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Microscopic Castles Project by Muniz and Coelho

A sand castle would typically be composed out of an uncountable number of grains. That’s the way it has always been, and that’s the way it will continue to exist. Twists are good though, like the work of artist Vik Muniz and artist/researcher Marcelo Coelho that involves etching microscopic castles on a single grain of sand.

Muniz is best known for his massive drawings that could be seen from helicopters. Then one day, he thought what if a drawing could be both miniature and monumental at the same time. That would eventually lead to the conception of these majestic castles drawn on grains of sand, many of these grains are hardly more than half a millimeter in length.

Coelho and Muniz put their heads together and devised a very complicated, highly technical process that would allow them to etch patterns on grains of sand. To start, Muniz created sketches of the castles using an 1807 invention, the camera lucida. The device projects the subject, or images in front of the viewer onto a piece of paper on which the artist is working. This allowed Muniz to trace the tiny castles.

On the next step, Coelho worked with these tiny drawings to find a way to etch them into sand. Several attempts destroyed the sand or were too difficult to view. After having worked for nearly four years on the problem, Coelho finally turned to Focused Ion Beam (FIB) and the project became a reality.

The drawings are so tiny, that each grain has to be scanned about nine times before the visual is clear enough to be printed. The macrophotographs are then displayed as four feet wide images.

Via Vice