A chapel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is right now on the receiving end of a high-tech restoration, courtesy of a 3D printer, those ever-buzzworthy machines previously responsible for resolving mankind's lack of giant dollhouse furniture and concrete play-castles. One of a dozen structures the large-looming American architect designed for Florida Southern College, the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel was completed in 1941 with walls made of the ornamental textile blocks that Wright dabbled with for a time.
Wright wrote in his autobiography that they were the "cheapest (and ugliest) thing in the building world," and he wanted to see "what could be done with that gutter-rat." By perforating the blocks and filling them in with colorful glass tiles, he hoped to turn this very democratic material into a"masonry fabric capable of great variety in architectural beauty," not to mention capable of providing a bit of natural light. What they didn't allow for is good weather-proofing, which is why parts of the chapel are so worn down.
It was prohibitively expensive to recreate the blocks by hand, according to an FSU newsletter, but a MakerBot fixed all that, allowing them to create very detailed molds for replacement tiles (↓). Restoration architect Jeff Baker of Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker Architects is leading the project which will eventually replace most of the blocks on the western wall of the chapel.
· 3-D Printing Used in Restoration of Annie Pfeiffer Chapel [FSC via Design Milk]