Designer    Focus 05 Feb 2018

Does this 3D printed house herald the future of architectural and interior design?

In 2016, Branch Technology issued a challenge to the design world: imagine a home that could be fabricated using 3D printing. The challenge asked only that the home be 1,000 sq ft, designed for a single family, and use Branch Technology’s Cellular Fabrication (C-FAB) technology.

“One of the things that we wanted to illustrate is showing how design can be affected by 3D printing. And to illustrate that we sponsored a design competition to say, okay, let’s push the envelope of what’s possible in construction and design,” explained Platt Boyd, Founder and CEO of Branch Technology.

1,300 registrants representing 97 countries entered, and their submissions were judged by a panel of five top experts.

The winning architects – WATG – excelled in the fact they didn’t just use the C-FAB system as an alternative way to build the same walls, but instead used the nature of cellular construction to liberate their conception of walls. In fact, it has turned the orthodoxy of interiors completely on its head.

What the C-FAB technology allowed WATG is for the walls to be built a cell at a time, similar to how living forms grow in nature, meaning that designs can follow the designer’s imagination rather than the rectilinearity and restrictions of the building materials. It has replaced bulky bricks and beams with a kind of molecular Lego.

Curve Appeal is sited on the bank of the Tennessee River, and looks like a seashell. The kitchen’s interior renderings look warped, like stalactites. This complex geometry is not only aesthetically attractive but structurally functional. By capitalizing on the strength of the naturalistic parabolas, the small home seems to have an infinite view from the kitchen-diner, which is surrounded with panoramic vistas visible through swathes of glazing.

The key to projects like this taking off, hints Architecture Professor, Matthew Dudzik, is to not let the technology get in the way of the humanity. Curve Appeal is designed by and for the elite – a Rolls Royce – luxuriant, exorbitant, and altogether unattainable for most. Addressing this, Dudzik notes how 3D printing might best serve the industry and consumers at large:

“While the production of 3D printed housing has the potential to create dynamic and even, theoretically, affordable housing, it will become most beneficial when it addresses the complex needs of the city.” He explains: “Given the frightening effect of the global homogenization of architecture, 3D printing has the opportunity to produce culturally relevant design which also solves issues for the city and for our planet.”

As this new method of fabricating walls means that unusual and freeform shapes now fall within the realm of economic possibility for a far greater number of manufacturers and retailers, we can expect to see more naturalistic forms entering kitchens and bathrooms in coming years, from 3D-printed appliances and utensils, to cellular constructed extensions, renovations, and homes.



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