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Perspective rendering of Julia Koerner's "The Cactus Homes," which earned Honorable Mention in ICON's Initiative 99 competition
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Julia Koerner earns Honorable Mention in ICON's Initiative 99 competition

Mar 15, 2024

UCLA Architecture and Urban Design’s Julia Koerner received Honorable Mention in Phase One of ICON’s Initiative 99 and will advance to the second and final phase along with other winners. Initiative 99 is a global architecture competition to reimagine affordable housing through the nexus of architecture and 3D printing. ICON announced its honorees at its official SXSW 2024 showcase event on March 12 in Austin.

The competition attracted submissions from more than 60 countries, with six winners and ten honorable mentions across two categories, Student and Open. Koerner entered the competition through her practice JK3D; her entry, "The Cactus Homes," draws inspiration from the intelligence of succulents, featuring nine individually unique, cactus-shaped forms with an inherent structural pleating.

ICON invited students, designers, and architects from around the world to help tackle the global housing crisis by designing homes that could be built for $99,000 or less with ICON's 3D-printed construction technology. The 16 honorees now proceed into Initiative 99’s Phase Two. Also, the first, second, and third place designs in each category will have their designs featured in ICON’s CODEX catalog, a digital collection of 3D-printable homes.

A look inside Koerner's Initiative 99 proposal

The Initiative 99 jury includes ICON’s Melodie Yashar, VP of Building Design & Performance, as well as renowned architect Bjarke Ingels; the first Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Austin, Lucia Athens; and AUD’s Chair Mariana Ibañez.

3D printing in architecture is an area that Koerner has been investigating for decades. Koerner teaches at UCLA AUD as an Associate Adjunct Professor and directs AUD's Summer Programs; through JK3D, she has applied decades of design research to 3D-printed wearables and clothing, seeking insight that she might scale up to buildings.

Koerner has grown especially interested in training 3D-printing technology to “learn” from nature’s patterns and structures–the logic behind these patterns’ intricacy, the functional outcomes that have enabled some plants and animals to survive for millennia, and their aesthetic beauty.

"The Cactus Homes" presents nine individually unique, cactus-shaped forms with an inherent structural pleating, six of which create habitation units and three forming rainwater storage tanks. These units are covered by an inverted gable roof which collects rainwater and provides shading. The six habitation units share a central utility wall servicing kitchens and bathrooms for efficiency, situated where the roof is lowest; skylights bring in daylight and allow for venting through stratification where the roof is highest. The cactus homes exemplify the potential for affordable, resilient, individually unique, sustainable, and community-based housing that is inspired by nature and made possible through advanced digital design and digital fabrication.

Learn more about Koerner and her work via her Archinect profile as well as AUD’s feature on her 2022-2023 year-long research studio “Fit for the Future: Sustainable 3D Printed Building Skins.”

Related Faculty
Julia Koerner
Related topics
Building Typologies, Sustainability, Material Assembly, Resilience, Technology, Climate Change
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