May 2, 2017 | By Tess

For over half a decade the civil war in Syria has taken its toll on the country, devastating its population, its landscape, and its culture. And while there is no resolution in sight for the ongoing conflict, there are at least some efforts to preserve and save—in any way possible—vestiges of Syria’s rich history and culture.

One such effort, known by the name #NEWPALMYRA, is doing its part to capture lost landmarks and monuments from the ancient city of Palmyra, using 3D scanning and 3D printing. More than just trying to preserve, however, #NEWPALMYRA is using technology to reconstruct and think of the future of Palmyra in an accessible, open-source way.

An ancient wealthy trade center in the Middle East, Palmyra was recognized in 1980 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a declaration which aimed to protect the ancient city’s many temples, monuments, and architectural ruins. In 2015, however, the city was overrun and taken over by the terror organization ISIS, which proceeded to destroy and damage much of the city. Since then, Palmyra has gone between ISIS and Syrian control. Most recently, the Syrian Army regained control of the site in March 2017.

Tetrapylon in Palmyra before destruction

(Image: High Contrast) 

The Tetrapylon, one of the most famous monuments in Palmyra, was one casualty of ISIS’ invasion, as the impressive structure was destroyed earlier this year. Recently, however, a 3D printed version of the Tetrapylon was unveiled, a gesture which showed that while the original structure (constructed in about  AD 270) is physically gone, it is not forgotten and still exists in some way.

The two-meter-tall 3D printed Palmyra structure, which was realized by #NEWPALMYRA, was recently unveiled at the Creative Commons Summit, which took place from April 28-30 in downtown Toronto.

3D printed Tetrapylon detail
(Image: Matthew Braga/CBC)

The 3D printed Tetrapylon was 3D printed using a plastic material on Texas-based re:3D’s large-scale Gigabot 3D printer. According to re:3D co-founder Matthew Fiedler, the 90 kg monument took about 800 hours to print and cost between $15,000 and $20,000 to complete, making it the largest installation the company has ever worked on.

An important aspect of #NEWPALMYRA’s work is its open-access nature. In other words, the initiative has continually emphasized the importance of not only digitally preserving Syria’s lost cultural monuments, but of making them accessible for education and creative purposes. The Tetrapylon’s 3D model, for instance, is licensed under a CC0, a public domain creative commons license that allows anyone to view, remix, and edit the work in question.

#NEWPALMYRA is also trying to draw attention towards Syrian activist Bassel Khartabil, an open-source software developer who was working for many years to capture and digitally render Palmyra’s impressive structures to share them with the world. In 2012, Khartabil was arrested by the Syrian military and has been unheard of since 2015.

By making Khartabil’s work more visible through various platforms (online and via 3D printing), the #NEWPALMYRA project is hoping to raise awareness about his plight and circumstances in the hopes that he will be released. On a larger level, the effort is aiming to educate people around the world about Syria’s rich culture and heritage.

Barry Threw, the interim director of #NEWPALMYRA, said of the project: “A preservation project is the wrong way to think about this. We're looking forward more than backward, taking this place that's a symbolic battleground for control over the Syrian cultural identity and its people, and sort of freeing it, digitally.”

(Image: Matthew Braga/CBC)

Ryan Merkley, the CEO of Creative Commons and the person who conceived of displaying the 3D printed Tetrapylon, added: “People talk a lot about [how] the content is free. But what's even more important is that the content is accessible. That anybody anywhere can see, and sometimes even touch, these things is remarkable. And I think we get jaded and don't realize how powerful that can be.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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