Dutch architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars wants to be the first person to “print” a building.
Considering that plenty of building-like structures have been 3-D printed already, Ruijssenaars will have a tough time making it into the record books with his claim. Nonetheless, he’s enlisted the help of the godfather of structural 3-D printing: Enrico Dini. Dini is the inventor of the D-Shape printer, a massive printer that uses a special binder to fuse shapes out of sand.
The BBC reports that Ruijssenaars plans to use the D-Shape to construct his Landscape House as part of the Europan design competition. His design is based on a Möbius strip, the mathematically curious surface that only has one side. In a bit of a forced spatial metaphor, Ruijssenaars has designed a triangle-shaped home where each room is distinguished from the next by a twist in the looping building envelope. Scheduled for a 2014 completion, the house will be located on a Europan-provided site in Ireland. "The location on the coast is so beautiful that we want the design to reflect the nature,” Ruijssenaars says. “Landscapes are endless and our question was whether we can design a home that has no beginning and no end."
The structure’s ceiling and floor plates will be printed in 6-x-9–foot chunks on the D-Shape printer. Each piece will be printed hollow and filled with fiber-reinforced concrete that will make it strong enough to hold weight, which makes it sound like Ruijssenaars is just building a very expensive traditional concrete formwork. Ruijssenaars argues that it differs from a conventional concrete building in the sense that his formwork is a permanent part of the structure. "In traditional construction, you have to make a mold of wood and you fill it with concrete and then you take out the wood. It’s a waste of time and energy,” he said. The team estimates that the process will take about a year and cost around $6 million.
If you’re wondering whether it would be cheaper and stronger to just build this structure out of poured concrete, the answer is yes and yes. It’s exciting to see architects diving headlong into an emerging technology, but is nabbing the title "the first 3-D printed home" more important than building an economically or structurally rational piece of architecture? Gimmick or not, it’ll be exciting to see what comes of the project over the next year, especially since it means we’ll get to see the D-Shape in action at a large scale.