport, composition and positioning of megalithic bodies and structures. Enormous monolithic structures weighing as much as 25 tons are tilted, rotated and wiggled across a room by a single person in a new experiment by researchers at MIT.
The design studio of Brandon Clifford, Johanna Lobdell and Wes McGee works at the intersection of art and science with the goal of finding new ways for future construction. Matter Design’s experimental approach uncovers unusual, critical results that connect ancient knowledge with the digital era. In its own definition, the team refers to its methods as a “contemporary digital craft” in which past and present meet.
“If a brick is designed for a single hand, and a concrete masonry unit (CMU) is designed for two, these massive masonry units (MMU) unshackle the dependency between size and the human body. Intelligence of transportation and assembly is designed into the elements themselves, liberating humans to guide these colossal concrete elements into place. Structures that would otherwise rely on cranes or heavy equipment can now be intelligently assembled and disassembled with little energy.”
For Walking Assembly, Matter Studio has designed huge blocks of stone that can be moved and assembled by one or two people, depending on their size. In this project, the relationship between size and possibilities of the human body is shifted, in which the elements are designed in such a way that on the one hand they can be easily moved and on the other hand the installation can be accomplished by sophisticated planning without crane or heavy equipment. The objects are made of concrete of different density, which allows the center of gravity to be precisely calibrated. This gives the blocks stability, but it is also easy to move and control. Just by turning and tilting the elements can be put together into structures that can be disassembled just as easily.
This project is a food for thought for a future construction that works without a crane and with low energy consumption on the construction site. The playful element of this experimental innovation adds value to the whole and shows the avant-garde potential of art for a possible construction practice of the future.