BRICKSOURCE, what it is and how it is used


What is bricksource and how it is used

bricksource —@— is a website where the GH script used to create parametric brickwork based on a modeled surface in rhino or an excel file is published for free dl along with the rhino file containing the models and stencils plus the excel files of the X pattern as an example —+DIYs—. If one knows Rhino they can simply alter every parameter including the brick size, the bonds, the rotation domains, etc. and create parametric walls just by modeling a simple surface in rhino. Or alternatively one can use the excel file method. There are three DIYs published on bricksource; one for manually making the stencils with paper and cutting them out of wood, the other is for printable stencils, and the third simply describes the process of building a wall.

Having a pattern broken to a group of stencils or an Excel file + a screenshot of the look makes it possible to have bricksource as a database of various patterns to which one can go and browse patterns and dl the desired ones plus the required data. Each download package necessarily needs to have an excel datasheet of rotation angles and a screenshot of the final look and can have rhino and GH files as well.

The website is hoped to be developed by crowdsourcing. The Rhino/GH files are very simple to work with One only needs to model a surface in rhino and people can send their designs to bricksource or alternatively as there are not many contributors involved yet even people who don’t know rhino can email excel files which can be fed to the GH file and uploaded to the website if were not completely nonsense! So if used the method or the files one can email the results to be uploaded.

The cut files of X pattern have been published for free dl, however, a possible contract with home improvement companies such as Low’s or Home Depot would possibly enable the contributors to earn money from the website. In the imagined scenario, the excel files would remain free for dl but if one needs the readymade set of stencils they can buy it from such companies which would monthly choose a couple or one pattern from the uploads to add to their products.


On open source, architecture, and bricks

“…This image makes it easy to comprehend the social bases of the contemporary decay of the aura. It rests on two circumstances both of which are related to the increasing significance of the masses in contemporary life. Namely, the desire of contemporary masses to bring things ‘closer’ spatially and humanly, which is just as ardent as their bent towards overcoming the uniqueness of every reality by accepting its reproduction.”

A large percent of building industry functions maybe in developing countries almost independent of architects in a way by methods of a hundred years old. A wide range of builders, DIY—ers to bank owners build and sadly or not, they all tend to sketch. And they build where the most of the people live in. Introducing simple to use tools may be a way to help to change the look of the houses of the crowd. I am writing from Tehran but I do not find middle class’ houses in Brooklyn very intriguing as well.

Chris Anderson’s “atoms are the new bits” has acknowledged the power of the DIY revolution. The DIY revolution in craft combined with the digital revolution in building industry is very capable of revolutionizing the look of our cities; facades may be the least important. It may be a shame for architects that the most architectural DIYs or videos are produced by good carpenters about building a deck, it is already so late. The inherent exclusive nature of making palaces is simply responsible for the misery of middle class’ living environments. Architecture may seem to lean toward ignorance while the tools to get rid of such misery are already discovered and are widely used by industries such as product design.

Maybe it is in developing countries that good architectural service is becoming a luxury or has become a long time ago or maybe it has always been the same for the middle class. Exclusive, luxurious architecture may be equal to no architecture, and it seems like where especially digital is standing in building industry far from the digital revolution.  New tools may be the only way to reach the large society involved in building around the world.

A brick wall that its third dimension is or was a robotic luxury makes me think of every third dimension as a luxurious product.  As a kid, i had to play Sega 2D games in our street’s games-center as sony playstation1 was a new device and out of my budget. Now i see people’s lives are becoming 2D and flattened in sick suburbs or not rich areas.  And as architecture has laid dying people are living a very sad life in very sad environments.

Negative precision — on-site fabrication technique or DIY for parametric brickwork —

The industrial method to make parametric walls — introduced and widely studied by Zurich’s ETH’s architecture school around 2004— uses robots to lay bricks. The exclusive nature of using a robot and the prefabrication it dictates has made the product a luxury which occasionally would happen in so called important buildings. And it has been out of middle class’ reach in the last decade. I have seen cases of putting holes in 7000 bricks or screwing them to each other in regret of robots. These methods are extremely harming the brick culture by completely ignoring the properties of bricks –short lifetime of metal in the mentioned example is making fun of lifetime of a brick–. We may need to ignore such methods as construction methods as rarely someone could afford them and consider them as methods to build shelves. The look of such projects tries hard to create an unreachable aura, an aura which normally is intensified with weird sizes of used bricks which are designed abnormal in order to provide abnormal possibilities such as taking on a couple of screws. Such exclusive products may not be real and the aura may be called fake or doomed to destruction according to Benjamin’s famous article on the reproduction of the work of art.

The proposed method is a lo-fi simple to use the method which makes it possible to fabricate parametric walls on site with almost no technology budget. The main reason for the false economy –term from Francesca Hughes’ “Architecture of Error” MIT press 2014— some projects hide behind their use of technology is caused mainly by the surplus precision and moving toward getting rid of it enables us to build an affordable parametric wall.

Parametric walls normally produce patterns by altering every bricks’ angle or position. The proposed method simply uses stencils to put the bricks in position by ignoring the minor mistakes produced by handwork. In the built prototype, the stencils produce a pattern while stay vertically aligned. The used software are Rhino and its plug-in Grasshopper. The bricks rotate by a simple grasshopper script that rotates the bricks of a normal wall based on their center’s distance from a surface modeled in rhino. In order to provide enough room for the bricks to rotate the vertical bonds of the normal wall are increased to an inch from the usual one cm bond. The bonds are controlled far more precise with the robots and they are abused as a much more dynamic parameter in such projects, while there are also similar projects with vertically aligned bonds carried out by different schools’ labs. The wall also avoids too much rotation –nine to 27 degrees is the used domain, so more than half of a brick is always in the mortar in order to avoid weird mortars to keep the wall structurally simple.

a DIY to manual parametric brickwalls , how does the method work

The simplicity and the high speed of the use of stencils make it possible to think of the method as a DIY. In order to do so, the stencils are used independently of the 3d model in the built prototype to unbind the built wall from the model, and the 3d model and the built prototype don’t match due to a couple of on—site decisions like increasing the horizontal bonds. Thus a pattern is turned to a couple of stencils and one can build the wall without a 3d model. The stencils are rather simple to use; only one extra person is needed to hold the stencil shortly near the normally used horizontal thread while another lays the bricks in their position, and the first can rest while the other levels the bricks vertically.

Each stencil of 17 holds nine bricks in the prototype and is two meters wide to be as big as possible while small enough to be easy to handle. To generalize the method more a stencil can be broken to 9 individual stencils. If we have the individual stencils for all possible degrees readymade each stencil is broken to a series of numbers –nine in the prototype—. However, all the possible rotation angles are not needed, as a rather aggressive rounding component got introduced to the used grasshopper script. The rotation domain used in the prototype is 9-27 and if we use every third number instead of the numbers in between, the differences in the final results could be ignored as they mostly are less than half a centimeter for same bricks —taken the rather small size of a brick into account—. Taking the advantage of this minor change by use of a more rounded domain, —9,12,15,18,21,24,27—  only seven readymade individual stencils are needed to produce each and every pattern + an almost. These stencils are published — and available for dl @ bricksource — ready for printing for 10x20x5 cm bricks, and one just needs to order them.

To even avoid laser cutting and minimize the technology budget more toward zero a DIY is published to make the individual stencils and the big ones with paper, thus the outline is produced and the stencil can be cut from a piece of wood. And in order to get rid of the 3d model and the grasshopper script and have a product usable for everyone the rotation angles are extracted to an excel file from the GH script. Color-coding the X pattern’s Excel file clears out the simplicity of the process and makes it possible to even design patterns in excel by use of numbers. The GH file also works the other way around and can be fed with an excel file to produce a wall.

One does not necessarily need to use the software and can use the cut files or the excel files of patterns or a random or designed matrix of numbers to arrange the individual stencils and make the big ones completely regardless of the use of computer —this is similar to what has been widely traditionally used with bricks more in east, the software just provides much more control—.


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