Lecture @ Royal Academy of Arts

London, UK
19 Feb 2018

Hello, Robot
@ Design Museum

Gent, Belgium
27 Oct 2017 - 15 Apr 2018


FFD Vertical Plotter

Milan, Italy


The Future Food District features the world’s largest plotter which transforms the pavilion façade into a huge open source canvas.

From Petroglyphs to Graffiti, men have always had an instinctive need to leave a sign of their passage. Be it stone engravings, cave paintings, drawings, etchings or carvings representing animals and people, they transformed natural grottos into living places, telling us something about the way people experienced space and social life.


Convinced that this is not just art for art’s sake, we tried to transport this process into the modern age, and possibly also launch it into the future. The Future Food District, one of EXPO’s 2015 thematic areas, features the world’s largest vertical plotter which transforms the pavilion façade into a huge open source canvas.


The Vertical Plotter is a device travelling on a vertical wall. Its interactive software allows the real time reproduction of any kind of data and feeds: notes, messages, pictures, graphics. Once the machine has received the digital information, the plotter immediately turns it into reality.


The overall system moves on a two-axes plane, where the plotter moves freely along the horizontal axis while the print head slides on the vertical guide. This ability to place itself on any point of the plane allows the reproduction of contents of different shapes and sizes on an area of approximately 900 square metres (the equivalent of 900 A0 sheets!).


At Expo, the FFD Vertical Plotter draws visitor’s portraits on the pavilion facade using spray paint in five different colours. Firstly, photographs of the visitors’ faces are digitally converted into a stylized sketch. Then, as modern pictographs, the pictures are painted on the pavilion façades. The portraits are continuously changing thanks to the overlapping of the visitor’s contour lines.


Information flow helps reconfigure space with an open source approach to architecture. Just like in the stone age, when people intervened directly on their built environment, transforming its walls to tell their stories.


On Monday, October 5th 2015 the Vertical Plotter demonstrated its ability to draw in front of a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ judge; as a result of accurate measurements the overall design of the facade became the largest image ever made by a plotter. The graphics designed by the Vertical Plotter has achieved the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title “The largest plotted image”.

CREDITS Concept: Carlo Ratti Associati Client: Expo Milano 2015 Partner: COOP Italia/Inres General Contractor: Nussli Producer: Decsia Contents and graphic design: Dot dot dot PROJECT TEAM AT CARLO RATTI ASSOCIATI: Carlo Ratti, Andrea Galanti (Project manager), Giovanni de Niederhausern, Antonio Atripaldi, Alberto Bottero, Andrea Cassi, Sofia Cornejo Reindl, Gary Di Silvio, Pietro Leoni, Filippo Ferraris, Valentina Grasso, Walter Nicolino, Marco Maria Pedrazzo, Gianluca Santosuosso, Carlotta Sillano, Niccolò Suraci, Jenni Young IMAGES CREDITS Images @ Delfino Sisto Legnani, Daniele Iodice, Gianluca Santosuosso