Virginia San Fratello on Wandering in the Age of Covid

The architect-designer explicates the connections between wandering around Colorado’s San Luis Valley and her experiments in 3D printing.

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Virginia San Fratello’s 3D-printed Casa Covida Courtesy Elliot Ross

I can’t think if my legs aren’t moving. I went out for a walk to think about what I might write for this column and realized that walking enables me. For over a decade, I have been walking in the southern parts of the high desert of the San Luis Valley where it meets the Taos Plateau, which spans southern Colorado and northern New Mexico. The ground in this region has been used to make buildings and pottery for thousands of years, and as I wander its volcanic landscape, I collect the ground. It is my medium for 3D-printing ceramics and buildings such as the Casa Covida, pictured here, a house for cohabitation and respite during the time of COVID. Right now this ground is covered with snow. The surrounding mountains look like alabaster, and the sky closest to the earth is filled with icy cirrus clouds. It feels like I’m walking through a vast white canvas where my mind can wander. As I walk, I contemplate a future where additive manufacturing can interface with natural phenomena—such as earth and snow—outside of the lab and outside of the factory, and I realize this is my way forward.

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Virginia San Fratello is cofounder with Ronald Rael of the multidisciplinary studio Rael San Fratello. Earlier this year, Teeter-Totter Wall, their temporary installation with Colectivo Chopeke along the U.S.–Mexico border, was named a Beazley Design of the Year by London’s Design Museum. Courtesy Elliot Ross

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