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The Glass Vault is built by two robotic arms with the assistance of humans as a translucent self-supporting structure.

Two human-scale, fixed-in-place robotic arms assembled a self-supporting, doubly curved masonry glass shell with the assistance of people. The robots begin by constructing a single arch at the vault midspan. One robot uses an angled gripper to act as centering while the other robot positions and adheres to the next brick. The robots alternate tasks until the first arch is complete and self-supporting. The robots then work separately to build out the vault in opposite directions. Meanwhile, humans serve as mason tenders, adding bonding material to each brick. 

The Glass Vault project is a collaborative effort by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Princeton University’s CREATE Laboratory and Form Finding Lab, and TU Delft Glass & Transparency Research Group. The transparent glass bricks are 10 times stronger in compression than their clay counterparts. All 338 units are the same size, yet their positioning creates joints that range from approximately 6-12 mm. 

Photography: © Maciej Grzeskowiak/Skidmore, Owings & Merrill