Guan Lee and Eleanor Morgan

Clay Robotics: Sustainable practice in a digital world


The Other Room III © Guan Lee

This practice-led research project will reconsider the extraction and use of local clay deposits by combining traditional expertise with robotic technologies. Focusing on the geological and cultural sites of clay beds in Buckinghamshire, the aim of the project is to advance sustainable and site-responsive architectural practices. We understand sustainable practices as being of natural and social benefit both now and in the future.

Based at Grymsdyke Farm research facility, we will work with local communities and expert practitioners and researchers to identify ways in which robotic clay dispensers can work with traditional building practices. Previous research at Grymsdyke Farm suggests that digital and robotic technologies are able to create more efficient forms using less material. As such, it is necessary to investigate the ways in which current advances in robotic technology may enhance sustainable practices. This project is relevant to architects, the built environment sector, and the local community, which has seen dramatic decline in its clay industry over the past fifty years – effecting both the economy and cultural traditions of these areas.

The objectives of the project are [1] to develop a local clay ‘recipe’ that works sustainably with the robotic dispenser, and which can be used with digital technologies to create domestic and architectural forms that are ecologically and economically efficient and [2] to develop a collaborative research method throughout the project, which builds upon existing expertise, enables local involvement and contributes to the open access sharing of data with other research groups.

The outputs of the project are [1] Comparative data that measure the sustainability of the processes - both socially and ecologically, [2] Exhibition of work and publications that make visible the process and outcomes to the local community, architects and the built environment sector, and [3] Final evaluation and plan for possible future development.


Dr Guan Lee has a BSc. in Architecture from McGill University, Montreal, Canada (1997), an Architectural Association (AA) Diploma (1999) and an MSc. Landscape Urbanism (2003), also from the AA, and completed his PhD by Design (2013) at the Bartlett, UCL. He is founder and director of Grymsdyke Farm, a research facility and architecture workshop located in Lacey Green, Buckinghamshire. Grymsdyke Farm’s motivating concept is to establish and explore the value of living/working arrangements that involve intimate engagement with materials and processes of making. Lee’s practice engages in a wide range of design fabrication, digital and analogue. Its aim is to expose, articulate and demonstrate the essential connections between processes of design, making and place. 

Dr Eleanor Morgan is an artist and researcher based at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL. She has significant experience in facilitating successful collaborative research projects using practice-led methods, and carried out much of her doctoral research and training within the UCL Department of Anthropology, with a focus on material culture.  Her knowledge and experience of studying the different uses and perception of materials, and how these relate to the processes and communities in which they are used, are vital to the development and evaluation of the project. She has exhibited and presented widely, and details of her art, writing and research projects can be seen on her website at