Life of Clay investigates methods of robotic extrusion with wet clay, and explores the use of clay, along with its geological and cultural context. Whereas robotic manufacturing has been used extensively in the production of small-scale objects, Life of Clay is the first project to advance and apply clay robotics in the fabrication of architectural elements for buildings.
The research for Life of Clay focused on three areas: the geology and history of clay use in the vicinity of Guan Lee’s research facility and fabrication workshop, Grymsdyke Farm in Buckinghamshire; the practical challenges of using 3D printing with local clay; and the development of new ceramic forms that combine traditional and digital technologies. The project engaged not only with architects but also manufacturers, ceramicists, historians, craftspeople and artists, inviting them to explore 3D-printing machinery and technology. It culminated in the making of a permanent floor area at the V&A, involving the first 3D-printed ceramic elements used in a building.
Life of Clay won the 2014 RIBA Research Trust Award.