[Event Summary] A Future in 3D

Cultural Heritage Preservation – looking to the future

Dr Alexy Karenowska began her talk by describing how important our buildings are to us.  Our emotional response can be as strong  as any aesthetic consideration. A loss of our cultural heritage can be deeply wounding. Alexy gave the example of  the Old Town Market Place in Warsaw which was devastated during WW2. In the 1950s it was completely restored to its pre-war appearance. Such was the priority accorded to a collection of buildings. There were many photographs and drawings available making the restoration possible.

The Million Image Database Program will preserve a record of many important structures and artefacts. There is an unfortunate and destructive trade in the sale of ancient artefacts and there is often no photographic record to prove their provenance. It is hoped that the database could help to prevent their export and sale on the open market. Ancient buildings can be under threat both from neglect or deliberate damage as in the case of Palmyra.

It is planned by February 2016 to have 5,000 3D cameras distributed in Syria and the Middle East for downloading images onto the database and in due course 1 million 3D cameras will be distributed worldwide. As there is some danger the organisers were concerned that there would not be enough volunteers in Syria to take the detailed images. But such is the importance placed on preserving their heritage that there have been many more volunteers than needed.

Work in is in progress to convert the camera images into 3D computer models and from there to actual 3D printed buildings. The project team have printed out a scale model and this is accurate in every detail, down to the moss stains under the arch.  The tops of tall buildings can be photographed by aeroplane or where that would be dangerous, such as a war zone, drones could be used.

There is proof of concept of the 3D printing of buildings. The example that Alexy gave was a Chinese project where some basic houses were printed out in 24 hours. Such rapid building could be of great use as temporary housing in disaster areas.

Alexy gave us a lively, interesting and thought provoking talk and posed such question as: should the replica be built using the original materials and to their original as new state, would the building be on the original site, should the attention to detail almost look as if deception was intended?