News Home & Design New Tech Meets Ancient Material in This 3D Printed Clay House Earth and 3D printing come together to create a new "circular model for housing." By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Twitter Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Updated June 1, 2021 04:02PM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Iago Corazza Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive Using the earth under one's feet as a building material is one of the world's oldest techniques, with some examples dating back at least 10,000 years in the Middle East and North Africa. Whether it's rammed, mixed with straw, or compressed into blocks, building with mud remains quite straightforward, but some of the newer technologies have pushed its evolution considerably, most notably with the relatively recent advent of 3D printing. One great example of this happy marriage of cutting-edge tech with an ancient material is TECLA, a small house project that was launched a couple of years back, as previously covered by Treehugger design editor Lloyd Alter. It has finally been printed out of locally sourced clay in Massa Lombarda, near Ravenna, Italy, with the aim of showcasing the possibilities of constructing affordable homes—and perhaps even whole communities—based on the same low-carbon construction approach. Iago Corazza Designed by Italian firm Mario Cucinella Architects (MCA) in collaboration with Italian 3D printing company WASP (previously), the idea behind the project is to showcase how a "new circular model of housing" could provide solutions to a number of issues, says MCA: "TECLA responds to the increasingly serious climate emergency, to the need for sustainable homes and to the great global issue of the housing emergency that will have to be faced. Particularly in the context of urgent crises generated, for example, by large migrations or natural disasters." Iago Corazza Despite some valid criticisms about how 3D printing is a technological bandaid to what are essentially socioeconomic problems, a lot has nevertheless been said about the overall potential affordability and the quick turnaround of 3D printed homes. TECLA is no exception and even takes aim at addressing some of the issues that other 3D printed projects try to gloss over. For example, instead of being built out of carbon-intensive concrete goop like other prototypes, locally sourced mud is used. This earth-based material even has some insulative properties, thanks to some byproducts of rice cultivation that have been mixed in. Iago Corazza According to the TECLA team, the structure took about 200 hours to print and consists of 350 layers of clay that have been nozzled out of a synchronized set of gigantic 3D printing arms, which have a printing area of 538 square feet each. The 650-square-foot home's exterior features two dome-like shapes that are topped with skylights and linked through with an arch. The bulbous form recalls that of a wasp's nest, particularly that of the potter wasp, a species known for building its nests out of mud and regurgitated water. Iago Corazza Inside, there are two zones: one is a "living zone" that comprises the kitchen and dining area. Iago Corazza Next, we have a "night zone" that includes the bedroom... Iago Corazza ...and also a bathroom. Iago Corazza A number of the interior furnishings are 3D printed in place, creating a consistently "organic and visually coherent" look to the design, as well as enhancing its sustainability in the long term, says the team: "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." Iago Corazza With suitable modifications, the TECLA prototype can be adapted to various climates, and can even be built by do-it-yourselfers, with the help of WASP's Maker Economy Starter Kit. The project hopes to demonstrate that low-waste, climatically appropriate architecture can be simple and affordable, says the team: "TECLA shows that a beautiful, healthy, and sustainable home can be built by a machine, giving the essential information to the local raw material." While it remains to be seen whether 3D printed homes of any kind will catch on with the wider public, in any case, it's vital that the possibilities of the approach be made tangible, as it has been done beautifully with this project. To see more, visit Mario Cucinella Architects and WASP.