In the Chinese village of Shanyinwu, in Tonglu County in Huangzhou, is a pleasant-looking stone bed and breakfast that occupies a sloping plot facing a reservoir with a hillside filling the background behind it. LEI House, as the B&B is called, is a three-story building with a large courtyard and garden in front of it, and while its stonework already makes it stand out among its neighbors, what really catches the eye is a structure within that courtyard. The pavilion is made up of white blocks that make it look sort of like a futuristic igloo, with light shining through the partially translucent material. It was designed to evoke a typical masonry structure, and it’s entirely 3D printed.
Looking at LEI House, one has a sense of calm and peace – feelings that anyone would hope to associate with a bed and breakfast. The owner of the building lives there as well as hosts guests, and she wanted the structure to be a true part of the village, made from local materials and methods. As such, LEI House was constructed in a very green manner, clad entirely in scraps of slate from a nearby stone-processing factory. The stone is laid using a traditional technique over structural outer walls made from hollow concrete blocks, showing how traditional and modern materials and methods can be combined.
The bed and breakfast was designed by Chinese firm AZL Architects.
“The house has a brick and concrete structure that is most commonly used by local artisans,” the company said. “The three-storey height, the simple vertical volume and the limited window openings together with the exceptionally compact interior space almost dated back to the old rammed-earth houses in the local area.”
The cube-shaped pavilion was constructed from translucent 3D printed blocks, which each have varying degrees of transparency to let different amounts of light in. This gives the pavilion a luminous, almost shimmering look when the light shines through it.
“The transparency and texture of the pavilion contrast sharply with the heavy volume of the dense castle-like stone walls,” the architects said. “Their extremely simple forms correspond nicely with each other in the rural setting, forming a pure, retrained, pristine yet mysterious futuristic rural touch.”
The simplicity of the structure, and the ease in which it was built, serve as examples of how 3D printing can be used for construction in rural communities where there is a shortage of skilled labor and professional project managers. In this case, the 400 3D printed plastic blocks were produced in one month by three separate suppliers in Beijing and Nanjing. The pavilion was then assembled by two inexperienced villagers in just three days.
3D printed pavilions have become popular ways to show off the technology’s potential for unique construction. The pavilion is an excellent way to showcase 3D printing’s abilities to create unique geometries, as well as to build a structure for low cost and in a remarkably short amount of time – without having to worry about the other things that come with a residential building, such as plumbing and electricity. They can also be beautiful, functional works of art. Both the LEI House pavilion and the house itself are excellent examples of how old and new construction techniques together can be used to create something attractive, functional and sustainable.
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