“Making” A Statement: An Exploration of Using 3D Printing Technologies for Customisation and Ownership within Urban Spaces



This article explores recent advances in our thinking about space and place, as well as emerging opportunities for customising and taking ownership of these spaces, to create a socially engaging collaborative environment for the creative city. Using street art and graffiti culture as a model for creative inclusivity, we explore new ways of collecting and configuring data in the built environment and the design opportunities they present. In doing so, we hope to promote discussion and debate into how we may use new media such as 3D printing and associated digital technologies to make provocative statements and elicit responses. To explore 3D printing as a means of customising and taking ownership of space, this research identifies recurring themes in traditional 2D media, as well as more recent manifestations of 3D and 4D media in urban spaces. A taxonomy of precedents combined with a technology review and observational research in the field provides the context for a process of research through design in the form of iterative physical experimentation and reflection. Beginning with abstract experiments, the first stage of testing digital making technologies identifies opportunities provided by different software, materials, scanning and 3D printing processes, at a variety of scales and resolutions. By applying the knowledge gained from the abstract experiments and observational research, different issues relevant to the urban context are identified and responded to using these technologies. The resulting statements are carefully articulated to ensure that they are not only “of the street” but also “of the technology” and thereby serve as examples of “making meaning” through 3D media in an urban context. The works described here demonstrate the emerging and rapidly developing potential for imagining, designing, producing and implementing 3D media in public space.