Erasing Isis: how 3D technology now lets us copy and rebuild entire cities

Erasing isis: how 3d technology now lets us copy and rebuild entire cities
Copies of the Temple of Bel’s entrance arch were replicated in London and New York as a symbol of defiance / ©Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images

As the V&A’s special pavilion at the Venice Biennale shows, we now have the technology to create perfect copies of cities – but should we?

The 2,000-year-old city of Palmyra was once Syria’s most popular tourist attraction. Walking through the Roman Great Colonnade to the Temple of Bel, with the sun setting and the stones turning gold and pink in the desert light, you felt a deep connection across the centuries to the city’s heyday.

When Isis fighters stormed Palmyra and destroyed some of the most precious parts of this ancient city, the world was aghast.

Then came the surprise, now unveiled in Trafalgar Square: a faithful, 3D-printed replica of the Triumphal Arch of the Temple of Bel, which Isis had reduced to rubble.

It turns out that while Isis was advancing on the city, the Institute of Digital Archaeology (IDA) had, along with Unesco, been distributing 3D cameras to volunteers in Palmyra. They were aware that in the same way the Taliban blew up the sixth-century Buddha statues in Bamiyan, Afghanistan in 2001, Isis were very likely to destroy much of Palmyra’s ancient heritage.

Boris Johnson called it giving “two fingers to Daesh”, but this remarkable new capability – to rebuild exact copies of urban structures – goes much further. From Palmyra to the Iraqi city of Mosul and the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, new technologies in digital copying and 3D building are allowing us to bring back not just monuments, but entire cities from the rubble. […]

Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today.
Aline Chahine
Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today. Highlights Aline founded Architecture Lab in 2008 Lead editor of dan | dailyarchnews since 2019 Founded and Creative Director of DesignRaid Licensed architect with creative sales and marketing experience Experience As full-fledged architect, Aline's background involved a great deal of research that lead to the creation of Architecture Lab as an online database of exemplary design. Her experience snowballed into founding two architecture platforms, Architecture Lab and DesignRaid. Education Aline received USEK’s Master of Architecture in 2004 and BA in English from the University of Toronto
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About Architecture Lab Architecture Lab is a MKR.S Media brand, a website devoted to extraordinary design and aesthetics aiming to promote exceptional aesthetic values and sustainable design in all it's shapes and sizes. Learn more about us and our editorial process and feel free to contact us if you would like to see something in particular on the website, our certified experts will get back to you with the most trustworthy advice as soon as possible. Read all articles by Aline | Follow her on LinkedIn

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