Cutting-edge technology is memorialising Ukraine’s historic buildings
Volunteers are banding together to conserve the memory of significant monuments
image Gleb Albovsky
words Eve Walker
Since Russia invaded Ukraine three months ago, many of the country’s most significant and historic buildings have been destroyed. Now cultural experts are using 3D scans to conserve the memory of their monuments.
French engineer Emmanuel Durand, a specialist in 3D data acquisition is volunteering to assist a team of architects, engineers, historic building experts and a museum director to record buildings in Ukrainian cities; Kyiv, Lviv, Chernigiv and Kharkiv. To map the building, a laser scanner is placed in the corner of the buildings which records its dimensions from all angles. Once this is done, the data is assembled on a computer, “like the pieces of a jigsaw”.
Durand says “The scanner records 500,000 points per second. We'll get 10 million points from this location. Then we'll change location and go round the whole building, outside and inside. A billion points in all.”
A map is then created that is accurate to within just five millimetres, and can even be rotated in any direction, or sliced into smaller parts.
“This enables us to map out the building for the future. That could help us work out if anything has moved, which is important for safety purposes, and see what can be restored and what can't. It's also useful from a historical point of view,” he adds.
Architect Kateryna Kuplytska, who is also a member of the team documenting damaged heritage sites, explains, “Recording the destruction will also assist in criminal proceedings. We see serious damage to heritage across the whole country. It's genocide towards Ukrainian people and genocide towards Ukrainian culture”.
There has been some criticism that documenting historic buildings while the war is still ongoing is inappropriate, and not the best use of resources. However, Tetyana Pylyptshuk, the director of the Kharkiv literary museum, argues that it is vital to the future of Ukraine.
“Culture is the basis of everything. If culture had developed well, people probably wouldn't be dying and there wouldn't be a war," she says, explaining that "Today, everyone realises this. Maybe they were not so attentive to our cultural heritage before... but when you lose it, it hurts.”