Experiments with 3D Printing by @ _____ah_________
“The Lewis and Clark of the Digital Building Frontier” is a recent New York Times article detailing the work of architects Virginia San Fratello and Ronald Rael @rrael , of the firm Emerging Objects. While this article presents their recent “Cabin of Curiosities,” a 3-D printed backyard cabin, they have completed many other innovative projects which push the boundaries of material research and digital fabrication tools. This article is published for the general public, not meant specifically for architects. It conversationally tells the story of the firm, their motivations, and successes. The New York Times publication of this article suggests a broader public interest in digital fabrication and building, which might previously be seen as a niche area of the field.
Emerging Objects experiments with printing using a wide variety of reused materials including coffee grounds, salt, and cotton candy. They have completed numerous projects using 3-D printed mud, a potential sustainable building material. They are attempting to use this material to develop low-cost housing using adobe. I am particularly fond of their Rubber Pouff which creates furniture out of discarded rubber tires. They suggest other possible applications for this material such as exterior building components or sound dampening wall panels.
I especially appreciate the work of Emerging Objects because it advances several different architectural motivations simeltaneously. It works to advance digital technology, generate new discourse on sustainability, while generating new forms. I think we can look at the work as foundational knowledge for future development of material research, digital fabrication, and sustainability. It challenges ideas of sustainability from a variety of angles. It asks whether a 3-D printer or robot is a more sustainable laborer, what materials should be used for 3-D printed design study models, if materials can be directly reused without going through an energy intensive recycling process, challenges our conception of what materials are building materials, questions the scale necessary to comfortably live, and poses the question of what building sustainably should look like.