In 2019, 3D-printing company WASP and Mario Cucinella Architects (MCA) unveiled their concept to design the first 3D-printed house made entirely from clay. Today, the collaborative projectขknown as TECLA, a name derived from the words technology and clayขis finally complete and on display near Bologna, Italy.
Created from clay harvested at the build site, TECLA sports a curvy, ridged facadeขsimilar to an oversize wasp’s nestขwith large, circular skylights capping the two connected dome structures.
The brainchild of Mario Cucinella, the founder and creative director of MCA, and Massimo Moretti, the founder of WASP, TECLA is a nearly zero-waste project. By implementing reusable and recyclable materials, the company hopes to provide a new means of affordable housing. "We like to think that TECLA is the beginning of a new story," says Cucinella, noting how the project responds to the increasingly serious climate emergency and the need for sustainable homes.
The newly finished model is currently located near Bologna in Italy, and is the first eco-friendly, 3D-printed home ever to be created entirely from clay. The nearly 650-square-foot residence can be printed in 200 hours.
For the project, MCA and WASP also collaborated with the School of Sustainability (SOS), a postgraduate training center founded by Mario Cucinella in 2015. Cucinella poses near an archway inside the home that leads to the "living zone," which includes the kitchen and dining area.
"The aesthetics of this house are the result of a technical and material effort; it was not an aesthetic approach only," explains Cucinella. With its atypical shape, the curving, circular home brings to life both the study of bioclimatic principles and the use of natural, locally sourced clay. For example, the unit’s curvilinear form and external ridges provide structural support both during the 3D-printing phase and once the residence is complete, "giving life to an organic and visually coherent design."
A closer look at the interior makeup reveals the multiple layers of stacked clay. Though slow in speed, this process helps to guarantee the structure’s resilience in a variety of climates.
With nearly 650 square feet of interior space, TECLA comprises a "living zone" with a sun-lit kitchen, and a "night zone" with a bedroom and bath. "The furnishings-partly printed with local earth and integrated into the raw-earth structure, and partly designed to be recycled or reused-reflect the philosophy of a circular house model," state the firms. Two ocular skylights invite ample natural light inside.
"WASP takes inspiration from the potter wasp," explains Moretti. "We build 3D-printed houses using earth found on the spot, under a sustainable perspective. The oldest material and a state-of-the-art technology merge to give new hope to the world."
By relying entirely on locally sourced clay, TECLA reduces waste and material scraps, in turn providing a comparatively low-carbon and affordable solution to homebuilding. "It would be truly extraordinary to shape the future by transforming this ancient material with the technologies we have available today," says Moretti.
Lights bordering the home’s facade create an inviting glow once the sun goes down.