3D-Printed Constitution; Perceptions Come Alive

Corridor of Power

“You see things; and you say 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say 'Why not”' - George Bernard Shaw

How many times have we studied Constitutions during our academic days? We learned it by heart, made notes, read reviews, and sat for examinations and even sometimes debated on this age old Constitution. Our perception and view on the Constitution differed from others based on several personal, social, cultural and other parameters. However, in any of those instances, have you ever thought of getting a 3D print of a constitution based on how you look at it? Most probably, you may not even have dreamt about such an innovation, let alone thought about it. Marking the World Creativity and Innovation Day, it is worthwhile to have a look at an interesting model developed by “GroundViews”, the media unit of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), in collaboration with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) Colombo office.

In 2015, CPA launched the “Corridor of Power” project to explain the evaluation of Sri Lanka’s constitution since 1972 in an architectural way by developing building structures. In a series of exhibitions which aimed to trace Sri Lanka's constitutional reform was depicted in a pictorial manner using large format drawings, 3D flyovers, sketches, and models reflecting the power dynamics enshrined in the Constitution.

As an extension to this project, in February 2020, CPA launched the “Frames of Power” project, which is an innovative web platform for citizens to visually model & compare perceptions of constitutional powers. This model helps to expose and explore the perceptions of political power individuals hold, from acceptance to resistance. The project was a joint initiative of Sanjana Hattotuwa led by the input of Asanga Welikala, in collaboration with Channa Daswatte. The inventors have highlighted that they have observed both demographical and geographical differences in the perceptions among the Sri Lankans. When researching, they have found out that;

“Older men and women spoke of their memories of the constitutional changes, and referendum. Younger members of the public, including children in school, were drawn in by the designs on display to talk about how they saw political power located in or exercised through executive, parliament and judiciary. Parents spoke of their fears and anxieties around violence in the future that would impact the lives of their children, because of the systemic flaws in our present constitution.

Teenagers and undergraduates spoke of aspirations and how a new constitution could create a context and conditions ripe for their fulfilment. Those in the South engaged differently to those in the North and East, critiquing different aspects of constitutional change. Those within the South didn’t agree either, with audiences in Colombo generating very different conversations to those who are in Galle.”

The main objective of the "Frames of Power" is to create a way in which a visual pastiche of models, which can also be 3D printed physically. These 3D models are expected to reflect the differences of the perception of contemporary Sri Lankan society on the constitutional authority and political power, based on their demographics and geographical location. The “Frames of Power” project website enables any individual to create 3D models which portray an accurate visual representation of what you perceive the constitution to be. They can also be printed out through a 3D printer. A registered user can make a single model, with infinite changes allowed over time.

Sanjana and his team of innovators want to adopt this as a universal model. In their own words; “The goal of this platform is to create a visual gallery - the first of its kind in the world - that captures complementary and competing visions of what citizens think of power and its exercise in Sri Lanka. The framework can be adapted for and adopted in any country. Just as Corridors of Power, through the marriage of architecture and constitutional theory, pioneered an entirely new way of looking at over 70 years of Sri Lanka's constitutional evolution, Frames of Power will over time showcase our diversity, hopes, anxieties and resilience, even in the face of the greatest adversity.”

Marking its timeliness and creativity, this project won an award from the Fast Company “World Changing Ideas” in 2018. As a second step, the project titled “Frames of Power” allowed people to create digital representations of their own perceptions of power in the constitution. Frames of Power has been selected as an honorable mention in the Experimental category as part of Fast Company’s 2019 World Changing Ideas Awards.