TU Delft TV Robotic Building
‘In 20 to 50 years, we can live on oil platforms’ - Benjamin Kemper. (Photo: TU Delft TV)

Have you heard of robotic building? Without using bricks, a robot makes an free-formed sculpture out of composite material. TU Delft has a Robotic Building Lab where students learn about designing robotic production and operation. Benjamin Kemper did research on repurposing oil platforms and we were at his graduation.


What are the benefits of robotic building?
“You design in one chain. At the beginning you clarify your digital and physical design and production tools. With that toolbox in mind, a chain from the first draft over specific design elaborations to the final unique production files can be created. Within that process, feedback loops provide a new iteration of the design at all levels.” 

Will robots replace the humans?
“I don’t think so. The robot is just another tool in the toolbox of the architect. With robotic building you don’t have to standardise materials like bricks for example. Even if you make something different, it is the same workload for the robot. This gives many more possibilities in building shapes.” 

Robotic buildings are not regular buildings. And you cannot visit any of them because they don’t exist yet. How was it for you to work on an almost imaginary subject?
“Robotic buildings look completely different than the buildings you imagine when you think of a building. It took me a while get a feeling for the unconventional spaces and to develop the right methods. There was a time when I began using VR in my renders and that was a game changer. You could really look inside your building and gain a better understanding of how spaces like this could function.”

You graduated in repurposing oil platforms. How realistic is it that we will live on them?
“There are already hotels on abandoned oil platforms, and the idea is supported by others who have developed their own repurposing concepts. I think we could live on them in twenty to fifty years.  With new infrastructures, like automated boats and the Hyperloop, it is not unrealistic to have people live that far from shore. We can also use the conceptualised structure I have made for other abandoned places, for the desert for example. We are at the start of robotic building so we are still in the research phase with a lot of pilot projects. I don’t think whole cities will be built by robots in the near future, but some buildings and structures will. With emerging technologies and materials and the paradigm shift in architecture, the way we live and therefore also the way we build will change.”

A lot of students graduate every day but not all of them are interviewed by TU Delft TV. What did you think of being interviewed?
“When I first saw the camera, I was impressed, however when I started my presentation I focused completely on the project. completely preoccupied. Before that, I was busy with finishing my project and presentation, and the interview slipped my mind. Retrospectively, it was a great experience and an honour to share more about the project with people who are curious. Now I’m back from holiday and I want to keep focusing on robotics. I think it’s important to learn new tools. Otherwise we won’t be able to keep up.”