Today, we’ll be taking you on a journey to Japan, specifically to the Kanazawa Shrine located on the central island of Honshū, where we’ll be exploring a new 3D printed pavilion. Conceived by architects Kei Atsumi and Nicholas Préaud, the structure was created using over 900 3D printed panels made from wood and PLA. These panels were painstakingly assembled to achieve the elegant, curved end result. One of the primary goals of the two architects was to design an environmentally friendly structure that could be easily replicated by anyone. Indeed, their 3D Japanese pavilion, known as the Tsuginote Tea House, can be constructed without requiring any specialized knowledge, tools, or accessories.
To create their final pavilion, the architects initially turned to 3D printing for their prototyping phase. Ultimately, they realized that they could leverage FDM technology to create their final design. They explain, “The first phase of research applied to the architecture and construction systems was largely inspired and fueled by the traditional Japanese Tsugite and Shiguchi assembly systems for the frame structures. This stage of research and geometric composition was supported by partial prototypes before the prototyping of a complete 1:1 scale structure, made possible by the investment in 3D printers. The ability to translate digital models into physical objects, whose mechanical behavior can be directly evaluated, was a real asset from the start and a considerable time saver.“
However, FDM 3D printing has one limitation that users face, which is the machine tray’s size. This constraint led architects Kei Atsumi and Nicholas Préaud to explore the art of Japanese-style joining, or Tsugite. This technique involves assembling wooden components without nails or glue, relying instead on an ingenious system of interlocking. The architects were heavily inspired by this method for their pavilion and decided to assemble 3D printed panels to create a structure to scale. They ultimately combined new technologies with more traditional, artisanal methods, as is often seen in architecture.
The architects explained, “Technically, this assembly aims to eliminate the weakness inherent in all traditional assemblies of wooden structures in a given linear direction, which works by blocking with stops and friction. The solution we developed, which can be applied to both a panel system and a frame, offers a geometry that negates this linear weakness while being mountable and dismountable without tools on a single hinge system.” From an environmental perspective, they chose a wood fiber-based PLA, which has some benefits. Although PLA is only biodegradable under certain conditions, it is still easier to process, and by adding this fiber, a natural resource can be reused. This approach aligns with the architects’ vision for their project.
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*Cover photo credits: Kei Atsumi