M.C. Escher's two-dimensional renderings of impossible feats of architecture are endlessly fascinating to look at, precisely because they could not exist as three-dimensional objects. Or could they? Gershon Elber, a computer science professor at the Israel Institute of Technology, has manipulated Escher's optical illusions so that they can be fabricated with a 3D printer.
So just how does Elber create 3D versions of creations like Escher's Belvedere and Waterfall? Well, he cheats. Just as the objects appear plausible in 2D, so too can 3D objects replicate the illusion if viewed from a certain angle. Using computer-aided design software, Elber manipulated illusions designed by Escher and others so that they could be fabricated as a physical object, while maintaining the illusion from that one angle. He then used a 3D printer to fabricate the resulting objects. Seeing the illusions in 3D is a strange experience. At first glance, these do look like solutions to the problems posed by the illusions, but then when the objects are rotated, we see all the wonky components used in their creation. Elber has more of these 3D illusions at his site, Escher Made Real.