Founded in 2015 by RenJie Huang and HanYuan Tsao, Architchen is a Taiwanese architectural design studio that has developed a particular affinity for 3D printing ceramics. What sets Architchen apart from many of the other designers working with 3D printed ceramics is that it is not just interested in using the technology for producing pottery and homewares. Rather, it has leveraged ceramic AM to express and create parametrically designed tiles which fulfil an architectural purpose.
So far, Architchen has developed four 3D printed ceramic tile prototypes along with a range of structurally complex pottery pieces. Crucial to each one of the studio’s works is the integration of digital fabrication and parametric design, which entails using algorithms to generate structures and topologies based on defined parameters.
Digitally crafting ceramic tiles
As Huang explains, not only has parametric design enabled Architchen to realize aesthetically interesting ceramic pieces, but it has also enabled it to produce designs optimized for 3D printing. “We use parametric design in many aspects,” said Huang. “Not only for the tile modelling, but also for the slicing coding that controls the printing path. Recently, we also used it to generate the structure inside the tile.”
Working with a custom delta style 3D printer they developed, Architchen’s founders Huang and Tsao have explored the use of various different ceramic materials in their work, including clay from Taiwan, the U.S. and Japan. As Huang tells us, each project undertaken by the design studio calls for a different type of clay and burning process (either reduction burning or oxidation burning).
Aesthetically, Architchen’s 3D printed ceramic tiles and pottery are also informed by Huang and Tsao’s respective backgrounds in computational design and architecture. “Due to the architectural training in the past, we use a lot of geometric shapes so some of the tiles and the pottery we make look like a building facade,” elaborated Huang.
Arguably, however, the 3D printed tiles designed by Architchen are actually taking architecture to a new place, as the structures of each individual tile often come together to create a bigger picture, so to speak. From a gentle rippling surface to a geometric blooming pattern, Architchen is reinvigorating traditional tile design in three dimensions.
APUJAN Concept Store
In 2017, Architchen collaborated with London-based designer label APUJAN to create a unique setting for a concept store in Chongqing, China. The stunning space integrated over 1,000 white aluminum pipes hanging from the ceiling and 1,300 3D printed ceramic tiles which made up the display cases and platforms. “The whole concept creates a pure, cave-like scenario which allows the clothes and accessories to stand out vividly,” added Huang.
The APUJAN concept store has been a triumph since its unveiling, as it has not only delighted shoppers but was also recognized as the winner of the Best 100 Architecture and Interior Design Awards in Taiwan and the Exceptional Design for Modern Space award in China. In its home of Taiwan, Architchen has also hosted two exhibitions to highlight its designs and design practices. Huang says Architchen is eager to present its work in other countries as well.
According to Architchen, Taiwan has been an especially fruitful location for working with 3D printed ceramics, not least because of its famous ceramic industry. The east asian state also has a high caliber processing industry and a wealth in computational related hardware. “With the huge potential in Taiwan we believe here would be the best place to create our design in fast pace with best quality to compete in the world,” says Architchen’s founders.
Presently, Architchen offers its expertise in ceramic 3D printing and design as a service, collaborating with clients to produce customized 3D printed tiles. “The parametric design tools we use allow us to easily adjust a huge number of parameters,” reads Architchen’s website. “Meaning we can consistently provide clients with exactly what they had in mind.”