Pavilion made of 3D-printed salt
by Emerging Objects


American studio Emerging Objects 3D-printed this pavilion using salt harvested from San Francisco Bay (+ slideshow).

Saltygloo by Emerging Objects

"The structure is an experiment in 3D printing using locally harvested salt from the San Francisco Bay to produce a large-scale, lightweight, additive manufactured structures," said Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello of additive manufacturing startup Emerging Objects.

Saltygloo by Emerging Objects

They explained that 500,000 tonnes of sea salt are harvested each year in the San Francisco Bay Area using power from the sun and wind. "The salt is harvested from 109-year-old salt crystallisation ponds in Redwood City," they said. "These ponds are the final stop in a five-year salt-making process that involves moving bay water through a series of evaporation ponds. In these ponds the highly saline water completes evaporation, leaving 8-12 inches of solid crystallised salt that is then harvested for industrial use."

Saltygloo by Emerging Objects

In addition to being a renewable resource, the salt is inexpensive compared to commercially available printing materials and creates strong lightweight components.

Saltygloo by Emerging Objects

They claim that their pavilion is the first to be printed from salt but draws on traditional techniques for building with the material. "No one has ever 3D-printed a building out of salt," Rael told Dezeen. "However, there is a long tradition of architecture constructed of salt blocks, particularly in the Middle East and in desert environments."

Saltygloo by Emerging Objects

The 336 unique translucent panels of the Saltygloo structure were made in a powder-based 3D printing process where a layer of salt is applied then fixed in place selectively with a binding agent, before the next layer of salt is deposited and the process is repeated.

Saltygloo by Emerging Objects

The panels were then connected together to form a rigid shell, further supported with lightweight aluminium rods flexed in tension.

Saltygloo by Emerging Objects

"Each panel recalls the crystalline form of salt and is randomly rotated and aggregated to create a larger structure where all tiles in the structure are unique," explained the designers.

Saltygloo by Emerging Objects
Photography by Matthew Millman

"The form of the Saltygloo is drawn from the forms found in the Inuit igloos, but also the shapes and forms of tools and equipment found in the ancient process of boiling brine," they added. "The translucent qualities of the material, a product of the fabrication process and the natural properties of salt, allow for natural light to permeate the space, highlight the assembly and structure, and reveal the unique qualities of one of humankind’s most essential minerals."

Saltygloo by Emerging Objects
Photography by Matthew Millman

Rael and San Fratello are professors of architecture and design at the University of California Berkeley and San Jose State University. They founded Emerging Objects six months to focus on printing architecture from a diverse set of materials, largely renewable or sources from industrial waste, including some they have developed themselves.

Saltygloo by Emerging Objects

Besides salt, they are also working in 3D-printed wood, cement and paper, adapting old models of 3D-printers to suit their materials and processes. "Emerging Objects is interested in the creation of 3D printed architecture, building components and furnishings that can be seen as sustainable, inexpensive, stronger, smarter, recyclable, customisable and perhaps even reparable to the environment," they explain.

Saltygloo by Emerging Objects

The Saltygloo pavilion follows a piece of furniture printed in the same way and the firm is now gearing up to produce a large-scale architectural room. "We see possibilities to create building enclosures and building cladding systems, as well as free standing walls using the salt material," Rael told us.

The project is on display at the Museum of Craft Design as part of an exhibition called New West Coast Design 2 until 5 January 2014.

Design team: Ronald Rael, Virginia San Fratello, Seong Koo Lee.
Fabrication team: Ronald Rael, Seong Koo Lee, Eleftheria Stavridi
Material development: Ronald Rael, Mark Kelly, Kent Wilson
Special thanks: Professor Mark Ganter, Solheim Lab, University of Washington, Ehren Tool, Department of Art Practice, University of California Berkeley, Department of Architecture, University of California Berkeley, Department of Design, San Jose State University, Kwang Min Ryu and Chaewoo Rhee.

  • Appdata

    I’m sorry this 3D printing s*** is getting old. Anybody can print anything if you put in the time and effort. I really don’t see the benefits.

  • Daniel Brown

    I can hear the unions already… “3D printer stole our jobs”

  • Rae Claire

    Have fun while this salt is available. This area is currently in the midst of an immense multi-year project to restore these salt evaporation ponds to more natural wetlands.

  • Osman

    “Anybody can print anything” Personally, I think that’s a benefit.

    • still annoyed

      Can they really?

  • 3d printing is the future

    Please stop posting projects just because they feature 3D printing some how. I’ve been following Dezeen for a while and have really enjoyed your posts, but if I wanted to read ‘Stuff’ magazine, I’d read ‘Stuff’ magazine. This is no longer a design based blog, it just follows technological progressions (or even just predicted progressions, with no real basis or way of actualising them) and hails them as the future.

    Yes 3D printing has some real benefits, for example printing moulds for industrial or independent manufacture, but the posts you put up are just sucking the life out of this blog. I’m not sure what’s happened, whether you are trying to appeal to a different sort of reader perhaps, but it just doesn’t seem like there is much thought going into this anymore.

    Perhaps just post more 3D printed jewellery from Ross Lovegrove, that will do the job. Real progression, right?

  • wadus


  • Abdullah Moai

    Give it a few years – 3D printing will make it possible to duplicate a design that is done once without mass production or a factory. It means anyone can become their own assembly line. If it doesn’t interest you, it’s not for you, but for many others it’s the future. I’m a 3D designer so it’s exciting for me to see my work become tangible.