Meet Sorin Aldea, a NATO security agent with a talent for 3D-printed sculpting

  • 30 Jun. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 30 Jun. 2023 09:22

Sorin Aldea is a security agent in the Protective Security and Emergency Services Branch of NATO’s Joint Intelligence and Security Division – the people who keep everyone safe at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. A war veteran who served in Afghanistan, this Romanian citizen has a strong passion for his work, and feels proud to support thousands of NATO colleagues; he often refers to the Alliance as a “huge family”. Beyond words, Sorin demonstrates his appreciation for colleagues and senior leaders through unexpected acts of kindness that combine art with technology – creating 3D-printed sculptures of NATO’s most recognisable symbols.

Meet Sorin Aldea, a NATO security agent with a talent for 3D-printed sculpting

“When I see the sacrifice of our leaders, they have this job to keep the Alliance’s citizens safe and it is not an easy task. So, when I do this (3D-printed sculpting), it is a thank you and a gift at the same time. It is a feeling of appreciation that I cannot express in words.”

Sorin first experimented with 3D printing because of another hobby: video games. The former Non-Commissioned Officer in the Romanian Gendarmerie was looking to improve the virtual reality accessories he uses with his gaming console when he discovered the possibility of creating customised, real-life objects using a special printer. After two years of perfecting his 3D-printing skills, Sorin decided to try something more artistic: accurately reproducing the NATO star sculpture using nothing other than plastic filaments, creativity and an incredible attention to detail.

Sorin’s first inspiration was the NATO star, a sculpture that stands in front of NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, next to the flags of all NATO member countries.

The NATO star

When asked about his go-to NATO sculpture – the seven-metre tall sculpture of oxidised steel, which was designed by Belgian architect Raymond Huyberechts, weighs six metric tons and has stood in front of NATO Headquarters for over 50 years – Sorin highlights how the star speaks to the hearts of the NATO staff members.

“I knew I had to go for the star. This is our symbol. If a person from outside of NATO would see this, they would say this sculpture is just a piece of plastic. But for us, it has a totally different meaning.”

From Sorin’s perspective, the NATO star is a perfect representation of the Alliance’s collaborative spirit and its mission of ensuring the safety of its member countries on both sides of the North Atlantic.

“The [first] NATO Secretary General, Lord Ismay, described the star as two combined circles – North America and Europe. Around them, there is a compass guiding the Allies to safety. I think that was the best description of the star given by a Secretary General.”

Sorin had found a purpose for his art. He wanted to “bring back the NATO symbol” by offering replicas to as many NATO staff members as he could, with the purpose of “connecting different departments and delegations”.

To speak to the heart of the receiver, Sorin personalises his 3D-sculpting work. “Each star sculpture has the name of the person and their division at the base – and if the person is military, the replica will feature both the NATO flag and the flag from their country of origin.” In his opinion, all NATO staff members deserve a star because they “have one common goal and a shared direction”.

‘Art speaks louder than words’

In addition to the NATO star sculpture, Sorin has also worked on other visual representations of NATO’s contributions to transatlantic security – including Allied soldiers, symbolic sculptures about war and peace, and a light cube showing scenes from NATO Headquarters. No matter what he makes, the reaction is the same. “When I give out the sculptures, more than 90 per cent of the people have tears in their eyes,” says Sorin. “People are surprised and, by seeing their reactions, I know I have to keep going. What can I say? I am trying to make more people happy.”

Sorin is committed to continue making NATO sculptures for as long as his journey continues at NATO Headquarters. He might not be able to make a 3D-printed sculpture for each of the roughly 4,000 people who work at NATO Headquarters, but he is happy to impact as many as possible.

“NATO means a lot to me. This place of work is something that calls me every day. Being in a military organisation and having a military background, I have a nice feeling coming here. I am proud to be part of this huge family. It is more than I can explain. It is NATO.”