3D printing being used to restore one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic buildings

Known as the Child of the Sun, the twelve buildings that Frank Lloyd Wright designed for Florida State College are amongst the most famous in the American architect’s oeuvre. Wright, who pushed a new philosophy through his output, that included books and sculptures as well as buildings, spearheaded a revolution in Western architecture and changed the shape of the American home.

Frank Lloyd Wright 3D printing

Central to Wright’s concept for what a building should be, is the idea that there must be a human element to its design. The structure itself must be in harmony with both the people inside and around it and the environment in which it is placed.

3D Printing Chapel

These ideas can be seen very much at work in the Child of the Sun, which Wright described as a ‘harmonious whole expressing the spirit of the college free from grandomania.’ Before you Google it, we took the trouble to look up grandomania for you and, apparently, it means ‘a mania for elaborate, imposing, and showy buildings or furnishings.’

3D printed architecture mould

One of the most famous buildings of the twelve is the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel. Completed in 1941, it was built, in part, using unique ornamental textile blocks that Wright specially designed and manufactured for the project. He wanted to create a building material that was inexpensive and practical enough to allow ordinary people to build homes by stacking block on top of block, yet attractive enough to create truly beautiful buildings. The Chapel itself is made up of 6,000 of these blocks.

Frank Lloyd Wright 3D printed

Over the course of time, however, the wall has taken the brunt of the weather and the chapel’s blocks are no longer as pretty as they once were. Handcrafting the blocks is extremely expensive, so, up until now, nothing could be done to save the building’s looks. 3D printing looks to be the answer.

Using Makerbots and Rostock Max C2 devices, a team lead by restoration architect Jeff Baker is currently printing moulds for the entire west wall of the chapel. The project was supported by two major grants, one for $50K from the Florida Division of Historical Resources and another for $350K from the Save America’s Treasures Programme of the National Park Service, and should be finished in about twelve months time.

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