Norman Foster Explains How 3D Printing Will Transform Architecture

By Adam Clark Estes
May 16, 2014, GIZMODO

Super-starchitect Lord Norman Foster and his friends at the European Space Agency stunned the world last year with a plan to build a lunar base by 3D-printing it with moon dust. But what happens when you try something like that on Earth? How is 3D printing changing the way we build cities?

I got the chance to ask Foster just that question at the Center for Architecture in New York City last night. Foster had spent an hour discussing how his work was influenced by Beaux-Art legend Rafael Guastavino, who’s famous for his patented technique of building fireproof tile arches and vaults. The talk concluded with Foster outlining his firm’s plan to 3D-print vaulted, igloo-shaped structures on the moon.

It’s a brilliantly bombastic plan in all the best ways and hearing the backstory was fascinating. And yet, it left me with so many questions that I was almost too shy to ask. Here’s an edited version of my conversation with Foster.

Gizmodo: 3D printing is such gee golly technology—especially when you do it on the moon—but we’re seeing it here on Earth, too. China was recently in headlines for 3D printing entire houses in not very much time at all.

Foster: Well, it’s certainly having a transformative effect in the way that we explore designs and the fact that we can design something and then, by the end of the day, put it into the machine. By the morning you’ve got a 3D printout. That’s tremendously exciting.

But I think you’re right. I think that, in a way, the project I shared for the moon is an extreme example in relative terms. To print a building now in the benign environment of our planet is not a big thing, as you said. We’re already seeing those signs. Read more…