AMIE 2.0: Urban Living In A Future Knoxville

How will 3D printed buildings change our cities?


Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) and net zero energy building techniques have the potential to change the way we live and work in the 21st Century. By expanding on the concepts embodied in the recently completed AMIE (additive manufacturing integrated energy prototype) this group of UT Architecture students were able to envision what a 40-unit apartment building might be like in the Knoxville of 2050.


James Richard Rose

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Senior Lecturer, Director of Institute for Smart Structures, College of Architecture + Design
University of Tennessee-Knoxville

Andrew Obendorf, AIA

Associate Director, Studio Head
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

How will our buildings change when a parking garage full of cars acts as a power source and battery for the residential tower above? What if apartments could be constructed with modular rooms, printed on site using local materials and stacked together like building blocks? Could a building’s exterior components be removed, recycled, and reprinted on site at the end of their useful life with no additional material required? What form will our buildings take when we can easily customize our apartments and take them with us when we move? Is it possible for buildings to be printed by climbing robots, extruding polymer like a spider spinning silk?

Student Project: SubUrban (Plaag, Smith, Hauter) Fall 2015

This team took inspiration from the perceived beneits of suburban living that contribute to unsustainable sprawl. Basing their design on the suburban amenities of greenspace, porches, attached garages, and ease of adding additional living space, the team applied these concepts to an urban Knoxville site. In their design, additively manufactured modules attach to a tower structure with the ability to be continually removed, replaced or added to. A large greenspace covers the site and hides an automated underground parking system whereby electric vehicles can be charged or share power with the building. Inside the tower an atrium links every three floors with semi-conditioned porch space shaded by photovoltaics. This vertical neighborhood helps to alleviate the social disconnect of apartment living and further incentivizes urban density over suburban sprawl.

Student Project: Relief (Coetzee, Harvell, Ruiz) Fall 2015

This team took direct inspiration from the modular construction and ease of transportation of the original AMIE prototype. They propose a mass customizable system of additively manufactured ring segments that can be assembled to accommodate numerous functions and locales. Ring segments could each have a single function from kitchen to sleeping to bathing, and be conigured based on the needs of the occupant or mission. In this way, the same conigurable kit of parts could be used to build a forty unit apartment building in Knoxville, military barracks in a desert climate, or disaster relief housing in the Mississippi delta.

Student Project: Intra-Urban Junction (Bridges, Kutz, Browning) Fall 2015

This team took a more evolutionary approach to the incorporating additive manufacturing in architecture. Based on the prevalence and relative economy of building structural frames in steel and concrete, this team proposed leaving these normative long-life elements in place and pairing them with additively manufactured components for the non-structural and shorter lived building components like facades and interior partitions. Additionally, the ability to 3D print an infinitely variable set of exterior wall with no economic penalty allows the use of parametric design to fine tune each façade for its specific function, transparency, insulation value, and orientation.

Student Project: Comm(unit)y (Bush, Huber-Feely, McGinley) Fall 2015

This team took inspiration from the existing downtown fabric, specifically the masonry and timber buildings of the 1800s and their ability to accept almost any programmatic function from dentist’s o ice to loft apartment. They translated this idea into a simple concrete structural frame into which additively manufactured volumes may be slid like drawers. These drawer units can be designed to accommodate any function and may be removed and recycled when no longer needed. Due to the ability of 3D printed materials to be mass-customizable and be manufactured in any color, the façade may become a diagram of the types of unit or the climatic forces acting upon the site.

Student Project: NanoGothic (Jeffers, Traylor, Aplin) Fall 2015

This team began their investigation by creating numerous small scale 3D printed models to determine the limitations of the technology. The insights gained led them to speculate that it is possible to additively manufacture a high-rise building on site using a system of climbing cranes equipped with robotic 3D printers. In order to get around the inability of 3D printing to create unsupported horizontal structures, the team reimagined the gothic arch as the optimum form for creating self-supporting vaults. Since the entire structure and enclosure systems of the building are printed at once, it is possible to incorporate systems like plumbing, electrical, and HVAC at the same time.

Is it possible for buildings to be printed by climbing robots, extruding polymer like a spider spinning silk?


The results of this studio were presented to the public in an pop-up exhibit in downtown, sharing these new ideas with the residents of Knoxville.

Related Projects and Research:


Exploring Additive Manufacturing

TVA Tower 2016

Benton Johnson: Urban Mass Timber

Students Contributors:

Jennifer Aplin, Kristen Bridges, Breanna Browning, Haven Bush, Johanna Coetzee, Emmanuel Huber-Feely, William Harvell, Mubarak Hauter, Kevin Jeffers, Joseph Kutz, Brooke McGinley, Jonathan Ruiz, Megan Plaag, Ryan Smith, Anthony Traylor


Two student teams won AIA MidTN awards for their work in this design studio:

Group 1: Jonathan Ruiz, William Harvell, Johanna Coetzee

Group 2: Breanna Browning, Joey Kutz, Kirsten Bridges