The Bartlett School of Architecture


Bartlett Research Conversations: Mengdi Mao

19 March 2024, 5:30 pm–7:00 pm


PhD candidate Mengdi Mao presents research that pushes the boundaries of ‘old’ brick architecture to develop ‘new’ materiality and structures within the contemporary digital environment.

This event is free.

Event Information

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The Bartlett School of Architecture


Room 6.02
The Bartlett School of Architecture
22 Gordon Street
United Kingdom

Beyond Cladding: Reviving Brick Architecture Towards New Materiality and Structures through Topological Interlocking Assemblies

Speaker: Mengdi Mao
Supervisors: Professor Marjan Colletti and Dr Guan Lee
Guest panellist: Dr Kostas Grigoriadis, The Bartlett School of Architecture 


This research aims to push the boundaries of ‘old’ brick architecture to develop ‘new’ materiality and structures within the contemporary digital environment. By utilising digital tools as a medium to bridge the gap between design and construction, the thesis endeavours to revive brick from its conventional role as non-structural cladding to a material with both structural and decorative functions.

Architects are analogised to craftsmen, interacting with bricks through material computation, patterning, aggregation and a hybrid fabrication approach. 2D tessellation patterns are transformed into 3D topological interlocking assemblies, resulting in mortarless structures where internal bricks are translationally and rotationally locked in place. This approach provides ample design flexibility for various geometries, whether flat surfaces or complex curved structures. By integrating seemingly conflicting terms such as ‘technology’ and ‘craft’, ‘digital’ and ‘materiality’, and ‘high-tech’ and ‘low-tech’, brick architecture has the potential to become sustainable, environmentally-friendly, and ethically produced.

About The Bartlett Research Conversations

The Bartlett School of Architecture’s Research Conversations seminars comprise work-in-progress and upgrade presentations by students undertaking the Architectural Design MPhil/PhD and Architectural and Urban History and Theory MPhil/PhD. All current UCL staff and students are welcome to attend.

Held regularly throughout the academic year, the seminars are attended by the Programme Directors, Professor Sophia Psarra and Dr Nina Vollenbröker; PhD Coordinators, Dr Stamatis Zografos and Dr Stelios Giamarelos; and other PhD supervisors.

Image: Topological Interlocking assemblies, Mengdi Mao