Mobile Automated Construction Unit

Experimental building testing digital fabrication in the Ethiopian Context 

Picture of MACU after completion

Network Project between Bauhaus-Universität Weimar & Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development (EiABC)
Funded by DAAD – German Academic Exchange Service 2014

The planning and implementation of MACU combined three essential ideas that also influenced the predecessors SECU and SICU. Firstly, it served as a platform for cooperation and scientific exchange between bauhaus.ifex and EiABC. Secondly, students could be trained in the overlapping phases of the concept planning, construction planning, prefabrication and final assembly. Thirdly, the technical feasibility of a digital fabrication approach was tested under Ethiopian production conditions.

As expected, this last aspect posed the greatest challenge: The project management team designed MACU from a single industrial building material, eucalyptus plywood. Metallic or chemical binders were to be avoided, and not just for formal academic reasons: As the building was originally intended for reuse in Southern Sudan, there were advantages in terms of assembly and disassembly, transport and cost efficiency in a possible series production. Since plywood is not suitable as a foundation or roofing material, other reusable materials were used.

The one-material approach, however, led to two major difficulties: First, joints had to be designed between ceiling, beam and column elements for which there were no practical models or design standards. When this was finally achieved following numerous planning discussions, the second difficulty was the production: the elimination of screws, dowels and the like required clamp connections. However, these connections required absolutely precise components. Although the material could be cut with millimeter precision using an automated drill, the local plywood manufacturer had unexpectedly not produced the panels with the required flatness. As a result, the students spent most of the assembly time hand-cutting the joints to the desired dimensions, rather than quickly plugging the individual parts together as planned.

But thanks to unflagging commitment, great flexibility and creativity and, above all, exceptional teamwork, the MACU pavilion was built on time and within budget at a prominent location on the EiABC campus in Addis Ababa.

Exploded Isometric view
Assembling the floor
CNC Drill
Assembling the roof



Project Team:

Asst. Prof. Asgedom Haile, Prof. Dirk Donath, Mischa Proll, Piet Dissel, Carsten Stammeier, Aknaw Yohannes, Lars de Vries Seyume Woldeyessus, Sarah Yusuf, Dagmawi Tilahun, Nicole Baron