Modularity Modern: The Cabin of 3D Printed Curiosities

April 5, 2018 Gregory Han

Modularity Modern: The Cabin of 3D Printed Curiosities

The Design Milk archives of 3D printed objects is overwhelmingly represented by smaller dimension objects, reflective of the current manufacturing limitations and costs of the technology. Yet, an architectural revolution is on the horizon, one portending the transformative nature of additive manufacturing techniques becoming scalable, affordable, and adaptive, resulting in a variety of surfaces and structures that would have made Antoni Gaudí envious. The Cabin of 3D Printed Curiosities by Emerging Objects stands as an example of a future adaptive 3D printing used to create complex structures out of individual pieces.

The 3D Printed Cabin in Oakland, CA stands as an example of moving away from the onerous process of printing entire buildings layer by layer. Instead, Ronald Rael (co-author of the upcoming book Printing Architecture) and Virginia San Fratello – both of Emerging Objects and architecture firm partners at Rael San Fratello) – identify the pitfalls of printing entire buildings as a one-size-fits-all solution, envisioning adaptive modularity as the superior solution. Pieces are printed to adapt to needs and preferences on a case by case basis, in essence used much like larger architectural LEGOs.

The structure is made using from an assortment of materials, including Portland cement, sawdust, chardonnay pomace, and combinations of each.

The pair’s Cabin of 3D-Printed Curiosities illustrates a “heterogeneous process ” – 3D-printed componetry pieced together into beautiful structures exhibiting distinct character and unique purpose. Built with 4,500 individual 3D-printed modules into a gable roof shed, the striking exterior features interlocking 3D printed hexagonal ceramic tiles designed to hold pockets of plants and an intricate overlapping matrix of shingles.

A selection of epiphytes and succulents are planted within each 3D printed “Seed Stitch” ceramic tile.

Nature as inspiration: clay tiles printed in a loopy texture are intended to evoke the shape of plant seeds scattered across its surface.

The shed’s interior is also covered with tiles: a monochromatic swirl of corn-derived PLA-based bioplastic designed to permit the light of LED modules to glow as desired at night.


Inspired by Emerging Objects concept, one wonders how long it may be before the likes of IKEA and Home Depot begin offering affordable and easy-to-assemble customizable backyard shed kits printed as desired.

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