“It’s more or less like returning to caves,” says designer of Prague’s first 3D printed house

Photo: Vojtěch Tomášek / Czech Radio

The first prototype of a 3D printed house in Prague has been unveiled this week on the island Střelecký Ostrov. Named Prvok (Protozoa), the 43 m2 property will likely cost between CZK 3.5 and 4 million, its creators say. I spoke to sculptor and author of the project Michal Trpák and began by asking him how much artistic leeway 3D printing allows a designer.

Photo: Vojtěch Tomášek / Czech Radio

“Of course it has some limits like every technology or tool. It is just a tool after all. It allows you more freedom I would say, because you do not need to make moulds or cast into them. You just have to create your design using software or clay. You then scan that in 3D and create with the technology. It certainly has many advantages.

“However, there are certain limitations. You cannot make tunnels, or big curves, because you are then fighting gravity and the wall would fall. There are limits, but when you know them you can take advantage of the technology.

“I believe that once architects and designers properly acquaint themselves with this method, it will completely change architecture how we know it. The visual aspect of architecture will be completely different thanks to this technology.”

Photo: Vojtěch Tomášek / Czech Radio

How soon do you think 3D houses could start being built on a mass scale?

“It is difficult to say, but I believe in five years’ time there will be more and more companies getting used to this technology which is in its beginnings now. It is just being developed, tested and there are still some questions that need to be solved. However, I believe in five years there will be much more 3D housing.”

Photo: Vojtěch Tomášek / Czech Radio

Would you say this is the future of housing?

“As with any technology, I do not think it is applicable for everything. There will be certain aspects of building where 3D technology will grow in the future, but others too where we keep to old techniques.

“The house we made is not completely 3D printed. It has two printed parts and the middle part is a wooden structure with a green wall and roof. We are combining the best of wooden houses and 3D printing.

“I think that when future designers or architects will think about how 3D technology can help design and construction, they will not be strict about it. Each technology should be used for its benefits.”

Are you working on any new 3D housing projects?

“Yes, we already have some ideas, or challenges we would like to take on. One is to print the roof too, not just the walls. Another is to print a two story house.

What are the benefits of printing the roof as well?

Photo: Vojtěch Tomášek / Czech Radio

“It is faster and you can print it with the walls too.

“It would be like a shelter or cave. When you have a 3D printed house it is more or less like returning to caves, but artificial caves. Caves used to be a shelter, so why not build a 3d cave for living. Also you can then put gravel and grass over it and the house can be hidden in nature or the environment.

“I think in one sense it is a big challenge to print the roof, but it would mean that the house would be a very solid structure that is made fast.”

Photo: Vojtěch Tomášek / Czech Radio