3D Printed Performative Wall

The project, TerraPerforma, focuses on large-scale 3D printing, the influence of additive manufacturing on building with a traditional material – unfired clay – and climatic performative design.

Mud constructions are an ancestral technique, based on the use of local material with an ecological footprint which is close to zero. It is a material that is used worldwide, which allows significant winter heating and summer cooling, due to the thermal inertia properties. Additionally, due to the ability to absorb and evaporate, clay offers a self-regulating humidity environment, promoting a healthy indoor climate. However, while clay has been used in vernacular architecture for thousands of years, today it faces the stigma of being associated with traditional or underdeveloped areas. However, by pairing it with contemporary technology, the aim of the project was to develop a prototype which would state clay as a plausible construction material for any type of architecture, relevant to the developing architectural field.

The project combines three various posture of 3D printing – Robotic fabrication, on-site printing and printing with clay, examples of which have been studied which developing the TerraPerforma project.


While 3D printing has given the possibility to create complex geometries, the intelligence of the design comes from the optimisation strategies, the creation of performative shapes becoming easier to achieve.

During TerraPerforma, a series of tests were carried out that explore the possibility to optimise the design according to different performance parameters. The development of the project started by researching climatic phenomena and material behaviour. Therefore, a series of physical tests and digital simulations were done for prototypes of walls testing solar radiation, daylight, thermal conductivity, thermal convection, thermal mass and structural behaviour. Software such as Rhino CFD, Ladybug and Karamba were used in order to simulate wind, sun and structural behaviour. The team also developed a series of machines, such as the Hygrothermal Monitoring Apparatus and the Load Machine in order to future develop these studies, as well as doing a light visualisation exercise by recreating the sun path with the help of a robot.

The team also had the opportunity to work within Tecnalia, experimenting with the CoGiro robot, a Cable-Driven Parallel Robot (CDPR) owned by Tecnalia and LIRMM-CNRS Its original point of the design resides in the way the cables are connected to the frame, called the configuration of the CDPR, with makes it a very stable design. Hence the tea was able to manufacture the biggest monolithic piece done within the research.


For the final prototype of TerraPerforma, it was concluded that a modular approach would be best, mainly due to the difficulties of bringing a robot in the outdoor and to face hard climate conditions. The modules are parametrically conceived so that they have optimum performance depending on solar radiation, wind behaviour and structural 3D printing reasoning, both by their own and as a whole design. The facade was conceived as a gradient in both horizontal and vertical directions, having various radiuses of self-shading, in order to optimise the east and west sun.

Additionally, the modules are designed to incorporate various types of openings, in order to maximise the natural daylight potential – the openings are strategically placed and vary from micro openings to full-openings between bricks. The same channels are also designed to aid wind behaviour through convection properties, as well as the placement of the micro-perforation which would direct the air flow.


Project Credits:

Program Directors:
  • Edouard Cabay,
  • Alexandre Dubor
Research Advisors:
  • Areti Markopoulou,
  • Angelos Chronis,
  • Sofoklis Giannakopoulos,
  • Manja Van De Warp,
  • Mathilde Marengo,
  • Grégoire Durrens,
  • Djordje Stanojevic,
  • Rodrigo Aguirre,
  • Kunaljit Singh Chadha,
  • Ji Won Jun,
  • Ángel Muñoz,
  • Wilfredo Carazas Aedo,
  • Josep Perelló,
  • Pierre-Elie Herve,
  • Jean-Baptiste Izard,
  • Jonathan Minchin
  • Sameera Chukkappali,
  • Iason Giraud,
  • Abdullah Ibrahim,
  • Raaghav Chentur Naagendran,
  • Lidia Ratoi,
  • Lili Tayefi,
  • Tanuj Thomas
  • Pylos