Building Productions

An exhibition by Zach Cohen

We have become used to seeing machines autonomously and effortlessly performing extraordinary feats: 3D printers materialize entire homes in under a day, gangly, robotic arms stack gravity-defying brick walls. The promise is also a prophecy. Such commercial visions imply a future in which robots have taken over every job, including that of architects. But that future is far off. (Or perpetually imminent.) In practice, at least, for the moment, automated fabrication technologies still need us—they require human intervention, a sense for the imperfection and unpredictability inherent to architectural materials. Our robots are perfectly tuned to maximum efficiency, in other words, but they are lost at the first sign of a mess.

Reinforcement is an example of a basic structural requirement that 3D printing does not masterfully achieve. Building Productions centers on the staging of an operational lab in the process of developing a method for 3D printing reinforced concrete columns: concrete is automatically deposited into and smushed out of a rebar cage, layer by layer; the ad hoc machinery and the melty prototypes remain in a state of being made. This method is called “piling.” By literally putting the production of piling on stage, Building Productions hopes to simultaneously reveal and politicize the labor, both human and machine, built-in to automated construction: the aim is not only to critique narratives of automated construction but to offer an alternative vision of the future of architectural labor—one in which architects orchestrate digital fabrication processes that seek to work with, rather than overcome, messy material realities.


About the Team
Zach Cohen,
2020–21 Yessios Visiting Assistant Professor,

Nick Carlson
Will Klotnia
Shekou Golnezhad
Elliot Smithberger

Exhibition on view: April 16, 2021 — July 6, 2021.