Beautiful Disaster: Quakescape 3D Fabricator Turns Earthquakes Into Art

Natural disasters are often sudden and quite devastating. There’s nothing easy about leaving one’s entire life behind in order to stay out of their way, and the alternative, staying behind, is even more frightening. No matter how hard we try, humans will never be able to stop extreme weather like Hurricane Sandy, or earthquakes which are part of the planet’s natural tectonic movement. Still, as some in New Zealand are finding out, not everything about earthquakes is ugly or dark.

A team of students who survived the February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch (and the tremors that have continued since then) have built a machine that listens for local earthquake data and paints the phenomenon in color on a topological canvas. Called the Quakescape 3D Fabricator, the device helps transforms the ongoing quakes into something beautiful.

Quakescape, 3D painting, earthquake, natural disaster, New Zealand

Image via James Boock

According to the website of James Boock, one of several student designers who worked on the project, Quakescape is a 3D fabricator that takes earthquake data from the site GeoNet ( and transfers it into the medium of art by using paint and Arduino technology. “The surface that the paint is extruded onto is a CNC routed landscape section of Christchurch. This acts as the blank canvas and allows the paint to move around the landscape creating amazing colourful visuals.”

When a tremor registers in Christchurch, the Quakescape comes to life. It selects a color based on the magnitude of the quake and the G-code powered fabricator positions itself over a representation of the epicenter. “Once location is determined paint is then pumped from the containers through the tubes and extruded out the nozzle. This is the moment where precise magnitudinal data gets transferred into an artform.”

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog

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