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Emerging technologies. What impact on our architecture?
urban.brussels invites architects and researchers interested in new techniques.

Q U A N D  ?
Le lundi 13 mai
Vernissage URBAN FOLLY à 18h

O Ù  ?
Palais des Académies, Rue Ducale 1

E N   P R A T I Q U E  ?
URBAN SYMPOSIUM est gratuit pour les agents d’urban.brussels
(sur réserve d’inscription)


Entrée libre !

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Notre premier URBAN SYMPOSIUM aura lieu le 13 mai et sera consacré cette année aux nouvelles technologies dans l’architecture : impression 3D, robotique, biotechnologie, etc. Quel rôle joueront-elles (ou jouent-elles déjà) dans l’architecture contemporaine ? Gadgets futuristes ou véritables recherches ouvrant sur une nouvelle ère ? A quoi ressemblera notre architecture dans un futur plus ou moins proche ?

Pour vous faire votre propre opinion, notre administration invite une dizaine de chercheurs et architectes belges et étrangers à vous présenter l’état de leurs recherches et expérimentations.


8:30 – Registration and Welcoming Coffee

9:00 – Welcome
by Paula Dumont & Guy Conde-Reis / Urban.brussels

9:30 – Introduction
by Bety Waknine / CEO Urban.brussels

by Wessel van Beerendonk / Studio Rap – Delft

Studio RAP applies the power of computational design and digital fabrication in every project, by discussing several projects Wessel van Beerendonk tells how they apply these tools in architecture practice.

Wessel van Beerendonk is co-founder and architect at Studio RAP. Studio RAP is an architectural design company where they combine the power of computational design with innovative digital fabrication methods. The team consists of architects, designers, roboticists, programmers and researchers. Together they explore innovative technology and try to improve the way we design, produce, manage and build architecture. Studio RAP is based in Rotterdam where they surround themselves with robots in an industrial atmosphere where they discover and realise challenging architecture.



10:30 –From excavation earth to building materials
by Nicolas Coeckelberghs / Co-Founder of BC materials – Brussels

BC materials is involved in the earthworks industry to restore circular economy. They turn excavated earth into raw earth building materials, such as compressed earth bricks. These materials have a neutral carbon balance, ensure a healthy atmosphere in the building and are very energy efficient. After use, they can return to the ground or be reused for the same purpose, in a continuous circular process.

The architect Nicolas Coeckelberghs is the co-founder of the architectural firm BC architects but also the research agency BS Studies. BC architects benefits from the knowledge created through BC studies, its lab for social, material and architectural innovation, where we have built up extensive research on local materials and innovative building processes. Nicolas Coeckelberghs is also a professor at the Faculty of Architecture of UHasselt.




11:00 – Morning Break

11:30 – A Digital Building Culture?
by Matthias Kohler / Gramazio Kohler Research – Zurich

Architecture is changing. The rise of computational design, the advances in sensory and robotic control, the ability to integrate the knowledge of various disciplines into digital processes all advance architecture and construction. In this context, computation, 3d printing and robotics have become the universal tools of the digital era in architecture, tools that make new design paradigms tangible. Having introduced robotics to the field of architectural design in 2005, Gramazio Kohler Research has been pioneering the field – proactively and critically embracing change in architecture with an attitude and ethics that reaches beyond a purely technological approach.  The lecture presents seminal projects key concepts such as digital materiality as well as radical installations such as the Rock Print Pavilion built from string and gravel. Built projects at architecture scale such as the timber roof of the Arch_Tec_Lab at ETH Zurich with its expression of algorithmic details and the recently completed DFAB HOUSE are demonstrations of the emerging digital building culture.

Matthias Kohler is an architect with multi-disciplinary interests ranging from computational design and robotic fabrication to material innovation. In 2000, he founded the award winning architecture practice Gramazio Kohler Architects together with his partner Fabio Gramazio. Both partners are full professors at ETH Zurich, where they jointly lead Gramazio Kohler Research. Having initiated the world’s first architectural robotic laboratory in 2005, the group today consists of thirty researchers dedicated to advancing architecture and construction through computational methods and robotic technology with a special emphasis on material systems that are ecologically sound. This ranges from 1:1 prototypical installations to the design and construction of building systems and large-scale elements such as the roof of the Arch_Tec_Lab at ETH Zurich. From 2014 to 2017, Matthias Kohler has also been the director of the NCCR Digital Fabrication, the first National Centre of Competence in Research in the field of architecture funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

The work of Gramazio Kohler Research has been published widely. Numerous exhibitions around the world have contributed to their recognition as global leaders in the field of digital and robotic fabrication in architecture. This includes the Architecture Biennale in Venice (2008), the Storefront Gallery for Art and Architecture New York (2009), the FRAC Centre Orléans (2011), Centre Pompidou Paris (2017), MuDA Zurich (2017) and Istituto Svizzero Sede di Milano (2017). Their work has been summarised in their comprehensive monograph The Robotic Touch – How Robots Change Architecture (Park Books, 2014).


12:00 – GROWING ARCHITECTURE: The Baubotanik approach to design with plants
by Ferdinand Ludwig / Munich

« Baubotanik » describes an approach in which buildings are created through the interaction of technical joining and plant growth. Living and non-living construction elements are connected in such a way that they merge to form a plant-technical composite structure: individual plants fuse to form a new, larger overall organism and technical elements grow into the plant structure. Using trees and their growth processes to create living buildings is an approach that appears occasionally  in a variety of forms throughout history and has its own tradition of visionary designs. The living bridges of the Khasi and the so called « Tanzlinden » are important historical references.

Ferdinand Ludwig is Professor for Green Technologies in Landscape Architecture at Technical University of Munich TUM. His research is focused on architectural concepts in which plants play a central role. Integrating plants – both functionally and creatively – into construction designs not only provides answers to some of today’s most pressing ecological issues, such as the adaptation to climate change. It also presents a methodological challenge, encouraging exploration into ways of dealing with aspects of growth and decay, chance and probability in architecture and landscape design.

Ferdinand Ludwig studied architecture and completed his doctorate studies at the University of Stuttgart with a dissertation entitled « The Botanical Fundamentals of Baubotanik and their Application in Design ». In 2007, he founded the research group “Baubotanik” at the University of Stuttgart’s Institute of Architectural Theory and Design (IGMA), and he headed this group as a research associate until 2017. Professor Ludwig applies the botanical-constructive approach to architecture, urban planning and landscape design in the office collaboration “ludwig.schönle: Baubotanik – Architecture – Urbanism”, which he founded with Daniel Schönle in 2010.



12:30 – Lunch Break in La Galerie de Marbre

by Lars De Laet / Professor – Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Ten billion. That is the staggering number of people that will live on this planet within 20 years and most of whom will live in cities. If you know that the construction industry is the largest consumer of natural resources worldwide and, moreover, responsible for the largest waste flows, then you understand that we have a challenge. Professor Lars De Laet of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel is an architectural engineer and will explain how we can contribute to this challenge thanks to efficient structural design, robotisation and the cultivation of new biomaterials based on fungi.

Lars De Laet is Associate Professor at the Department of Architectural Engineering at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel where he conducts research in the field of architectural and structural design of resource efficient structures. Lars develops with his team computational tools for structural design and form finding, and focusses on full-scale prototyping employing new (bio)materials, digital and robotic fabrication technologies and large-scale experimental testing.


by Gilles Retsin / London

Presenting work from both his practice and his research lab at University College of London, Gilles Retsin will advance an argument for the use of robotics and automation in the construction of housing. Can we also think about automation in a positive way, as a means to make the production of high-quality housing accessible to everyone? Robotics are not necessarily only stealing jobs, but could actually help us question the way we build and live, while also generating a new, sustainable and innovative economy of production. This talk will both explore the economic and social case for robotics in construction, while also presenting new creative challenges and design possibilities for architecture.

Gilles Retsin is a London based architect and designer whose work is is interested in the impact of computation on the core principles of architecture – the bones rather than the skin. His practice works internationally and has developed numerous provocative proposals for buildings on a range of scales. His work has been acquired by the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and he has exhibited internationally in museums such as the Museum of Art and Design in New York, among others. He is Program Director of the B.Pro Architectural Design (AD) M.Arch course at UCL Bartlett School of Architecture in London, where he also founded the Design Computation Lab. Gilles Retsin studied in Belgium, Chile and the UK, where he obtained a masters from the Architectural Association’s in London. Prior to founding his own practice, he worked in Switzerland as an architect with Christian Kerez.




by Edouard Cabay / Architect – Barcelona

The work of Edouard Cabay, sitting at the intersection between architecture and art, focuses on the use of novel technologies in creative practices in the realm of space and drawing.

The research project Machinic Protocols, initiated at IAAC in 2015, leaves aside the ‘hand of the artist’. Here, rather than being animated by the preconceived idea of the outcome of an art work, we work the forces that enable its emergence. We design mecanisms that design. Even though the term machinic may evoke a mechanical act, it is more generic: it refers to an attitude, the one of relying on automatized processes to perform desired tasks. In other words, to delegate to others, may they be human or not.

Edouard Cabay is the director and founder of Appareil, an architecture office in Barcelona. In parallel, he runs several investigation projects at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia in Barcelona and directs the AA Barcelona Visiting School.

He directs Machinic Protocols, a research project that develops an experimental design methodology that explores the relationship between order, randomness and chance in drawing and design. He also co-directs the IAAC’s Open Thesis Fabrication program which currently develops architectural solution with km 0 robotic additive manufacturing means.




15:00 – Afternoon Break

by Juan Carlos Romero / Carlo Ratti Associati – Torino

Carlo Ratti Associati is an international design and innovation office based in Torino, Italy, with branches in New York and London. Drawing on Carlo Ratti’s research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Senseable City Lab, the office is currently involved in many projects across the globe, embracing every scale of intervention – from furniture to urban planning. The work of the practice merges design with cutting-edge digital technologies, so as to contribute to the creation of an architecture “that senses and responds”.


Juan Carlos is part of the Strategy+Innovation team at CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati. An architect and MSc in Management in the Built Environment from TU Delft, where he graduated with a thesis on collaborative planning for urban regeneration projects in Latin America, Juan Carlos has developed throughout his career a strong interest on the way that people interact with each other and with the built environment, with explorations on different scales from interior design to urban planning. Previously, he studied architecture at Universidad de los Andes and worked with a number of design firms in Latin America and Europe.



by Sandra Rey / Founder & CEO of Glowee – Paris

Glowee is an environmental biotechnology startup using a natural phenomenon of light production, called bioluminescence, produced by 80% of marne organisms to design more sustainable and liveable places for tomorrow. The biological raw material that we developed is a great way to reduce environmental impact while benefitting from an unique quality of light, and thus improve wellness and comfort.

Sandra is a passionate and dreamy entrepreneur, who, after her diploma in industrial design, completed her formation with a social entrepreneurship degree.

During her professional experience, she has always been surrounded by innovation and prospective, leading her to participate into a student contest about synthetic biology where she started to ask herself some questions about economical and ecological issues of electrical lighting. That’s in front of a TV show about deep-sea bioluminescent creatures that she had the idea to use those super-powers of creating light to revolutionize the way we illuminate our cities, keeping a naive and optimistic but realistic vision on the mutation of energetical models for tomorrow.



16:30 – Closing Remarks

 17:30 – Closing Ceremony