Arts & Culture

Desert Breath: How Art Combined the Red Sea and Infinity

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Desert Breath: How Art Combined the Red Sea and Infinity

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Desert Breath | Photo Credit: D.A.ST. Arteam via This is Colossal

From a bird’s eye view, it is a massive, winding structure composed of dotted depressions and meticulous planning. For those on land, it is a series of large, conal dunes and purposeless pits. For Greek artist Danae Stratou, industrial designer Alexandra Stratou, and architect Stella Constantinides (the D.A.ST. Arteam) it is an “exploration of infinity.”

Desert Breath is a land art installation of striking proportion located near the Red Sea by El-Gouna, Egypt. Impossibly immense, it was dug into the Sahara as a nod to its purpose: an infinite spiral set within a seemingly endless natural wonder—the largest African desert.

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Desert Breath | Photo Credit: D.A.ST. Arteam via This is Colossal

It was rooted in the team’s desire to work with a medium as mystical and unknown as the desert. “In our mind’s eye, the desert was a place where one experiences infinity. We were addressing the desert as a state of mind, a landscape of the mind. The point of departure was the conical form, the natural formation of the sand as a material.”

Desert Breath – Qesm Hurghada, Egypt - Atlas Obscura
Desert Breath just after construction | Photo Credit: D.A.ST Arteam via Atlas Obscura

Spanning nearly one million square feet (100,000 square meters), Desert Breath is a statement that demanded equally immense work. The piece saw the displacement of 280,000 square feet (8,000 square meters) of sand, and the installment of a large, central artificial oasis. Sitting between the sea and the body of mountains, it is meant to be a meeting place for the “immensity of the sea and the immensity of the desert.”

Seen from above, the piece is a labyrinth of 89 cones and 89 depressions that spiral outward from one another in “two geometrically precise arms that increase in diameter the farther they get from the central axis.” The precision and mathematical finesse on display set it apart from organic surroundings, but do not forfeit the wonder they bring in tandem with the Sahara’s vastness.

Desert Breath: A Monumental Land Art Installation in the Sahara Desert | Colossal
Desert Breath | Photo Credit: D.A.ST. Arteam via This is Colossal
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Desert Breath | Photo Credit: D.A.ST. Arteam via This is Colossal

Desert Breath saw completion in 1997 after several years of construction under the keen eye of three Greek women dedicated to their vision—D.A.ST. Though made to describe infinity, Desert Breath was built to be finite: the structure is intended to erode and disappear into the landscape from which it was created. Approximately a decade and a half after its installation, the piece was meant to disappear.

Although no longer the size it was when it was first constructed, Desert Breath remains a modern monument that combines present-day learnedness with time-swept, age-old curiosity.

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With a heart for radio and an appetite for culture, Mona is a writer and illustrator based in Cairo. At the Erasmus University Rotterdam, she obtained a BSc and MA in Media, Culture, and Society, while actively writing for the faculty magazine. After graduating, Mona was an academic advisor at the American University in Cairo, as well as Managing Director of a small, campus-based advertising firm. Gears shifting, her knack for cultural research took over - enter: Egyptian Streets. Mona’s focus is tapered to issues of identity politics, culture, and social architecture.

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