‘Making’ Statements (2017)

‘Making’ Statements (2017)

Mark Bagley

‘Making’ a Statement – Exploration of 3D Printing Technologies as a form of Customisation and Ownership in Urban Spaces (2017)

Being surrounded by Wellington’s street art awakened Mark’s interest in the cultures of both graffiti and street art as a form of provocation in the urban context, and the opportunity to give passers-by cause to stop and think about an issue that they may not otherwise register. His background in design also gave him cause to consider how this traditional 2D form of expression could be enhanced with new forms of 3D digital media, by creating location-specific 3D printed installations in public spaces to spark discussion and debate.

This includes expanding on the traditional concept of ‘tagging’ in public spaces with new forms of ‘digital tagging’ through technologies like QR codes or RFID tags. These could link to artists’ personal blogs or social media, as well as connecting to topical concerns through news media and other open forums. This also opens up the opportunity for new cooperative systems of making where the wider public could also collaborate in the production of installations through a system of crowdsourcing ideas, anonymously or otherwise, and implement these ideas in a similar fashion to the Tui Breweries ‘Yeah right’ billboards.

Mark’s thesis “‘Making’ A Statement – Exploration of 3D printing technologies as a form of customisation and ownership in urban spaces” emerged from this background and he set about developing a number of speculative scenarios to test its potential. This initially involved a range of in situ abstract experiments to test different software, materials, scanning and 3D printing processes, at a variety of scales and resolutions, before identifying site specific social or cultural controversies and customising 3D printed interventions in response to their physical and social context.

What have we lost?

A concrete waterfront foundation fractured by the 2016 magnitude 7.8 Kaikoura earthquake provided the first location and a unique opportunity to question the built environment by exposing as if by chance, the hidden remnants of a Moa, New Zealand’s extinct giant flightless bird – in much the same way that fossils are exposed at archaeological sites. It serves as a symbolic reminder of what we have lost by paving over millennia of ecosystems. The QR code embedded in the ‘fossilised’ skull links to the National Museum of New Zealand (Te Papa) just a short stroll away, where passers-by can find out more about the demise of the Moa.

Public Endangerment

The second scenario stems from an article published online, discussing the urgent need for earthquake strengthening after the Kaikoura earthquake and the risk that non-compliant heritage buildings in Wellington pose to the public. The large 3D printed chunk of fractured cornice from a nearby façade ejected into the pedestrian zone of Wellington’s popular Cuba Street serves as a ground zero reminder of the consequences. If the point isn’t sufficiently clear, the QR code connects to the original article.

Confrontational Begging

This third scenario responded to the long-standing and complex issue of confrontational begging at key locations such as ATMs and food courts. This scenario tested our large-scale printing capabilities to the limit with a full-size 3D printed avatar of a homeless person to be placed at key locations as a less aggressive reminder of the issue. The QR code connects to the original article and could connect to a donation scheme for local foodbank projects.

Just for Fun

The final scenario is a light-hearted response to a much-loved Wellington icon – the “Solace in the Wind” sculpture by artist Max Patte. The 3D printed installation captures a spontaneous or innocent and child-like attempt to desperately save “Solace” from his fate.

These scenarios show that using 3D media as a means of customising or claiming public space is in its infancy and as the technology grows in scale and complexity, the potential for customised, co-created, digitally-generated and physically-augmented environments has yet to reach its full, as yet, unimagined potential.

Materials and Processes – close-up


CAD modelling software – Autodesk Remake, Autodesk ReCap, Rhino5, Simplify3D, MakeHuman, Blender and Meshmixer.


3D printers – UP BOX and the BigRep.

 Project level

Master of Design Innovation Research Portfolio submission (MDI), supervisor Simon Fraser

External Partners

The project was supported by the New Zealand Product Accelerator.  

The International  Journal of Design in Society. For a download of the article please click the following link: Making a Statement PDF