Software Aims to Revamp Masonry Practice

Michael Silver, a runner-up in the 2004 Metropolis Next Generation® Design Competition, is working closely with the International Masonry Institute to develop Automason, a software program that aims to revolutionize age-old masonry building practices. The software, which would run off cellular automata—a method of computing that produces complex patterns based on a few basic rules—would allow on-site masons to receive, via cell phone or PDA, precise instructions on how to lay each individual brick of a building. The result of the program would be intricate, computer-generated stonework patterns with maximize structural efficiency.

“The software is intended to augment existing building practices, an idea that really appealed to the masons and craftsmen we met with, who felt the industry was in need of an innovative approach that would give it a competitive edge,” explains Silver, an architect and visiting professor at the University of Michigan.

The International Masonry Institute is funding the research and, more important, providing craftsmen to test the software and assemble a prototype. Silver also received a research grant from the Boston Society of Architects and may soon enlist the help of University of Michigan students if the class he is proposing—on integrating software code-writing skills into the design process—is approved.

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