3D Printing Saves Historic Frank Lloyd Wright Building

The largest remaining group of buildings designed by the famed architect and visual artist Frank Lloyd Wright stands on the Florida South Colleges campus. Twelve buildings, known together as Child of the Sun, stand as a "harmonious whole expressing the spirit of the college free from grandomania." The most impressive structure of the lot, the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel, was the first building built on campus and it was constructed with student labor between 1938-1941, using Wright's unique textile building block system. However, as the blocks were cast from sedimentary rock and cement, the wrath of time and exposure to the elements have long begun to wear away the iconic blocks and have endangered the Chapel's structural integrity.

Up till now, recasting the necessary blocks had been far too expensive of a procedure and the Chapel was still doomed to eventual crumbling. However, the arrival of inexpensive 3D printing allowed the college to begin the restoration of the Chapel by printing the intricately designed concrete blocks, quickly and on the cheap. The 12 month restoration project was such a success that the team was even able to integrate 2,000 colored glass wall tiles which had been in Wright's original planning and never made it onto the building before. A great success for the practical applications of 3D printing. Architect Jeff Baker, who oversaw the project, commented that “The success found on this project is a milestone not only in the restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings on the FSC campus but also for similar textile block projects designed by Wright and other architects throughout the nation.”