Mario Cucinella Designs a Giant 3D Printed Wasp’s Nest of a House

Published
09 Mar 2020

Reading
3 min


By Lloyd Alter

This is probably the most interesting 3D printed house concept we have seen yet.

Regular readers will know that I am skeptical about 3D printed housing, suggesting that it is a solution looking for a problem, and that “the problem in housing has never been technological; it is economic and social, whether you are in San Francisco or El Salvador.” Commenters have called this “a stupidly conservative view” and perhaps it is. Two of my complaints were that 1) most of the 3D printers used concrete goop and we are trying to get away from concrete, and 2) with a few exceptions, they could just do walls, really just a small part of a completed house, so why bother?

Now Mario Cucinella Architects addresses these concerns with TECLA, a housing system built using WASP, short for World’s Advanced Saving Project. It is technology “inspired by the potter wasp, WASP builds houses with natural materials, at a cost tending to zero.” The Crane WASP is “an innovative technology to print on-site eco-districts at low environmental impact.” In an era where so many people are moving to cities and living at high density, Mario Cucinella writes that “the idea of the city must be challenged.”

Since 2012, WASP (World’s Advanced Saving Project) have been developing viable construction processes based on the principles of circular economy, that will create 3D printed houses in the shortest period of time, and in the most sustainable way possible. TECLA will be the first habitat to be built using multiple collaborative 3D printers, offering a greater scope of scale than ever before. Used in the context of a wider masterplan, TECLA has the potential to become the basis for brand new autonomous eco-cities that are off the current grid. […] But let’s look at the house and the system:

Designed by MC A and engineered and built by WASP, TECLA will be the first house to be entirely 3D printed using locally sourced clay – a biodegradable and recyclable ‘km 0 natural’ material which will effectively make the building zero-waste. It will be built to adapt to multiple environments, and it will be suitable for self-production through the use of WASP’s innovative Maker Economy Starter Kit. This approach will limit industrial waste and offer a unique sustainable model that will boost the national and local economy, improving the wellbeing of communities. Furthermore, the scheme will significantly accelerate the construction process as the 3D printer will produce the entire structure at once. Of course there is more to an entire structure than just the walls. There are electrical, plumbing and ventilation that are not yet 3D printed along with the house; however, there certainly are enough voids in the walls here to put them all. […]

The problem of the roof is solved by making the building a dome, which lets the walls and the roof be made with the same technology. The dome is built in pieces, so there is really no limit to the size of the building. It does, however, limit the use of the technology to one floor.

The project came out of the SOS – School for Sustainability that Cucinella runs in Bologna. He writes that “architecture and urban design are called upon to provide appropriate responses in harmony with the environment and the cultural context. However, there is a clear disconnection between aspirations and outcomes when it comes to sustainability.” And goodness knows we need design leaders of the Post-Carbon Era. […]

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