New technologies, digital processes and forward-thinking manufacturing methods make entirely new ways in design possible. Architect and designer Patrik Schumacher examines the potential of 3D printing.

By Patrik Schumacher.

3D printing: A paradigm shift in architecture and design

As architects and designers at Zaha Hadid Architects, we interface with new technologies and are looking out for innovations, trying to apply them wherever we find them. 3D printing is still evolving and already a real enrichment not only for our discipline, but for all design disciplines engaged in framing social life on an urban, architectural and interior scale, both for production and furnishing.

The 3D Pioneers Challenge is an important event and an opportunity for everybody working in the field of innovation and 3D printing in particular. It is part of a new paradigm shift in architecture and design that is very important and still full of energy and innovation.

The age of Tectonism

3DPC 2021 Winner FashionTech: Hexr © James Cook. Foto: James Cook

With respect to the civilization we are pushing forward, a fundamental shift is happening: Not only in the design discipline, but globally all aspects of productive and social life are thoroughly affected by digitization and the power of computational intelligence. It is also changing the social dynamics, the way we live and work together. It impacts not only the opportunities of new products and spaces, but also the requirement and challenges of a dynamic and more complex life process. And as designers we take this on.

I originally coined the phrase ‘Parametricism’ for a style rooted in digital design techniques that takes full advantage of the computational revolution that drives contemporary civilization. Now I am talking about the phrase ‘Tectonism’, in particular when all these new fabrication technologies that are maturing right now (such as 3D printing and other robotic fabrication techniques, laser cutting as well as milling techniques, both additive and subtractive), are being investigated. It means that the computational and algorithmic designs of innovations can now been translated much more smoothly and with much greater veracity and faithfulness into 3D reality. The absorption of innovative ideas with these new intellectual systems is of course much larger than before, when we had to set up whole factories for mass reproduction of elements. And I think this is not only very important, but it is really liberating the creative juices, as well.

Communication through design

3DPC 2021 Winner Architektur: HivE. © Lithium Designers GmbH

Now that we have 3D printing, we can send a file with very different, tailored and customized new ideas to 3D printing machines or to other robotic manufacturing machines. This absorption of innovation is nearly infinite – similar to the way you can now upload apps or versions of software services. It has not only a big impact on all our lives in terms of becoming creatives, it is really rewarding to be innovative and creative right now, because the technological systems can absorb that innovation. That is truly wonderful.

But for us as architects and designers, that also means we have a much more expressive repertoire now – new morphologies, new pallets – that are transforming the built environment. And the product interfaces through which we engage and structure interactions allow us to be become much more expressive, as well. This expressiveness is not to be seen as a contradiction to efficiency and technological powers, but on top of another level of functionality: the importance of social functionality. We need to communicate the capacity of the world of design to build environments and all the elements through which we are expressing ourselves, as well as and the social situations through which we engage. And that is another important aspect of what I call Tectonism: That it is not only a technological concept, but a concept of an enhanced paradigm for communication through design.

A wonderful opportunity for young designers

Printed meat for sustainable and animal-friendly production. © MeaTech3D

That is very important and becomes apparent not only in the contributions to the 3D Pioneers Challenge but also in the whole movement: An investment in the new fabrication technologies which tie in with design and technologies. The realisation of technologies and new life processes which are subtly and adaptively facilitated in tailored, varied and ever new ways is really exciting. We will not only become more efficient and able to design much quicker and faster and churn out prototyping through algorithms. But also our professions, I think, will grow and everybody will really become some kind of creative in this new world of computationally empowered design and production processes.

It is truly wonderful to have an institution like 3D pioneers and the challenge. It presents a wonderful opportunity and invitation for young designers, architects and also engineers to come in and have a platform where they can show and compete, and where they can also gain some recognition and resources to continue their research.


Register now for the 3D Pioneers Challenge 2022

Dieses Jahr steht die 3DPC unter dem Fokusthema “Konvergenz – disruptive und etablierte Industrien treffen aufeinander, um eine verantwortungsvolle Zukunft zu schaffen”.

For the seventh time, the award is aimed at creative, innovative minds and future makers across all sectors: Pushing boundaries.

The Challenge will be announced as part of Rapid.Tech 3D (Messe Erfurt, 17-19 May 2022), the forward-looking trade event of the AM scene and creative meeting place for start-ups as well as experts and industry giants in additive manufacturing.

The 3DPC invites you to use the platform. Present. Meet. Converge – to create together a better, responsible future. Let´s be pioneers and push the boundaries.

Deadline for submission is 14 March 2022


More about Patrik Schumacher

Patrik Schumacher, CEO of Zaha Hadid Architects and long-standing jury member of the 3D Pioneers Challenge. As part of the sixth edition of the international competition for additive manufacturing processes and forward-looking technologies, he opened the digital award ceremony on 22 June 2021 with his keynote speech.

Patrik Schumacher at Zaha Hadid Architects

More about Parametricism and Tectonism

Portrait Patrik Schumacher
© Patrik Schumacher

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