March 30, 2023

Danish studio BIG and 3D-construction firm ICON collaborated to create a design campground and housing project called El Cosmico. The project was constructed for hotelier Liz Lambert in Marfa, Texas. The project will occupy almost 60 acres and will include not all the hotel, but some permanent housing as well. The structures will be heavily inspired by the desert landscape, and the work BIG did with NASA for moon-based structures.

Designer: BIG x ICON

“We’d spent some time doing research on what construction on Mars and the moon would look like and it was quite clear that additive manufacturing like 3D printing was probably the only viable option. We also already sort of created some visuals where you could see the tectonics of 3D printing combined, in the case of Mars, with the red tones of Martain regoliths, you ended up with something that felt like a kind of vernacular architecture. The cementitious material of 3D printing created this texture that reminded me of some of the handcrafted teeth details you find on traditional adobe houses,” said BIG founder Bjarke Ingels.

The El Cosmico will feature structures that mimic parabolic huts and will be 3D-printed using a concrete mix that matches the color of the desert. The structures will give a rather natural and smooth appearance to the entire project. “Because of 3D printing and robotic approaches to construction, these kinds of living architectures, organic forms, have a much more human aesthetic. So even though it’s made by a robot, it has a much more human aesthetic,” continued Ingels.

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Besides the hotel accommodation, the property will also include a series of homes that are constructed using tube-like shapes grouped together to create clusters that will function as a series of rooms. This circular theme will also be executed at the pool, where a series of 3D-printed cabanas will be positioned. “We are a little bit at the dawn of 3D printing at the scale of buildings, there’s still a great opportunity to explore what architecture languages can sprout from this new possibility. I think that the whole family of structures that we’ve created for El Cosmico at Marfa is like a first exploration of that emerging vernacular,” Ingels concluded.