A tale of two cities: one real, one virtual

Joy Lo Dico in the Financial Times: “In recent years, digital city-building has become a legitimate part of urban planning. Barcelona, Cambridge and Helsinki are among a number of European cities exploring how copies of themselves could prove useful in making their built environments sharper, faster, cleaner and greener.

What exists in real life is being rendered a second time in the digital space: creating a library of the past, an eagle’s-eye view of the present and, potentially, a vision of the future.

One of the most striking projects has been happening in Ukraine, where technology company Skeiron has, since 2022, been mapping the country’s monuments, under threat from bombing.

The project #SaveUkrainianHeritage has recorded 60 buildings, from the St Sofia Cathedral in Kyiv and the Chernivtsi National University — both Unesco world heritage sites — to wooden churches across the country, something Skeiron’s co-founder Yurii Prepodobnyi mentions with pride. There are thousands of them. “Some are only 20 or 30 square metres,” he says. “But Ukrainian churches keep Ukrainian identity.”

With laser measurements, drone photography and photogrammetry — the art of stitching photographs together — Prepodobnyi and his team can produce highly detailed 3D models.

They have even managed to recreate the exterior of the Mariupol drama theatre, destroyed in the early days of the Ukraine war, after calling for photographs and drone footage.

Another project, in Pompeii, has been using similar digital techniques to capture the evolution of excavations into a 3D model. The Pompeii I. 14 Project, led by Tulane University and Indiana State University, takes the process of excavating buildings within one block of Pompeii, Insula 14, and turns it into a digital representation. Using laser measurements, iPad Pros, a consumer drone and handheld cameras, a space can be measured to within a couple of millimetres. What is relayed back along the stream is a visual record of how a room changes over thousands of years, as the debris, volcanic eruption and layers of life that went before are revealed…(More)”.