Construction 3D Printing Company ICON Enters Hospitality Market with Signature Boldness


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ICON, an additive construction (AC) company based in Austin, TX, announced that it has partnered with hotelier Liz Lambert in a project that will relocate and expand the El Cosmico campground hotel in Marfa, TX. Frequent ICON partner, design firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), will also be involved in the project, which is expected to break ground in 2024.

In addition, the group has brought Austin’s The Long Center for the Performing Arts into the fold, for the purpose of collaborating on a 3D printed performance pavilion that will be located in Austin in celebration of the new site. Along with the pavilion, guest quarters, and a plethora of 3D printed architectural flourishes, such as domes, arches, and vaults, the team will also be building homes at the new El Cosmico, which will range from two to four bedrooms and 1,200-2,200 sq. ft. To allow for all of the new features, the relocated El Cosmico will be about triple the size of the old site — 65 rather than 21 acres.

In a press release announcing the new, 3D printed El Cosmico hotel, Lambert commented, “In collaborating with the revolutionary thinkers at BIG and ICON, not only do I get to fulfill this dream, but we get to do it using this incredible 3D printing technology that marries the oldest principles of raw earth-based building with a futuristic technology that works more quickly, sustainably and efficiently than modern construction. …I’m excited that we get to explore [ICON’s] incredible work right here in our own little cosmic landscape under the stars in far West Texas.”

ICON’s co-founder and CEO, Jason Ballard, added, “One of the great joys of ICON is putting our technology into the hands of great creatives and seeing what possibilities emerge. The collaboration with Liz and Bjarke is a total dream, and it’s a tremendous honor for us to join them at the forefront of design and architecture. Liz is truly the Queen of Cool and one of the national treasures of Texas. It is incredible to help her cosmic imaginings become earthly reality.”

If there’s one thing Jason Ballard loves more than 3D printed buildings, it’s space stuff, so this seems like an especially fitting project for ICON, as Marfa is a huge draw for tourists hoping to spot UFOs. And, of course, this seems like just about the best time in history to target the presumably thriving UFO chaser market. Beyond any one detail, though, this is simply a characteristically ICON project from top-to-bottom, especially given the association of ICON’s brand identity with creative types. One thing I like about the company is that, in an industry bogged down with post-traumatic hype fatigue, ICON isn’t afraid to go big, and this could be its biggest project yet.

Now, a chichi, Burning Man in the West Texas Oil Patch project may not convey the best image in a market segment that is constantly brought up alongside the question “Can 3D printed homes solve America’s housing crisis?” On the other hand, barring any government mandate that commands AC companies to print shelter for the unhoused, ICON’s ability to grow and become profitable is what will give it the best long-term chance to solve the housing crisis.

All images are artists’ renderings, courtesy of ICON

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