London-based architecture team Softkill Design has entered the race to create the first 3D printed house. Unlike the first plans for 3D-printed houses that emerged at about this time last year, Softkill thinks that the future of 3D printed housing lies in prefabricated components rather than printing houses whole using vast uber-printers on site. By using plastics rather than sand or concrete, Softkill may just have hit upon a concept that actually feels... 3D printery.
To date, Softkill has printed one "ProtoHouse" prototype to demonstrate its concept. Built in 2012, ProtoHouse 1.0 was a 1:33 scale model which showed not only the imaginative, detailed forms that high-resolution 3D printing with plastics could offer, but also demonstrated how a full-sized version might work. ProtoHouse 1.0 was made from 30 pieces that could be assembled into a single form without the use of adhesive.
The seemingly entwined fibers that make up ProtoHouse 1.0 are each just 0.7 mm (0.03 in.) thick. The prototype is unlike others we've previously seen, which have tended either to resemble simple adobe shelters, or emulated contemporary forms.
The emerging conversation about 3D printed housing has seemingly, deliberately or otherwise, paid lip service to historic architectural methods and traditions, forms and materials. Softkill's ProtoHouse 1.0 looks like the dwelling you'd come up with if you swept all that aside, and focused on the 3D printer itself. It looks like what an orb-weaving spider might come up with if they started hanging out at the Bartlett School of Architecture (and, in a sense, orb spiders sort of are an autonomous 3D printer, even if they do tend to work in two dimensions).
Perhaps it's because Softkill seems to be thinking about the problem in a new way that, with ProtoHouse 1.0, it proposed printing all the fixtures and fittings from staircases to furniture as part of the structure.
For ProtoHouse 2.0, Softkill is upping the ante by developing a small 4 by 8 meter (13 by 26 foot) building comprised of "7 big chunks of laser-sintered plastic" which fit inside the bag of a Ford Transit. Putting them together will apparently take half a day, again requiring no adhesive or screws. Talking to Dezeen, Softkill's Gilles Retsin said they hoped to have printed and assembled ProtoHouse 2.0 in the UK's summertime.
Arguably Softkill's closest rival in developing the first 3D printed house is Universe Architecture, though Retsin pointed out to Dezeen that, strictly speaking, Universe's Möbius strip-like Endless House won't be wholly 3D printed, requiring the pouring of concrete on site.
We're excited to see what Softkill comes up with in the coming months.