2019 Yearbook

44 Y E A R B O O K 2 0 1 9 3D DIGITISATION ALEXY KARENOWSKA O VER THE last decade, increased accessibility of novel digital modelling and recording tools has had a transformative effect on the theory and practise of architecture and civil engineering. The digital third dimension, once the reserve of specialist enterprises able to justify the significant cost of software and investment in the professional expertise required to make use of it, is now available to all. In the context of historic sites, buildings, and monuments, the impact of this democratisation has been extremely significant. Precise digital documentation tools allow cultural assets and their states of repair to be recorded economically with unprecedented accuracy and completeness; augmented reality models bring archaeological sites to life for the public; virtual reality models enable threatened structures to be studied remotely by professionals thousands of miles apart; and digital fabrication tools working in concert with computer models can be used for repair and reconstruction. The last ten years have also, tragically, seen a growth in devastating attacks on architectural cultural property. Variously, for reasons of ideology, financial gain, or greed for power, extremist and militant groups have targeted archaeological and cultural sites across the world. While the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddahs by the Taliban in 2001 drew widespread outcry and criticism, it was not until 2015 when the long-time custodian of the Syrian archaeological site of Palmyra, Professor Khaled Al-Asaad, was murdered and the site decimated by extremists, that the issue received sustained attention in the mainstream western press and became a topic of visible public debate. Even then, it took some time for reasoned responses to the destruction of Palmyra’s monuments to catch up with people’s intuitions. Graphic images of the violence sparked horror across the world, but the world did not immediately understand why. Initially, there were widespread attempts to try to account for the emotional response in scholarly terms. There was talk of the archaeological significance of the site, its age, the rebellions and aggressions of times past that the buildings had survived, and the technical accomplishments of their architects. It took time for it to be widely recognised that the reason the damage upset people so deeply actually had little to do with any of these things. Taken at face value, ancient monuments are, to borrow from Francis Bacon’s 1605 book, The Advancement of Learning , no more than ‘history defaced’ or ‘remnants of history which have casually escaped the shipwreck of time’. We may be able to justify their inclusion in Palmyra’s triumphal arch was constructed in the 3rd century AD under Roman rule and was a good example of the fusion of eastern and western architectural styles. (Photo: Daniel Demeter) Palmyra’s triumphal arch today, following its destruction by the Islamic State in 2015 (All remaining photos: the Institute for Digital Archaeology)