3D Printing in Sand: An Examination of Land and Conflict in Israel

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sand-printer2Curators Ori Scialom, Roy Brand, Keren Yeala-Golan, and Edith Kofsky, have turned the Israeli Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale into a sandy construction site. Rather than building up in plastic or molding in clay, they are printing, and reprinting, the history of Israeli land use in sand. The term they have coined to describe the urban planning and development in Israel is ‘urburb.’ This is meant to convey the neither urban nor suburban nature of the development that is both sprawling and dense at the same time.

There are four sand canvases being articulated by the printers that make the drawings by carving through the soft sand with a scribe. The Cartesian views of Israeli land and urban development that are printed, reflect the past century of Modernist building in the country. The drawings are created on four different scales, one assigned to each machine. The first machine is dedicated to the national scale, and it continuously draws out the way in which new towns and settlements were created or changed over the 100-year period. A second machine prints the ways in which different cities were built up over that period. The third operates at the level of the neighborhood, and the fourth creates images of individual buildings.

Aerial View of Rishon Lezion, photo by Moshe Milner

Aerial View of Rishon Lezion, photo by Moshe Milner

The technique of sand printing is particularly appropriate because of the way the media can continually be reshaped, the malleability of the sand in the face of the metal scribe, and the top down nature of the creation, both in terms of planning and in viewing. The carvings are made and then erased and then made again; a reference to the blank slate approach often taken in Israeli architecture.

Music plays in the background, emphasizing the relentless and rhythmic shaping and reshaping of the soft sand. The repetition and automation resembles the more unimaginative architecture of sameness, home to 80% of the population of Israel, and which Yelea-Golan has dubbed ‘Boring Architecture’. She discusses the existence of this project as an obvious critique of much of Israeli development discourse, that has portrayed Israel as being built up where nothing existed. Each time the printer erases all of its history to start overlaying anew, it is at the junction between ancient desert sands and modern automation, that allows for no impact from what came before.

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Israeli Pavilion Sand Printers photo by Francesco Allegretto

Then, of course, there is also a message of the impermanence of all things, the brutality of mechanized oppression, and the question of how to move forward without simply undoing. Offering the answer to any of the questions that the exhibit raises, is beyond the scope and power of either the display or the curators. However, it is an important piece of self-exploration made possible by the very advances in The Modern, that can be either aides to, or weapons against, humanizing mark-making in the built environment.

Israeli Pavilion Sand Printers photo by Francesco Allegretto

Israeli Pavilion Sand Printers photo by Francesco Allegretto

What do you think about these artful representations, using a type of 3D printing that isn’t meant to last? Although the printers only print on a plain, the resulting prints are somewhat three dimensional.  Discuss in the Sand Printing thread on 3DPB.com

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