Last year, legendary architect Lord Norman Foster and his colleagues at the European Space Agency surprised EVERYONE with a plan to build a lunar base via 3D-printing local moon dust into a structure. Sure, that’s really awesome to do that on the moon, but what about on Earth and how 3D printing can change how we build cities? Gizmodo’s Adam Clark Estes got the chance to ask Foster that question at the Center for Architecture in New York City. Foster had spent an hour talking about how Beaux-Art legend Rafael Guastavino — famous for his patented technique of building fireproof tile arches and vaults — influenced his work, and outlined his firm’s plan to 3D-print a vaulted, igloo-shaped moon base.
After reading and listening to this fascinating, historic, mind-blowing plan and its history, I still have so many questions that I want answers to. Below is an edited version of Estes’ conversation with Foster, and if you get the chance, check out Palaces for the People: Guastavino and the Art of Structural Tile at the Museum of the City of New York, which will be running until September 7th:
Gizmodo: 3D printing is such gee golly technology—especially when you do it on the moon—but we’re seeing it here on Earth, too. China was recently in headlines for 3D printing entire houses in not very much time at all.
Foster: Well, it’s certainly having a transformative effect in the way that we explore designs and the fact that we can design something and then, by the end of the day, put it into the machine. By the morning you’ve got a 3D printout. That’s tremendously exciting. But I think you’re right. I think that, in a way, the project I shared for the moon is an extreme example in relative terms. To print a building now in the benign environment of our planet is not a big thing, as you said. We’re already seeing those signs.
Gizmodo: Is it something that is going to transform the way we build cities? Or is it something that is noteworthy because it’s so new?
Foster: I think, yes, it will have a transformative effect, in the same way that the technology for driverless cars will. There will be pilotless aircraft. Maybe we’ll need the psychological reassurance of something sitting up there and looking at the robot to make sure it behaves itself. Sing it lullabies. No, never let anyone near those things, because we’re human. We’re imperfect.