Piercy&Co and Material Architecture Lab, Buckinghamshire , 2020



Photography by Naaro, Guan-lee and Hanjun Kim as credited     Download Original

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Code-Bothy is an experimental digitally designed brick shelter, hand-built using an AR headset at Grymsdyke Farm in Buckinghamshire

The product of collaborative research by Material Architecture Lab (The Bartlett) and architects Piercy&Company, Code-Bothy merges digital technologies with traditional bricklaying, offering a future vision of opportunity rather than obsolescence for this age-old craft.

The structure itself is based on a bothy - a basic shelter in remote areas left open for anyone to use. Whereas a traditional bothy has very simple geometries, the Code-Bothy team used parametric modelling to generate a highly complex structure. Wearing an AR (augmented reality) headset displaying information from the 3D model, the bricklayer, often working against intuition, was able to successfully construct the complex form.

The project oscillated between the digital and manual throughout design and construction. Early concepts were hand sketched, capturing a sense of enclosure within the landscape and aligning the orientation of the openings for maximum sun penetration through the overhead oculus. The concept was then parametrically modelled. Each brick was set at a unique angle, without repetition.

The rotation of the bricks was parametrically differentiated with code, to allow for the overall sculpting of the form. On the bottom layer, the bricks are set at 45 degrees to one another; that geometrical relationship gradually shifts so that the bricks are parallel to one another at the top. During construction, the bricklayers wore the AR headset and progressively ‘turned on’ each layer of bricks, placing real bricks where the Hololens display showed virtual ones. The space for mortar is accounted for in the model simply as a gap between the bricks, one of many aspects where the skills of the bricklayer are indispensable.

This project acknowledges the social and economic implications of technological change, but proposes that this human-computer interface can offer both a new language for brick architecture but also a future for the bricklaying trade.

Material Architecture Lab (MAL) is directed by Guan Lee, Daniel Widrig and Adam Holloway. Piercy&Company project team was made of Stuart Piercy and Yannis Halkiopoulos and the student researchers were Changjian Jia and Teng Wang.


  • Begun: Jul 2020
  • Completed: Sep 2020
  • Floor area: 9m2
  • Sector: Education
  • Total cost: £15
  • Funding: Piercy&Company, Material Architecture Lab and Grymsdyke Farm
  • Procurement: NA - self initiated research project
  • Address: Princess Risborough, Buckinghamshire , HP27, United Kingdom

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