A Dutch architect is planning to construct a Möbius strip-shaped house using the world's largest 3D printer.
Landscape House, designed by Janjaap Ruijssenaars of Amsterdam firm Universal Architecture, will contain around 1,100 square metres of floorspace throughout the twisted structure. The 3D printer --which can "print" objects as large as six metres by nine metres using a mix of grinded-down rocks or sand, held together with a liquid binding agent -- has been designed by Italian roboticist Enrico Dini.
Dini has been printing huge objects with his printer for a couple of years, but this will be the first building that he's produced that's actually designed to be occupied just like any other. For a house that will be a solid whole, without any visible seams, a Möbius strip makes perfect sense as a design shape.
"While doing a competition [in Ireland] for housing in a beautiful landscape we wondered if you could make a building that celebrates landscape," Ruijssenaars explained to Wired.co.uk over email. "We didn't win the competition, but moved on with the design to further explore it. The essence of landscape, we thought, was that is is continuous. The earth is round, valleys transform into hills, oceans into land but it is one thing. So we looked for a building form without beginning or end."
They worked with artist and mathematician Rinus Roelofs on the design, but they soon realised that "when making physical small models we always had to make a cut and paste in the material --with lead or paper you have to start or finish somewhere". They used a small 3D printer to make a model out of potato flour, though, which was one continuous structure without beginning or end, just like they wanted. Roelofs had worked with Dini before to produce 3D printed art, and the three of them then started working on how to print the Landscape House. RIght now that means constructing giant sections and connecting them together, but theoretically the printer can be adapted to move along the entire structure and print one continuous building.
Ruijssenaars claims that the Landscape House will be as sturdy and durable as a house built with regular methods and materials: "The whole structure is calculated with the knowledge coming from engineers from large companies like Arup. In this design traditional techniques and new 3D printing techniques are combined -- the façades for example are made with glass and thin steel construction. It is the combination of façade and floor/ceiling that gives this structure its sturdiness."
We're increasingly seeing 3D printing find its feet as a way of producing useful objects, and not just on the scale of small items like medical implants. That said, most of the time we're still seeing 3D printers putting out children's toys or action figures rather than, say, guns, which are still being tweaked by their designers. The Landscape House should cost between €4-5 million (£3.3-£4.2 million), according to Ruijssenaars, and should be take around 18 months to build. It'll be finished sometime in 2014.
Ruijssenaars said: "It is interesting to explore the possibility of printing houses for the poor. This week we were approached by a company from South Africa that constructs buildings for the poor. In architecture it is interesting because you can skip the trouble of making a mould of wood that you fill with concrete and later have to remove."
Reportedly a Brazilion national park is also interested in buying a copy of the Landscape House for use as a visitors centre, and we could see the same technology being used to build bases and tools for astronauts on the moon in the future.