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The Triumphal Arch of Palmyra rebuilt in Trafalgar Square

Il 19 aprile inaugura l’installazione che vede la ricostruzione in 3D dell’arco di trionfo di Palmira a Trafalgar Square, Londra. Con una tecnologia che è anche un po’ italiana

What ISIS has torn down, technology recreates. If not exactly the same as before, at least as a memory of what it once was. Because, in the end, this is another way of fighting terror, fear and ignorance: by trying to preserve the memories of populations that have been torn apart, such as the Syrian one, in any way possible. That is what is taking place in London’s Trafalgar Square starting from the 19th of April. The Triumphal Arch of Palmyra, completely destroyed in October 2015 during ISIS’ occupation of the ancient site, retaken by Syrian government forces in March this year, has been rebuilt in the middle of the historic square to two-thirds of its original size thanks to 3D technology. The installation coincides with World Heritage Week.

 

replica triumphal arch palmyra
A replica of the Triumphal Arch of Palmyra in Trafalgar Square, London © Chris Ratcliffe/Getty Images

The project

The initiative involves a number of actors: first of all, Oxford’s Institute of Digital Archaeology, which collected an impressive amount of data thanks to the Million Image Database, an open-access archive of 3D images of at-risk or demolished sites. Since the beginning of 2016, the institute has given around 5,000 cameras to archaeologists working in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as tourists and citizens, with the objective of creating three-dimensional photographs of at-risk monuments and sites in order to use them for educational purposes and eventually recover them. The reconstruction is thus based on a 3D rendering made possible by this database and other resources. UNESCO, the University of Oxford, Dubai’s Museum of the Future and the government of the United Arab Emirates were also involved in the collection of data.

 

A technological feat

The Triumphal Arch of Palmyra was rebuilt almost to scale; two Italian companies worked with the Institute of Digital Archaeology in supplying the materials, 3D technology, and the labour of sculptors and a robot. Five and a half metres tall, it was carved out of Egyptian marble using the largest 3D printer in the world; it weighs 11 tonnes and cost over 140,000 dollars to make.

[vimeo url=”https://vimeo.com/161046225″]

The Million Image Database

The value of this initiative, naturally, isn’t confined to Palmyra. Whilst the city has become a symbol of the destruction of archaeological historical memory, we mustn’t forget the thousands of so-called “minor” sites that risk destruction due to conflict. “By using digital techniques to map and preserve monuments and other aspects of shared human history, we are able to ensure that nobody can deny history or […] our shared aspiration to live together in harmony,” said Mohammed Abdullah Al Gergawi, Dubai’s Minister of Cabinet Affairs and The Future.

 

After the time spent in Trafalgar Square, three days, the installation will be moved to New York. The ultimate objective is to bring the structure back home to Palmyra with the permission of the Syrian people.

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