On the Brink 2011 GSD

"Continuous Component Surface @ the GSD"

The research seminar On the Bri(n)ck II: Architectural Envelope traces the historical development of a debate about the architectural envelope that began at the end of the 19th century. It was a critical period in the industrial revolution when new materials and technologies became available and started to inform architectural design and debate. Architects began to question the role that mass-production should play in architecture, and also questioned the influence that new notation and construction-techniques had on the architects’ work. Today these and similar questions are resurfacing as the digital medium literally informs the conceptualization and production of architecture.

In the beginning of the 20th century brick became the dominant local material, embodying the socially and politically motivated expansions of rapidly growing European cities. Brick was particularly favored in the urban centers of the Netherlands, Germany and Austria. Today the role of brick has evolved, though solid and capable of bearing great loads, it is now mostly used as cladding. On the Bri(n)ck II focused consequently on the changing role and materiality of brick today.

The project engaged several teams to develop architectural envelopes that were constituted from either mass-produced or mass-customized load bearing brick units, or alternatively mass-produced or mass-customized non-structural brick cladding. In addition to the research on different discretization techniques and structural properties of surfaces, the research-seminar also sought to identify alternative brick materials that were widely available, sustainable, light and inexpensive. On the Bri(n)ck II (1:1) project employed several hundred cardboard brick units to form the geometry of a Limaçon surface. This is a continuous geometry that inscribes an interior space with a single surface. The openings of the brick-units along with the units adapt in size, geometry and width to the surface’s geometry. At the same time the overall surface geometry is challenged through the discretization techniques generating the bricks. Using a 2-dimensional material to create a 3-dimensional brick unit was challenging. Research had to overcome obstacles such as the geometric construction of the unit, its ability to unfold and resourceful use of the material. Working with chipboard also required a very precise study of the units’ geometry in relation to their structural stability. Much attention was paid to the units, their seams and the ease in which one was able to assemble and disassemble them. A chipboard rib further stabilized the unit connections.

The project was designed and built using the CAD/CAM facilities at the GSD. Overall the design and building process brought up questions regarding mass-production and mass-customization. The project explored the limits of a mass-customization process; examining how the same procedure can lead to an array of possible results.


Ingeborg M. Rocker, Ph.D.

Research Collaborator:
Hiroshi Jacobs (MDES)

Core Team: Mais Al Azab, William Choi, Hernan Garcia, Casey Hughes, John Jakubiec, Lesley McTague, Marta Nowak, and Mark Pomarico

Team: Harvard GSD Students

Drawings: Hiroshi Jacobs + Casey Hughes
Renderings: Will Choi

Funding: Junior Faculty Grant from the Department of Architecture, Harvard University, GSD

 On the Brink   Ingeborg Rocker 
 On the brink   Ingeborg Rocker 
 On the brink   Ingeborg Rocker 
 On the brink   Ingeborg Rocker 


Rocker-Lange Architects


Ingeborg M. Rocker
Christian J. Lange

Cambridge, MA, London, England, Hong Kong


2015 100 Van Ness, Urban Adapter, sculpture bench
2015 Shanghai Lilong Tower Urbanism, Towards an Urbanism of Parametric Preservation
2014 The Ideal City of Refigured Civic Space, Hong Kong & Shenzhen Biennale, Hong Kong
2013 Blend-es-Scape, Beijing, China, A pavilion for the Fifth International Architectural Biennale Beijing 2013
2013 Taichung Cultural Centre, Taichung, Taiwan
2012 Wallhouse, Cambridge, USA,GSD Pavilion 2012 2012 Density & Openess Reviseted: Recoding Building Bulk in Hong Kong, Hong Kong & Shenzhen Biennale, Hong Kong
2011 Busan Opera House, Busan, South Korea
2010 Serial Architecture Systems of Multiplicities, Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy
2010 Tokyo Fashion Museum, Omotesando, Tokyo, Japan
2009 Urban Adapter, Hong Kong & Shenzhen Biennale, Hong Kong
2009 Catalytic Connector - Museum of Natural History, Copenhagen, Denmark
2009 Living Bridge London Bridge, London, UK
2008 Villa Inside|Out Outside|In, The Ordos 100, Mongolia, China
2007 Domicile Heldt, Eckernfoerde, Germany
2006 Villa Risse, Krefeld, Germany

Product Design

2010 Zhuhai Lounge
2009 SP-Table_01
2009 SP-Table_02
2009 Urban Adapter


2010 Parametric Structures, Spring Seminar, The University of Hong Kong, Department of Architecture
2009 On the Brink, Spring Seminar, Harvard University, GSD
Versioning: Architecture as Series
Cross scalar and functional scaling: adaptive facades
Algorithmically controlled surfaces


2008 Versioning: Architecture as Series?
2008 Berechneter Zufall: Max Benses Informationsaesthetik
2008 Architectures of the Digital Realm: Experimentation by Peter Eisenman / Frank O. Gehry
2006 Digital Revolution: Feedback between Architecture, Technology, and Culture
2006 Calculus-Based Form: An Interview with Greg Lynn
2006 When Code Matters, in Programming Cultures: Design, Science, and Software
2005 Re-Coded: Studio Rocker
2004 Das Denkmal fuer die Ermordeten Juden Europas in Berlin: Erinnern, Bewahren, Hinterfragen
2004 Virtuale: Il Senza Forma in Architettura: Di Ingeborg Rocker
2003 Fugitive Realities: Konrad Fiedler
2002 Versioning Informing Architectures, in: Versioning: Evolutionary Techniques in Architecture
1998 Memorizing, Maintaining, Questioning: Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Peter Eisenman
1998 The Virtual: The Unform in Architecture