Architectural forms keep getting more complicated and curvy, but the skilled trades that can execute them are in short supply. As Dr Richard Buswell of the Loughborough University notes, “Construction is still craft-based and conservative." So he is working with Foster + Partners and construction giant Skanska to do complex 3D printing in concrete. Noting that Foster's iconic St. Mary's Axe building, normally identified as a pickle, is pretty complicated, he says in Bim+
Cladding the next Gherkin is clearly some way down the line, but on smaller-scale exploratory stuff, like an architectural feature, we could run as fast as the industry wants to take it – perhaps a year.
Things are about to get very interesting in the building world, as Rob Francis of Skanska notes in the Architects Journal:
3D concrete printing, when combined with a type of mobile prefabrication centre, has the potential to reduce the time needed to create complex elements of buildings from weeks to hours. We expect to achieve a level of quality and efficiency which has never been seen before in construction.
And curves, lots of curves. Just wait until Zaha gets hold of one of these.