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Sustainable Design Talk: WASP revolutionising sustainable housing with 3D printing using local clay

Italy's pioneering specalists in 3D printing, WASP (World's Advanced Saving Project) have discussed the latest in 3D printing eco-homes at the Smart Citizens Programme's Sustainable Design Talk, hosted online by Plymouth College of Art's Smart Citizens Programme and Making Futures Research Group.

Italy’s pioneering specialists in 3D printing, WASP (World’s Advanced Saving Project), discussed the latest advances in 3D printing eco-homes at the Smart Citizens Programme’s Sustainable Design Talk, hosted online by Plymouth College of Art’s Smart Citizens Programme and Making Futures Research Group. Members of WASP, who were recently showcased in the World Economic Forum, discussed their new TECLA clay house; the first and unique fully 3D-printed construction based on natural materials and made with multiple 3D printers operating at the same time.

TECLA 3 D printed clay house credit WASP and Mario Cucinella Architects

TECLA 3D printed clay house (photo credit - WASP & ​​Mario Cucinella Architects)

The international talk was attended by over fifty representatives from Plymouth-based businesses, as well as students and academics from around the world. Several local participants had also engaged with a number of Smart Citizens projects to date, demonstrating a clear drive within the city to learn more about sustainable design-thinking and innovative approaches to digital design and fabrication.

Lapo Naldoni, building engineer at WASP, led the talk which began by exploring how WASP are tackling housing inequality and the unviable consumption of natural resources through innovative and sustainable 3D printing construction processes, such as their TECLA house (standing for technology and clay). Engineered by WASP and designed by Mario Cucinella Architects, TECLA presents a new circular model of housing: entirely created with reusable and recyclable materials, sourced from local soil, carbon-neutral and adaptable to any climate and context. Through the lens of this project, Lapo discussed how the value of local clay can be amplified by digital design, revolutionising our understanding of sustainable housing.

Massimo Moretti and Mario Cucinella in TECLA 3 D printed house credit WASP and Mario Cucinella Architects

Massimo Moretti, WASP founder, left and Mario Cucinella, architect, right (Photo Credit - WASP & ​​Mario Cucinella Architects)

The talk continued by exploring other projects led by WASP, using their 3D printing capabilities to support innovative design across sectors and disciplines. These projects included: creating orthopedic body braces for medical use, custom face masks, 3D printing with recycled polypropylene as well as working with artists to create public sculpture and installation art.

From the shapeless earth to the earth as house shaped. Today we have the knowledge to build with no impact in a simple click. Technology is now at the human service and the home as a birthright is real
Massimo Moretti, WASP (World's Advanced Saving Project) Founder

Dr Kim Bagley, Lecturer and MA Subject Tutor at Plymouth College of Art, attended the talk. Alongside her own ceramic practice, Kim is currently working on the British Council-funded Craft Futures South Caucasus project, exploring how knowledge is transferred between generations in the rich craft practices of that region and developing vocational education in these countries. Kim is also a member of the Making Futures Research Group and the Making Futures Fellow.

Orthopedic 3 D printed corsets credit WASP

Orthopedic corsets 3D printed in polypropylene by WASP (photo credit - WASP)


Reflecting on the talk, Kim said, “This was an informative talk on an emerging area of digital technology; it was an absolute pleasure to hear from a true expert in this field. He was generous with his knowledge and experience and the audience was clearly inspired.

“This talk gave me enthusiasm and ideas that I look forward to sharing with my students. As a ceramics lecturer and practitioner it was particularly pertinent to be able to share the true versatility of clay with students.

“It was great to see that one of the young researchers I am working with in the South Caucasus attended the talk too, demonstrating their engagement with global trends. I could not help but imagine the use of WASP’s technology in different locales.”

3 D printed vase by WASP and Andrea Salvatori credit WASP

Right: 3D printed vase by WASP and Andrea Salvatori (photo credit - WASP)

Further collaborative opportunities have developed from this talk. WASP, the Smart Citizens Programme and the Making Futures Research Group have begun discussions for a collaborative and student-led research project, exploring ways of 3D printing using local soil and clay from Devon and Cornwall. With a shared impetus towards sustainable design using digital fabrication methods and use of local material, this research will link WASP’s innovative technology with Plymouth, the UK’s first Fab City. As a Fab City, Plymouth aims to produce all the energy, food and products they consume, and to deploy spiral economy strategies for the relocalisation of production, and the technological empowerment of citizens by 2054.

TECLA 3 D printed clay house 2 credit WASP and Mario Cucinella Architects

TECLA 3D printed clay house (photo credit - WASP & ​​Mario Cucinella Architects)

The talk was also aligned with Plymouth College of Art’s sustainability agenda supported internally by the ongoing research of its Making Futures Research Group; a collective of Plymouth College of Art’s staff and students across art and design courses focused on understanding the impact of new material technologies on the College’s curriculum and creative practices in contemporary culture.

Starting in autumn 2021, Plymouth College of Art’s curriculum will include a focus on place-based creative pedagogy, which has led the Making Futures Research Group to develop two research projects linking aesthetics, making and geography. The first project, ‘Signature Materialities’, is developing a locally-resourced materials library informed by the history and mineral profile of the southwest coastal region to be used by students in materials-led courses such as BA (Hons) Craft and Material Practices. The second project, ‘Digital Clay’, is focused on analogue-to-digital distributed design methods using clay for 3D printing.

“The WASP talk by Lapo Naldoni on using clay native to his region in Italy was a real inspiration as we shape our intention to bring digital clay and cultural ideas around place together within a global context”, said Stephanie Owens, Head of School, School of Arts + Media and Convener of the Making Futures Research Group who is leading the two projects. “We are eager to continue to work with Lapo and his collaborators at WASP on how we can join together to explore forms of sustainable co-creation across our countries”.

Access a recording of ‘WASP: 3D Printing Eco-Homes Using Local Clay’, on the Smart Citizen’s video channel, alongside other workshops and talks.

This activity is part of the iMayflower project and has been supported by The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who fund the Cultural Development Fund, which is administered by Arts Council England.