Giant 3D printers for construction can help make housing more affordable—as in a neighborhood in Austin, Texas, where a 33-foot-long machine recently squeezed out the walls of tiny new houses for people who were once chronically homeless. But an Italian architecture firm is experimenting with a way to potentially make the process even less expensive, and better for the climate, by using a cheap and readily available building material: local soil.
Over the last few weeks, near the city of Ravenna, Italy, multiple 3D printers have slowly laid down layers of earth to form a dome-shaped house called Tecla (“technology and clay”). “There’s a long history of architecture made by mud, like adobe,” says Mario Cucinella, founder of the eponymous architecture firm that created the project. “This is a palette used everywhere in the world. I think this combination expresses the idea that reducing the ecological footprint is not only about high tech, but a mix between new tools and an old material.”