ICON announced something that should have happened a long time ago: an architectural design contest.
ICON is one of the largest players in the construction 3D printing space, with many projects underway. Their concrete extrusion technology has proven popular, and has led to the “100 3D printed homes” project in Texas.
Today at the SXSW conference the company announced “Initiative 99”, which is an architectural design contest. The idea is to stimulate the development of radically new home designs that not only can be 3D printed, but also would cost only US$99,000 (you can see how they named the initiative).
The contest is not a small thing: the total prize purse is US$1M for those selected as winners in the multi-year contest.
The intent is for ICON to actually build some of the winning designs at “multiple locations” at an unspecified date in the future.
ICON CEO and Co-founder Jason Ballard explained:
“We need a moonshot for affordable housing, and I believe Initiative 99 will be the most important architectural competition in history. The current affordable housing landscape seems to have been designed and built without taking beauty, aesthetics, comfort, sustainability, and resiliency as serious requirements. It’s time we attack this problem just as energetically as we’ve addressed other human challenges in the past.
With Initiative 99, we are changing the way that we talk about affordable housing. When we talk about affordable housing, the conversation is often depressing and so are the results. Our goal is that Initiative 99 would in turn create the conditions for affordable housing to be something hopeful, optimistic and exciting, and furthermore catalyzes the building of some really incredible affordable homes that just years ago would not have even been possible. The future could be a wonder, but we have to all work together to make it so.”
I believe this initiative could trigger great interest in construction 3D printing, as it could demonstrate that there are entirely new ways to design homes using the new technology.
While there have been plenty of 3D printed home projects — and I should point out that only the concrete portions of these buildings are 3D printed — the designs are almost always conventional. Many of the completed building images show homes that in no way visually suggest they were produced with advanced technology.
In other words, 3D printed homes are not taking full advantage of the 3D print technology used to make them.
This is quite evident when you look at advanced mechanical parts made with 3D printing — smaller than homes, but a true analogy. These parts have radically different designs, sometimes generated by software. These parts are fully functional and often perform better than conventional designs, yet they are quite alien in appearance.
I’ve been waiting a long time for the architecture world to catch up with these notions and fully embrace the possibilities enabled by 3D printing.
Perhaps this contest will trigger that transformation.