The house made by 3D printers
The round construction known as TECLA has created quite a stir. Having teamed up as 3D printing pioneers, WASP and Mario Cucinella Architects have produced the first CO₂-free housing prototype printed entirely from raw earth.
So this is what it looks like, the home of the future. The recognizable combined approach is probably its most astounding feature. On the one hand, there is a strictly primeval element to the construction: the cave-like dome made of earth, which looks like something that has been built by an insect or animal. And on the other, its use of state-of-the-art 3D printing technology that is set to revolutionize the construction industry in the coming years. Past and present united. This combined approach is also reflected in the name of the project. The zero-emission housing prototype is known as TECLA – a word created from “technology” and “clay”.
We like to think that TECLA is the beginning of a new story.
Mario Cucinella, architect
This innovative construction is situated in the Italian district of Massa Lombarda in the Emilia-Romagna region. It is built from the raw earth found in the direct vicinity of the house. And thus dispenses with long transport routes, high-emission production, use of limited raw materials, and also any waste with its expensive disposal costs. After all, dust returns to dust – even the non-religious among us know that. This perpetual cycle of raw materials also forms the basis of the new ecological approach called “Cradle to Cradle”.
Helping the world to resolve its crises
TECLA is the brainchild of Massimo Moretti, founder of the 3D printing innovator WASP, and Mario Cucinella, creative director of Mario Cucinella Architects. Together they have set out to find realistic solutions to the major problems of our time using their innovative housing project. Their aim is not just to make a contribution to alleviating the climate crisis, but also highlight how global housing crises can be dealt with in times of migration and natural disasters.
Massimo Moretti explains the thinking behind his project: “TECLA shows that a beautiful, healthy, and sustainable home can be built by a machine, giving the essential information to the local raw material. TECLA is the finger that points to the Moon. The Moon is the home, as a birthright, for everybody on the planet.”
3D printer builds in record time
All that is needed for a zero-emission clay house is a 3D printer with robotic arms, such as the Crane WASP that was already used at the Burning Mal Festival in the Nevada desert. According to Moretti, it is the first printer worldwide that works on different levels and with a modular system. Complex software enables optimization of the construction process and ensures that the robotic arms are synchronized when in operation. Each of the two units has a printing area of 50 square metres. This allows individual housing units to be completed within only a few days.
The aesthetics of this house are the result of a technical and material effort.
Mario Cucinella, architect
The TECLA prototype requires 200 hours of printing, 7000 machine codes, 350 layers with a thickness of 12 mm each, 150 kilometres of extrusion and 60 cubic metres of natural materials, with the average energy consumption of the high-tech printer at less than 6 kW. The result is a house with 60 square metres that is also equipped with a kitchen/living space and a sleeping area with bathroom. Some of its furnishings are also printed using earth and integrated into the construction. Other pieces of furniture have been sourced from local firms and are designed to be recyclable or reusable, as specified by the circular economy.
An honest form
“We like to think that TECLA is the beginning of a new story,” says architect Mario Cucinella. “It would be truly extraordinary to shape the future by transforming this ancient material with the technologies we have available today.” The characteristic organic form of this sustainable construction project is created from the continuous curve in the outer wall, opening at the top in a round skylight window. The geometry of the outer grooves is mainly responsible for the structural design of the construction. Information on the climate conditions influenced the form of the project, as did the composition of the earth mixture.
The space between the outer shell and inner wall contains a parametric structure that achieves optimum values for thermal mass, insulation and ventilation. As architect Mario Cucinella emphasizes, the team examined more than just purely aesthetic considerations for the design: “The aesthetics of this house are the result of a technical and material effort. It is an honest form, a sincere form.”
Text: Gertraud Gerst
Translation: Rosemary Bridger-Lippe
Images: WASP, Mario Cucinella Architects
that might interest you
Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and Australian artist Geoff Nees teamed up to design the Botanical Pavilion – a wooden pavilion that is constructed like a 3D puzzle – without using any kind of glue or screws.
Japanese architectural firm UENOA has created a wooden office that has no need for bearing walls. Folded origami-style, the ceiling construction gives a whole new lightness to cross-laminated timber.
Sustainability is a top priority for the Powerhouse Company. In an interview, partner Stefan Prins explains why this means more than just a careful choice of materials and energy efficiency, and how essential it is to consider all the changes brought about by climate change when building.
The Life Cycle Tower One was the first timber high-rise in Austria and the prototype for a new type of serial construction. CREE founder Hubert Rhomberg explains the green building concept and why we have to learn to think in lifecycles.
Researchers at Cambridge University are helping to turn London’s spectacular vision of a wooden skyscraper into reality. The Oakwood Timber Tower is to rise 300 metres into the sky, almost level with the tallest building in the city.
Most people looking for a new home with a sustainable design need to have deep pockets. Rotterdam’s Pendrecht district aims to buck this trend courtesy of timber building Valckensteyn, the brainchild of the architects at Powerhouse Company.
In Düsseldorf, The Cradle is gradually taking shape. The timber hybrid office building is being constructed according to circular economy principles, and these will also govern its future use.
The Dutch city of Eindhoven will soon be home to the world’s highest “plyscraper”. The two towers – 100 and 130 metres high and known as the Dutch Mountains – are to set new standards in high-rise timber construction.
An entire residential complex in Berlin-Kreuzberg is to be built out of timber – vertically. With a planned height of almost 100 metres, WoHo is set to be Germany’s tallest timber building.
A mixed-use project in Sweden’s Gothenburg is being crowned by star architect Dorte Mandrup. The jewel in this crown is its use of timber. The new eco construction is intended to become an icon in sustainable urban architecture.
Designed by US architect David Rockwell, built according to WELL Building Standard principles. The Sage Collection by British furniture maker Benchmark is good for humans and the environment.
Swiss urban planning combines prominent architecture with ecological timber construction. Lausanne’s Tilia Tower is setting a high standard in future-proof urban development.
Munich’s Prinz-Eugen-Park is the site of the largest integrated timber settlement in Germany. And that’s not all – the city planners have even more in the pipeline.
Once Europe’s largest freight station, Brussels’ monumental Gare Maritime is now the largest European CLT project. Neutelings Riedijk Architects have transformed the historic structure into a covered district, giving it a sustainable new lease of life using cross-laminated timber.
The plans just unveiled for the new, 180-metre-high timber tower designed for the Sydney-based software giant Atlassian represent a milestone in environmentally friendly construction using this renewable raw material.