ProtoHouse by
Softkill Design

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ProtoHouse by Softkill Design

London architecture team Softkill Design has designed a conceptual house that would be 3D printed in sections in a factory and fitted together on site (+ interview transcript).

ProtoHouse by Softkill Design

Above image is by Julia Kubisty

Designed to cantilever out from a hillside, the structure of the house was generated using an algorithm that imitates bone growth to deposit material where it is needed along lines of stress, resulting in a fibrous web rather than a solid envelope.

ProtoHouse by Softkill Design

Above image is by Julia Kubisty

The structure is porous, allowing rain to permeate, with waterproofing on the inside rather than the outside.

ProtoHouse by Softkill Design

The house would be printed in 31 sections using the largest 3D printer currently available, then transported by truck to the site and fitted together.

ProtoHouse by Softkill Design

Aaron Silver of Softkill Design told Dezeen that 3D printing could result in cheaper buildings that use less materials. "I think there really is an interesting future for architecture and 3D printing," he said. "You have great cost savings, material efficiency, things like that, which architects are vastly interested in."

ProtoHouse by Softkill Design

Silver added that cladding materials and roofing could be printed as flexible fabrics and draped over buildings. Softkill Design are developing printed "curtains" that could be used "as interior membrane surfaces or exterior, water-resistant panelling and surfaces."

ProtoHouse by Softkill Design

Silver spoke to Dezeen editor-in-chief Marcus Fairs at the 3D Printshow in London last week. See all our stories about 3D printing.

ProtoHouse by Softkill Design

Here's the transcript of the interview:


Aaron Silver: My name is Aaron Silver, I am part of Softkill Design, and we are a team of architects and researchers who originally formed at the Architectural Association here in London. This project here is about a year's worth of research into structural optimisation in architecture and 3D printing in architecture.

So the project is a 3D-printed cantilevering house, and really it is research based on distributing material along the lines of stress. We created an algorithm that mimics bone growth so really we are depositing material only where it is most necessary and most structurally efficient. Also, as we are designers and architects, it is not a purely structural object, we also tried to design with it and create our own forms.

Marcus Fairs: So rather than printing out a standard building typology, you are looking at what the 3D printing technology can do to optimise the use of materials and come up with new forms.

Aaron Silver: Yeah, absolutely. We were designing within a certain range of constraints such as transport and the existing size of printers. So the house is ultimately composed of 31 individual pieces, which then interlock in a kind of three dimensional puzzle. They don't need any adhesive because of the fibre structure. They kind of just interlock and stay in place.

ProtoHouse by Softkill Design

Marcus Fairs: So this would be made in sections, in a controlled environment, and then taken to the site?

Aaron Silver: Yeah. So one strategy that a lot of people have been experimenting with is constructing a very large 3D printer on site. The printer is essentially the size of the structure that is being built. But we were interested in working within the constraints of the existing technologies. For us, it made more sense to work within a controlled environment and then take it to the site.

Marcus Fairs: It looks like a bone opened up or Vermicelli or something like that, but apart from the structure, is it waterproof? Is it a viable construction method? Is it liveable?

Aaron Silver: We decided was to leave the fibrous material on the exterior. As you can see, up close, the interior surface is where the waterproofing is. So water is absorbed, and the waterproofing is on the interior. What is not shown in the model is the translucent window membrane which isn't part of the structure.

ProtoHouse by Softkill Design

Marcus Fairs: What material would it be printed in?

Aaron Silver: So this [model] was printed in plastic, plastic powder. But ultimately it can be programmed to accommodate any kind of material. It made sense now to consider just working with the one material, as you can't really print in multiple materials so well just yet. So we also wanted to give ourselves that design constraint, but ultimately we are considering it to be plastic.

Marcus Fairs: And how exciting and how realistic are the opportunities for 3D printing in architecture? Will it transform the way that buildings are built? Or will it be a specialist, one-off, luxury, rich man's thing?

Aaron Silver: Sure. I think at the moment, as you said, kind of luxurious, maybe one-off pavilions, things like that. But I think there really is an interesting future for architecture and 3D printing; because you have great cost savings, material efficiency, things like that, which architects are vastly interested in. That is where 3D printing is really pushing the discipline and architects can really take advantage of this.

ProtoHouse by Softkill Design

Marcus Fairs: And do you have plans to make any of this in 1:1 size?

Aaron Silver: Not as of yet, but certainly we would like to prototype on a larger scale. This is 1:33 scale at the moment.

Marcus Fairs: And these fabrics, what are these? Are these proposed cladding systems or clothing?

Aaron Silver: This was a part of the original research. These are curtains which we were considering either as interior membrane surfaces or exterior, water-resistant panelling and surfaces. What we were looking at was controlling bending and movement flexibility just throughout the geometry itself. On one side you have slightly different geometry to the other, which gives different flexibility on either side.

ProtoHouse by Softkill Design

Here is some more information about the project from Softkill Design:


Softkill Design investigated the architectural potential of the latest Selective Laser Sintering technologies, testing the boundaries of large scale 3D printing by designing with computer algorithms that micro-organize the printed material itself. With the support of Materialise, Softkill Design produced a high-resolution prototype of a 3D Printed house at 1:33 scale. The model consists of 30 detailed fibrous pieces which can be assembled into one continuous cantilevering structure, without need for any adhesive material.

ProtoHouse by Softkill Design

The arrangement of 0.7mm radius fibres displays a range of flexible textures and the ability to produce in-built architectural elements, such as structure, furniture, stairs, and façade, all in one instance. The Softkill house moves away from heavy, compression based 3d printing of on-site buildings, instead proposing lightweight, high-resolution, optimised structures which, at life scale, are manageable truck-sized pieces that can be printed off site and later assembled on site.

ProtoHouse by Softkill Design

Softkill Design is a London based team of architects (Nicholette Chan, Gilles Retsin, Aaron Silver, Sophia Tang) researching new methods of generative design for additive manufacturing. The unique workflow aims to produce intelligent designs which intuitively utilize 3D-print technology. Research was founded at the Architectural Association School of Architecture's Design Research Lab in the studio of Robert Stuart-Smith. Research prototypes were generously supported by Materialise, with additional support from VoxelJet, and Sirris.

Name of the designers: Softkill Design - Nicholette Chan, Gilles Retsin, Aaron Silver, Sophia Tang
Title of the work: Prototype for a 3D-Printed House
Materials used: (3D Print) Laser Sintered Powder, (Base) Foam, MDF Board, Textured Paint
Year produced: 2012
Sponsorship: Materialise

  • Gold

    Who would want to live in a dinosaur head made of spaghetti?

    • Caleb

      An Italian palaeontologist?

      • Gaurav

        That was hilarious, a riot of a reply :)

  • TDH

    Design Research Lab (DRL) Graduate School of the Architectural Association and not the Architectural Association. Please don’t drag the Diploma School down.

    “3D printing (that) could result in cheaper buildings that use less materials. “I think there really is an interesting future for architecture and 3D printing,” he said. “You have great cost savings, material efficiency, things like that, which architects are vastly interested in.”’ You are fooling no one.

    • Diploma Grad

      I guess they don’t teach you proper grammar at the Architectural Association diploma school?

  • T,.T

    Putting a little figure doesn’t help, I think.

  • arianadourre

    The design maybe considered unconventional and absurd now but it is an opening step towards a new technology. Someone’s got to start someday.

  • George

    Both fascinating and kind of gross.

  • FMg

    The idea aside… from how it looks it made me feel like living in a dungeon out of a game. I have to say as a concept it would be okay but the real thing? I won’t live there longer than a day.

  • Nobody2

    Our latest giant spider cave has excellent lighting and a romantic moon deck. It comes with lovely hard silk floors and is self-cleaning using blood of unsuspecting mortal men.

  • na ja

    It’s so ugly I almost vomited, and pointless too. Those 3D-printed things are just an imitation of stuff that can be done with natural materials. However they lack the sincere structure of the real-life prototype: why would anyone 3D print a structure which comes from knitting?

    • Milly

      Did you read any of the text or did your gag reflex make you momentarily blind too? Where is knitting mentioned anywhere!?

      I don’t like the aesthetic look of this project or believe in it’s value to the 3D printing replacing trad manufacturing debate, but you could at least construct some decent criticism rather than just being plain rude about someone else’s work.

  • alex

    Well, at least the kids are having fun with their new toys.

    • Alb

      What a pretentious comment.

  • Megan

    There have to be avant garde designers and artists in order to move our field forward. The angel hair dinosuar head will not be your new home. Who could baby proof or clean it? Mold would grow everywhere. However, this research and experimentation will help us to think in new ways, and to move design of the built environment forward in good and useful directions. The built environment has not kept pace with technological advances. These folks are going out there so good for them. They are not 3D printing useless junk. Let’s give them some support.

  • tootoo

    @tdh

    OMG, don’t make it into a diploma vs grad school thing again after failing miserably in past debates.

    • TDH

      Which past debates? Please link.

  • rek

    It looks incredibly wasteful, not efficient.

  • Bethanie

    Bet you wouldn’t get harassed by salesmen and Jehovah’s Witnesses if you lived in that monstrosity. In-laws would never visit again. You have to look at the up side.

  • http://bdbotanicals.com Becky Davis

    What about mold and mildew in warmer climates?

  • R.Ptor

    What if another giant dinosaur spaghetti monster turns up and falls in love with this one?

  • Allison Bell

    Are these people serious? The “house” looks like a set from one of the Dr. Who episodes from the 198’s. Who would want to live there?