Architects have used a 3D printer to print an entire room with ornamental detail reminiscent of 12th century gothic architecture.
The project, titled Digital Grotesque, is thought to be the world’s first entirely printed room (or grotto) and is made up of a geometry of 260 million individual facets. The room, constructed from sandstone, weighs 11 tonnes, stands 3.2 metres tall and covers a 16 square metre space.
Swiss architects Michael Hansmeyer and Benjamin Dillenburger collaborated on the project, which was printed in Zurich and created through the meticulous and customised placement of computer algorithms. While an overarching model was developed, the room’s detail was completely digital, removing the need for CAD or sketches.
Hansmeyer and Dilenburger describe Digital Grotesque as between chaos and order, noting on their website that “any references to nature or existing styles are not integrated into the design process, but are evoked only as associations in the eye of the beholder.”
The elaborate and intrinsic detail of the printed room has drawn a global audience and demonstrated the potential of digital fabrication in architecture.
For Digital Grotesque, fine-grained corns of sand a tenth of a millimetre in size and a binding agent made up the structures, which were printed one at a time. The structures were then assembled piece by piece with the entire room taking one year to design, one month to print and one day to assemble.
To further harden the material and support the structure, a resin was applied followed by a traditional coating combination of pigment, alcohol and shellac to smooth the surface.
Sandstone has been used as a building material since prehistoric times, proving its structural resistance in many old cathedrals and ornate buildings.
Today, 3D sandstone printing offers limitless opportunities for precise and complex design as demonstrated in Digital Grotesque.
According to Hansmeyer and Dilenburger, the application of 3D printing technology has been limited to prototyping or producing small-scale models, but they believe sand-printing can overcome manufacturing limitations.
“This technology is currently used primarily to create casting forms in for industrial applications,” the architects explain. “Yet it has unique features that make it suitable to create architectural components. Specifically, it allows the fabrication of large-scale elements (currently up to 8 cubic meters in size) with high resolution and accuracy at a competitive price and in short period of time.”
“The printed sandstone elements can be fully self-supporting and can be assembled as a solid construction,” they added.