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Masonry Construction

First Lecture

Masonry construction in contemporary Architecture

March 2013

Stone Vault Pavilion 2008-2009 Collaboration between Block Research Group led by Philippe Block, MIT’s Masonry Group, led by John Ochsendorf, and Escobedo Construction .

Stone Vault Pavilion The vault was designed using Thrust Network Analysis (TNA), this tool is specialized for compression- only structure specially self-weight structures. This method is proper for finding three-dimensional equilibrium of compression-only surfaces and systems and for the assessment of the stability of masonry vaults with complex geometries.

For thickening the sketch, the solution was the offset the thrust network/ surface proportional to the forces in the branches

After plenty of sketches and changing the forces, the final design was obtained.

Stone Vault Pavilion

The cutting pattern is being informed by the force line and topo- lines of target thrust surface

For having a scale model, a 3d print was prepared and 70 pieces of blocks printed by 3d-printer.

Stone Vault Pavilion

To assemble of model, it was decided to build it up-side down and on the cradle formwork and the pieces were glued to stick with each other

Inspired from the details of cutting stone in Mallorca, new pattern of cutting was developed.

Free-form Catalan Thin-tile vault, Zurich 2011 Collaboration between Block Research Group and Faculty of Architecture at ETH Zurich, Switzerland. 7.5m x 5.5m x 1.75m high, 28.6m2

Free-form Catalan Thin-tile vault This project is the combination of high- tech design tools; Trust Network Analysis program, Rhino-Vault and CNC Fabrication, low- tech material; cardboard box as a guide work system and innovative shape based on the Catalan traditional vaulting.

Free-form Catalan Thin-tile vault Cutting the cardboard was through the 2-D CAD-CAM cutting. gluing process and their assemblage were done on the site. The main formwork was provided by a system of stacked shipping pallets.

The thin tiles of terracotta stick to each other by cement

For load testing of vault, 3 tons load in the shape of stacked sand boxes was applied over an area of 500mm * 500 mm. the selected area was the widest span and lowest rise point. Under the pressure of this amount of load, there was not any visible cracking, measured displacements or movements in the vault and at the supports.

Soil-cement vaults in South Africa-Masonry 2009 The challenge of new museum constructing at the world heritage site of Mapungubwe in south Africa with vernacular material , cement stabilized tiles ,and vernacular human source resulted unreinforced masonry vaults which can be called sustainable shells. This project was a calibration between Peter Rich Architects, Michael Ramage (Cambridge), John Ochsendorf, Philippe Block and other research group from different part of the world.

Soil-cement vaults in South Africa-Masonry The rhythms of vaults were inspired from earlier regional dwelling and were properly responded to contemporary physical needs. The volumes are in the harmony with terrain and rolling hills of the village.

Development of Mapungubwe structural form

Soil-cement vaults in South Africa-Masonry 200,000 pressed soil-cements tiles were made and applied by the 12 people during a year. Catalonian method of tile vaulting was used to create a 14.5 meter span with 300mm thickness. the method of construction was based on the Catalan vault and which Gustavino used in United states. A lightweight wooden framework was installed as the guides of shape generation Because the tile-vaults are self-supporting vaults during the construction. Just the edge of the vaults required full formwork.

Soil-cement vaults in South Africa-Masonry

Reinforced brick masonry light vaults: Semi-prefabrication 2010 one group of Italian and Spanish engineers has worked on proposing semi-prefabrication and construction techniques for light vaults made of reinforced brick masonry. They have constructed a semi fabricated vault and for the investigation of its feasibility, they have used numerical models and structural behavior tests

Reinforced brick masonry light vaults: Semi-prefabrication The processes of producing the sheets are as following: 1- Laying of a thin glued film on flat boards For avoiding mobility of bricks, preventing accidental brick falling or sliding of them, preventing mortar leakage during the construction. Also for easy demolding, a layer of pre-glued film on the working board was essential. 2- Arrangement of the bricks and lower longitudinal reinforcement on this layer In this research 4 rows of bricks laid. first ,one row of brick laid, then longitudinal reinforcement , the second row of brick laid, and this process continue until completing the assembly .The series of transversal bars, joint them to the main bar.

Reinforced brick masonry light vaults: Semi-prefabrication 3- Placement of the upper steel reinforcement For upper reinforcement steel bar, there is two solutions. One is using an expanded metal sheet and the second one is conventional welded mesh. The second one is recommended in near flat roofs. 4- Mechanical connection between upper and lower steel layer These two steel layers are connected each other through the steel wires. The result is assembly of flexible film-brick- steel layers. 5- Transportation For transportation of the sheets, there are two possibilities, hang the sheets from hooks or place the sheets on the steel stretcher and hang by conventional slings. The sheets transported to the site and lay on the formwork.

Reinforced brick masonry light vaults: Semi-prefabrication

MIT Chapel - Eero Saarinen Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA , 1955 The MIT Chapel is non-denominational building designed by Eero Saarinen in the campus of MIT. The building was carefully designed not to remind any symbol or represent any religious.

The exterior of building is simple brick cylinder with 15 meter in diameter and 9.1 meter height.

MIT Chapel - Eero Saarinen Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA The building has two layers of brick walls with thin concrete layer between them just in lower part of it. The structure of chapel is provided by the series of irregular arches which their reflection of light from the moat penetrate inside the building through the gap of bricks.

MIT Chapel (1955) - Eero Saarinen Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA The entrance to the building is through rectangular corridor enclosed with clear and violent glasses .

The chapel is just lighted from above. The roof is covered with parallel wide flange steel beams of varying depths

Gantenbein Vineyard Facade, Gramazio & Kohler, Fläsch (Switzerland), 2006 Gramazio & Kohler designed a façade of fermentation room for the wine producers by means of digital fabrication techniques. The masonry of the vineyard’s façade looks like an enormous basket filled with grapes. The concept was designing a façade in a way that the light and air permeability would be proper for the space function.

the structure of the building is concrete which brick are used as the infill and façade material. The façade is used for air ventilation and sunlight filtering.

Gantenbein Vineyard Facade The design is inspired from the grapes inside the basket close to the packing time. All the angles , rotation and overlap of each brick is programmed to simulate this image in 3 dimensional design. The robotic production method based on the robotic production method helped to lay each bricks of the 20,000 bricks precisely according to programmed parameters at desired angle.

Gantenbein Vineyard Facade 1.

Digital design


Digital manufacturing



Research: innovative brick structures, Felix Raspall ,Harvard University 2013 In Harvard university, Felix Raspall as his P.H.D thesis is working on computing and robotic techniques as means to expand the structural and formal limits of masonry and other construction methods. He is attempting to use digital design and fabrication for developing of building techniques of Guastavino (who applied the techniques of lightwight vault) and Dieste In additon, he is reaserching on integration of digital and skills of masons by proposing augmented-reality application for the aim of increasing the potentials of hand-labor.

Thank You...



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