Intricate 3D Printed Grotto Explores the Future of Architecture

Digital Grotesque II – a full-scale 3D printed grotto – has premiered at Centre Pompidou’s ‘Imprimer le monde’ exhibition. This highly ornamental grotto is entirely designed by algorithm and materialized out of seven tons of printed sandstone. It heralds a highly immersive architecture with a hitherto unseen richness of detail.

Architects Michael Hansmeyer and Benjamin Dillenburger are behind two full-scale digital grottos that explore the possibility of a digitised future for architecture. Crafted with intricate baroque-like detail, it shows off the power of digital fabrication in its transformation of 1.3 billion digital surfaces into the sandstone. The architects use algorithms to create a form that appears at once synthetic and organic.

Commissioned by Centre Pompidou for their permanent collection, the Digital Grotesque II took two years to develop, one month to print, and just two days to assemble.

“Digital Grotesque is between chaos and order, both natural and the artificial, neither foreign nor familiar. Any references to nature or existing styles are not integrated into the design process but are evoked only as associations in the eye of the beholder,” write the designers. “The grotto is entirely designed by algorithms, and optimized to present highly differentiated geometries that forge a rich and stimulating spatial experience for the observer. A subdivision algorithm exploits the 3D printer’s full potential by creating porous, multi-layered structures with spatial depth. A single volume spawns millions of branches, growing and folding into a complex topological structure. Hundreds of square meters of surface are compressed into a 3.5 meter high block that forms an organic landscape between the man-made and the natural.”