Radiolaria pavilion by Shiro Studio



Andrea Morgante, founder of Shiro Studio, has collaborated with D-Shape to produce the Radiolaria pavilion, a complex, free-form structure produced using the world's largest 3D printer.


Measuring 3 x 3 x 3 metres, the structure is a scale model of a final 10-metre tall pavilion to be built in Pontedera, Italy, in 2010.


D-Shape, the world's first large-scale stereolithic printer, was developed by Italian engineer Enrico Dini in 2008 to offer architects the design freedom that rapid prototyping allows.


The structure is made of an artificial sandstone material and does not feature any internal reinforcement.


Held together by an inorganic binder, the resultant material has excellent strength properties - with some performance characteristics superior to portland cement - and will not damage the environment.


The structure was designed using CAD-CAE modeling technologies and CAD-CAM software controls the plotter during printing. The process starts from the bottom and proceeds in 5-10mm layers at a time.


The solidification process takes 24 hours to complete and any surplus material supports the structure during manufacture and can be reused.


Here are further details from Shiro Studio:


Radiolaria represents a micro-architecture experiment developed by Andrea Morgante of Shiro Studio in association with D-Shape. In 2008 D-Shape successfully developed the very first 3D mega printer that allows seamless and free-form construction of monolithic structures on a large scale.


The Radiolaria pavilion aimed to define a complex, self-supporting structure that could demonstrate and test this pioneering construction technique. Measuring 3x3x3 meters, the structure represents a scale model of the final pavilion, due to be built in 2010; this pavilion will be 10 meters high and will be built in Pontedera, Italy.



Three-dimensional digital investigations are a constant pursue in the contemporary architectural landscape. The freedom generated by the latest modeling software, associated with the parametric/ scripting potentials, has given architects a powerful design instrument able to generate complex morphologies. Traditional rapid prototyping printers have helped designers to materialize these visions, although the results are inevitably destined to be display models only at a modest scale.

When D-Shape commissioned Andrea Morgante the design for the first large-scale structure to be printed the ultimate aim was to produce a geometry that could be self-supporting and demonstrate the capabilities of this innovative technology: being made of artificial sand-stone material and without any internal steel reinforcement the pavilion’s design and execution had to be intrinsically resilient to several static stresses. Ernst Haeckels’ studies on radiolarians and comparative anatomy has been an invaluable source of inspiration: mineral and siliceous skeletons, through a gentle, evolutionary formation process share an affinity with the way that the mega-printer operates, through the gentle, slow deposition of mineral and siliceous material, layer after layer.

The geometrical morphology of Radiolaria reflects the potential provided by the mega-printer, able to build any complex geometry without the use of provisional, temporary formwork or disposable, expensive moulds.


CAD-CAM software operates the plotter during the printing process. The external lattice structure holds the printer head, which represents the real core of this new technology. Despite its large size, the structure is very light and it can be easily transported, assembled and dismantled in a few hours by two workmen. The process begins from the 3D data: the computer design obtained is converted into an STL file and is imported into the software that controls D-Shape’s printer head. The printing process takes place in a continuous work session: during the printing of each section a ‘structural ink’ is deposited by the printer’s nozzles on the sand. The solidification process takes 24 hours to complete. The printing starts from the bottom of the construction and rises up in sections of 5-10mm each: upon contact the solidification process starts and a new layer is added.

Surplus sand that has not been embedded within the structure acts as a buttressing support while the solidification process takes place. This surplus sand then can be reused on future prints.


The new material (inorganic binder + sand or mineral dust) has been subjected to traction, compression and bending tests. The results have been extraordinary and the artificial sandstone features excellent resistance properties. Effectively this process returns any type of sand or mineral dust back to its original compact stone state.

The binder transforms any kind of sand or marble dust into a stone-like material (i.e. a mineral with microcrystalline characteristics) with a resistance and traction superior to portland cement, to a point where there is no need to use iron to reinforce the structure. This artificial stone is chemically one hundred percent environmentally friendly.

Posted on Monday June 22nd 2009 at 11:32 am by Brad Turner. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • MD

    OMG!! This is insane….truly amazing technology

  • StudioViola

    Amazing. This technology open new horizons! Can you imagine what you can do with it? I do!

    btw….the pavilion is pure magic!

    keep going!!!

  • Fantastic..! Way of the future…

  • Milan

    I don’t see much of a point.
    However, I like the fact that the built and materialized object looks much better than the model. That’s hard to see these days…

  • ststst

    i would not really call this form complex…..

  • Lilly

    Beautiful and such an existing technology, the possibilities are endless. Pioneering.

  • Lilly

    sorry meant to say exciting technology!

  • gillesr

    the technology is amazing, contrary to the poor design of the pavillion.

  • bobbysoxCC

    This is amazing, not too complex but fine features and great balance. Shrio… to follow.

  • you know that Starck invented a sofa for Kartell in a roto molding canoe
    ( may be a storytelling, he is a Master)… so the information is great for us , you know who call for XXL design… but XXL design is no more trendy!!!

  • Dundee

    It is amazing to see how design and technology melts to open new perspectives: Shiro is really going to open new ways in architecture and design.

  • another architect

    very nice technique, but the design is not that striking – why 3d print, there could by sthg. more edge cutting when using a 3d printer. Kazuya Morita does the same stuff with much simpler techniques… but A+ for the great machine… nice

  • Teapod

    Great! And i don;t know why they sugest that no steel reinforcement is advantage.

  • Ruby’s boss

    It’s brill! It puts a whole new slant on recycling and is beautiful as well as functional. Inspired!

  • A great step towards real 3D-printed architecture and for sure much nicer and “physical” than the work shown by contourcrafting so fare.

  • Dan

    Hook the 3D printer up to a tow truck, drive it to a leveled site and voila – CNC sculpture printing. Find a way to do it with shiny metal, and Frank Gehry could be your new best friend.

  • yaniv

    Loving the new technology design… would love to know more about how you got to the form… well done its great!

  • sare

    What a beautiful piece! Innovative and green. Hope to see more from Shiro studio soon :)

  • “The new material (inorganic binder + sand or mineral dust)”

    “This artificial stone is chemically one hundred percent environmentally friendly.”

    I’m guessing they’re using epoxy, but it is annoying that they don’t say.

  • aditi bisen

    If this could be used to build strong tiny homes at low costs, it would be a revolution. Using this technology coupled with large-scale manufacturing might lower costs enough for low-income housing.