Detractors of the recent 3D printing craze often like to point out the technology's wasteful qualities—who really wants another way to create more plastic doohickeys in the world? And while they have a point, more sustainable methods involving biodegradable materials like sugar, sand, and even human tissue are indicating that the technology may prove to be our most sustainable manufacturing method yet.
A new architectural installation from architecture and design studio Smith|Allen called Echoviren explores this relationship between man, machine and nature. The simple 10 x 10 x 8 ft shelter made of white, translucent plant based PLA bio-plastic was fabricated, 3D printed, and assembled on site in the heart of a 150-acre redwood forest. Created as a site-specific installation responding to the particular architectural environment of the ancient forest, the project aims to "expose an ecosystem of dynamic natural and unnatural interventions: the interplay of man and nature moderated by technology over the centuries."
The designers write on their site:
"Echoviren is a simple shelter, a hermitage, a place of temporary rest and contemplation of the forest… Walking around and within the structure, the viewer is immediately consumed by the juxtaposition, as well as uncanny similarity, of natural and unnatural: the large oculus, open floor, and porous surface framing the surrounding coastal landscape."
As it weathers, the structure will decompose naturally and become more fully integrated into the forest ecosystem, becoming a micro-habitat for insects, moss, and birds, and eventually merge back into the soil of the forest in about 30 to 50 years.
Perhaps like all good things of the modern age, ephemerality will extend to the architecture of the future as well.