3D Printing in a Redwood Forest

3D Printing & Imaging Craft & Design


As part of the Project 387 artist residency program nestled on a 150-acre property in the redwood forests of Northern California, Oakland-based Smith|Allen Studio brought large-scale 3D printing to the woods. What they created is a 10’x10’x8′ architectural structure titled Echoviren, which was entirely 3D printed in sections using plant-based PLA on a small army of seven Type A Machines printers. The printers ran for a total of 10,800 hours to print the 500 individual pieces.


From Smith|Allen:

Echoviren is a translucent white enclosure, stark and artificial against the natural palette of reds and greens 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. This artificial frame draws the viewer up from the plane of the forest, through a forced perspective into the canopy.

The structure was assembled though a paneled snap fit connection, merging individual components into a monolithic aggregation. From breaking ground to finish, the prefab 3D printed construction technique required for only 4 days of on-site building time. Entirely composed of 3D-printed plant-based PLA bio-plastic, the space will decompose naturally back into the forest in 30 to 50 years. As it weathers, it will become a micro-habitat for insects, moss, and birds. A graft within the space of the forest, Echoviren is a space for contemplation of the landscape, of the natural, and our relationship with these constructs. It focuses on the essence of the forest not as a natural system, but as a palimpsest. The hybridized experience within the piece highlights the accumulated iterations of a site, hidden within contemporary landscapes.

Echoviren exposes an ecosystem of dynamic natural and unnatural interventions: the interplay of man and nature moderated by technology.

The translucent PLA looks ethereal lit from within:

Here is a gallery of Echoviren images, from installation to final product:

6 thoughts on “3D Printing in a Redwood Forest

  1. Alex Friedrich says:

    Looks like the “skeleton” of a cactus.

  2. Sabrina Merlo says:

    sexy documentation!

  3. bonooobong says:

    such a breathtaking installation! big up to the designers/makers who have managed this pure awesomeness!

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at snowgoli@gmail.com or via @snowgoli.

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