ICON, BIG, and Liz Lambert unveil plan for 3D-printed hotels in Marfa, Texas

With a slew of in-process projects, ICON and Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) are making a name for themselves in the world of 3D printed architecture. The team recently broke ground on the world’s largest 3D-printed community and has plans to land 3D-printed habitations on the moon. In their latest collaboration, announced yesterday, they will work with hotelier Liz Lambert to reimagine El Cosmico, a campground in Marfa, Texas.

El Cosmico is a 21-acre campsite offering unique overnight experiences to guests who stay in idiosyncratic accommodations like revamped trailers, safari tents, tipis modeled on those used by the Indigenous peoples of the Great Plains, and Mongolian yurts. In the new vision for the site, ICON, BIG, and Lambert will realize a series of 3D-printed hotels and houses that will fill an expanded 60-acre site in the desert.

The pool at El Cosmico. (Courtesy ICON and BIG)

“I have had a vision for the evolution of El Cosmico for many years that includes several spaces that add to the experience both for guests and localsa pool, a hammam, and more space for art and skills-building workshops,” Liz Lambert said in a press release. “In collaborating with the revolutionary thinkers at BIG and ICON, not only do I get to fulfill this dream, but we get to do it using this incredible 3D printing technology that marries the oldest principles of raw earth-based building with a futuristic technology that works more quickly, sustainably and efficiently than modern construction. What’s more, the innovation and beauty of the types of structures we can build extend far beyond the box.”

El Cosmico interior (Courtesy ICON and BIG)

The proposed designs are rounded and domed structures wholly connected to the desert landscape through their form and materiality. In addition to guest units, the site will also house spaces where guests can lounge and gather, including a pool and spa.

“Liz Lambert’s legacy for reimagining hospitality and her pioneering of a contemporary Texan aesthetic combined with the minimalistic nature and culture, art and landscape of Marfa has been the perfect fit to pursue a new architectural vernacular language for El Cosmico in Marfa,” Bjarke Ingels added. “Organic shapes, Euclidian circular geometries and a color palette born from the local terroir make El Cosmico feel as if literally erected from the site it stands on.”

El Cosmico houses (Courtesy ICON and BIG)

With the project ICON is pushing the limit of 3D printing, delivering domes, arches, vaults, and parabolic forms that can only be realized through 3D printing.

“The truly unique and divergent architectures made possible by 3D printing are really just beginning,” said ICON Cofounder and CEO Jason Ballard. “One of the great joys of ICON is putting our technology into the hands of great creatives and seeing what possibilities emerge.”

The pavilion at The Long Center for the Performing Arts. (Courtesy ICON and BIG)

But the fun doesn’t end in Marfa. In addition to the hospitality venue, the teams also announced they will be working with The Long Center for the Performing Arts in Austin on the world’s first 3D-printed performance stage. The proposed design for the stage takes cues from the new structures being designed for El Cosmico.

In renderings of the venue, the center stage is crowned by a circular light fixture positioned like a halo, and the backdrop is formed by a curved wall that will be 3D printed. Guests attending events will sprawl out on the Hartman lawn, which offers views of the Austin skyline.

The performance pavilion at The Long Center for the Performing Arts. (Courtesy ICON and BIG)

El Cosmico’s groundbreaking is planned for 2024. The design team is also looking into designing and constructing affordable housing in Marfa.

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