Photo courtesy ICON

The First 3D-Printed Hotel Will Break Ground in Texas This Year

Technology + Gear Epic Stays
by Tim Wenger Jun 3, 2024

An accommodations industry visionary is pushing the West Texas town of Marfa to the forefront of American hospitality. Liz Lambert, owner of the part-hotel, part-campground, full-on unique lodging property El Cosmico, will break ground on the world’s first 3D-printed hotel property in Marfa later this year. The idea, Lambert told Matador, is to reimagine what El Cosmico can be and embrace both the stunning desert surroundings and cutting-edge architectural design. The 3D-printed additions to El Cosmico will be split between a collection of 3D-printed homes, known as the Sunday Homes, and a conjoined property more closely resembling a hotel.

“. . . as we understand it this will be the first 3D printed hotel in the world,” Lambert says. “The plan to print the Sunday Homes and the new dwellings at El Cosmico came from my work with Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) on another project. They introduced me to Jason Ballard, the CEO and Co-founder of ICON, a company that is radically innovating how we build with Robotics and AI technology. Bjarke said that as two innovators in Texas, we should really be friends. He was totally right, and now we’re working with both ICON and BIG to bring this next evolution of El Cosmico to life together. It’s a project so near to my heart, and I’m lucky to work with these visionaries and their incredible teams.”

The inspiration behind a 3D-printed hotel comes from nature itself

Photo courtesy ICON
Photo courtesy ICON
Photo courtesy ICON

At its core, 3D printing is a process of creating three-dimensional objects from a digital file. In the case of El Cosmico, that digital file is an architects’ rendering of the property complete with design and materials specs. The 3D printer lays down material layer by layer until the entire property is complete. This allows for the creation of complex shapes that would be difficult or impossible to make using traditional manufacturing techniques, and in many cases, it’s faster and cheaper than traditional construction.

“The design of the Sunday Homes is an exploration of the capabilities of large scale 3D printing, which really upends the building that is possible with wood-framed structures,” Lambert saya “Curved walls, domes, parabolas, and patterns in the print can be made with relative ease. We really looked to nature and the cosmos for design direction.”

That’s no surprise given Lambert’s background as a routine-busting hotelier based in Austin. She grew up in West Texas and opened the “bohemian nomadic” El Cosmico on a 21-acre plot of land outside Marfa 2009, and will move it to a separate plot for its new incarnation. The vibe is distinctly West Texan, yet it hones in on an often-overlooked aspect of the region often – it’s an artist’s haven, attracting visionaries and free-spirited types year-round. This was established when the acclaimed artist Donald Judd opened The Chinati Foundation in Marfa as a museum to house large works of art — and an art scene ensued that has drawn wayward creatives to the town ever since.

“The Sunday Homes are part of the larger reimagining of El Cosmico,” Lambert says. “We’ll move to a 60 acre plot of land on the edge of town, overlooking the stunning Davis Mountains. We’ll bring most of our existing ‘hotel rooms’ – the trailers, tents and other nomadic accommodations – from the existing location, and we’ll be adding some 3D printed hotel accommodations in addition to the Sunday Homes.”

pool rendering at el cosmico

Photo courtesy ICON

Amenities will include hot tubs, exterior seating areas with shade and killer views of the sunset, a swimming pool, and a restaurant. The place is designed to have communal vibes, encouraging conversation and inspiration. The plan is that the current El Cosmico site will be developed into affordable housing once the hotel has moved over to the new site.

El Cosmico also runs El Cosmico Provisions Co. to make its services to travelers full-circle. Guests can pick up t-shirts, outdoor gear, and other apparel under the El Cosmico branding to sport on the trail and when back home. The brand also sells apothecary and home goods as well as food and beverage products.

“When we first opened El Cosmico in 2009, there weren’t as many stores and shops as there are today,” says Lambert, who masterminded behind the Sunday Homes with the help of Icon Build and architecture design firm Bjarke Ingels Group. “A lot of our guests are coming through El Cosmico on their way to other destinations in Big Bend, Mexico, and elsewhere, and we wanted to have a place where guests of the hotel and passers-through could get interesting and useful supplies for their adventures. And, if we’re being honest, we love a good souvenir so we were excited to create our own line of things that reflect the El Cosmico ethos and aesthetic that people could take away with them.”

How to book the Sunday Homes at El Cosmico (and the property’s other nomadic lodging)

Photo courtesy ICON
Photo courtesy ICON

The Sunday Homes will be small-to-mid-size homes available for sale. To book the 3D-printed hotel (once its open) or any of the existing lodging options, visit the El Cosmico website. The space – a far more fitting term than labeling it a “hotel” or a “campground” or anything in between – can host events large and small, and is a great place to base yourself for outdoor adventure in Big Bend National Park and beyond.

“Purchasing a Sunday Home is the best way to have a full immersive and beautiful experience at El Cosmico year round,” Lambert says. “The hotel will have short-term hospitality accommodations and amenities for travelers.”

Lambert just hopes people passing through will stay long enough to fall in love with the area.

“I mean, ideally we think that people should stay as long as they can to fully experience the downshift in pace from city life, the vast expanse of land and the epic night skies,” she says. “It can take a while to get into the mañana mindset. There’s a lot to do, from seeing world class art to visiting a desert cactus museum, but we are firm believers that doing nothing is also a really important part of the experience of El Cosmico.”

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