3D printing technologies for a biomimetic landscape design
Author: Sara Codarin
Affiliation: University of Ferrara
The advancement of digitisation has set the foundations for the definition of new economic and cultural assets in different sectors. Among them is the construction industry, which has stood out for having experimented new automation technologies to update and optimise some key stages of the traditional realisation process, with the aim of refining the overall quality of the results. The most widely used systems, which are able to process printable materials following the information given by three-dimensional digital models, allow a range of possible operations, such as the computer-aided motion, installation, subtractive sculpting or additive creation of manufactured elements. In particular, over the last decades the additive construction tools, also known as 3D printing or rapid prototyping, have demonstrated to be efficiently applicable, at any scale, for the elaboration of an innovative design and a simplified realisation methodology, in accordance with the increasing demand of sustainability requirements. 3D printing is therefore a valuable option to help reducing the environmental impact and improving the design morphology of the outputs, in compliance with the local natural peculiarities of a given location on intervention. This article aims to contribute to the debate on the potentials of the most advanced tools to generate a qualitative contribution to territorial regeneration strategies, especially in protected areas, where building constructions or landscape structural projects are prevented. Rapid prototyping is defined here as a repeatable technique to create territorial components in damaged natural frames that need recovery measures, due to the imprint of uncontrolled human activities. Indeed, urbanisation, infrastructure connections, and constructions spreading - in particular when they are not driven by regulatory plans and sustainable land management policies - are the principal reasons for environmental losses, especially in those contexts that are not capable of absorbing the changes to which they are subjected. To substantiate our arguments, a case study is used. It is the city of Shkoder, located in the Albanian shore of the namesake lake and included in the Ramsar List of watersheds to be preserved. The reasons for selecting this case is its complexity: the misuse of the soil in Shkoder’s area caused by the human imprint (permeability modification, consumption of the local flora, and pollution) allows frequent floods to run over the city during autumn and winter months causing significant damages and consequently the lowering of the coastal landscape quality. We will argue that 3D printing helps to define new scenarios for recovery projects in wetlands or shoreline zones that change settings due to the variable level of water, by using low-cost, reversible and compatible materials (sand conglomerates, raw clay or reconstructed stones) with the surrounding environment. Following biomimetic design principles, a rapid prototyping technique can be used to create free-form reefs and walking paths, as landscape characterisations when they are exposed, or underwater natural habitats in the event of flooding. The definition of punctual or integrated projects for the renovation of Shkoder’s coastal lands, therefore, can be considered as an opportunity to develop a more resilient and adaptive landscape, able to react positively to potential background modifications.
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