The last century has been defined by mass urban migration, with over half of the world’s population living in cities (United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, 2019). This has caused urban sprawl and dramatically diminished traditional rural and nomadic lifestyles, leading many people looking for alternative ways of living, such as in “tiny houses” or even off-grid entirely (United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, 2019). Just outside of Bologna, however, Italian 3D-printing powerhouse, WASP, and Mario Cucinella Architects have teamed together to construct TECLA, the first prototype circular housing model. With planning approval received in May 2019 and printing commencing in September 2019, TECLA is projected to be completed sometime in 2020, however, COVID-19 may delay the process. The vision for TECLA is to combat causes of homelessness by providing a locally produced and sustainably made house for everyone in a time of exponential population increase and an affordable housing crisis. At the TECLA site, WASP’s 3D construction technology, Crane WASP, (yes a 3D printing crane) are printing houses inspired by potter bee hives using locally sourced clay that have been adapted into a highly optimized printable material. The clay material is biodegradable, reusable, recyclable and taken from local terrain, so it effectively has a neutral carbon footprint. Yet, the housing structures are reportedly resilient to any climate and are far more energy-efficient than traditional housing. If TECLA is successful, it has the potential to revolutionize the lives of people living in slums by providing a basis for autonomous and sustainable cities or neighbourhoods off-grid. With Italy in the middle of a refugee crisis, the success of TECLA could greatly relieve government resources. As long as TECLA follows through to house the homeless and those most at risk for becoming homeless, WASP and the Mario Cucinella Architects may have found sustainable solutions to mass urbanism.

United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2019). World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision (ST/ESA/SER.A/420).


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