Sanford Mine Model

SITU collaborated with C&G Partners to design the centerpiece of the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitors Center: a detailed model of the Sanford’s underground mine and laboratory.

The center, designed by Dangermond Kean Architects, documents the history and scope of what was once the largest gold mine in North America and what is now home to an advanced underground research facility. Our role was to efficiently produce a 3D model the entire underground system—which consisted of 370 miles of tunnels and extended to a depth of 8,000 ft—and to precisely fabricate a physical model at a scale of 1:1500.

The scale and complexity of the project required a multifaceted fabrication process combining digital tools with hand craft. Using our CNC machine, we milled the primary tunnels out of aluminum plates and suspended the pieces with stainless steel cables. Extending between the primary tunnels are sinuous ramps that were 3D printed in SLA resin. Above, the South Dakota landscape appears as a thin single-inch shell, milled out of polyurethane foam.

The model is nested between two large mirrors allowing visitors to view the piece from above and below. Carefully assembled by hand, the final piece measures 17-ft long and 12-ft tall and serves as educational device at the heart of the Visitor’s Center.


South Dakota Science and Technology Authority


C&G Partners


Lead, SD