A year after the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria was destroyed by the Islamic State, a 3D-printed recreation of one of its most iconic structures has begun its world tour. Originally erected in London’s Trafalgar square in April, on Monday, the replica of Palmyra’s Arch of Triumph was unveiled in its new location outside city hall in New York City.
In August of last year, many of the most precious landmarks of the ancient city of Palmyra were damaged or destroyed by the forces of ISIS in a violent, iconoclastic attempt to send a message to the rest of the world. Since the UNESCO World Heritage Site was recaptured in March, the question in the architectural preservation community has been how to rebuild and preserve the buildings. That process will begin, of course, with a thorough assessment of the damage.
Shortly after Palmyra was recaptured Iconem, a French company which specializes in the digitization of archeological sites, arrived in Palmyra to lead the survey. In partnership with the Syrian DGAM (Direction Générale des Antiquités et des Musées), Iconem was granted access to the city to survey the damage to the temples of Bel and Baalshamin, the Monumental Arch, the Valley of Tombs, and the museum—all sites which are of the most cultural value and therefore were the greatest targets of ISIS's violence.
Last May, Islamic State forces took control of Palmyra, one of the world's most treasured UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In the proceeding months, the world looked on in shock as ISIS released a series of videos showing the destruction of the priceless ruins. Last month however, the ancient city was recaptured, marking the beginning of a difficult discussion about what the international preservation community should do next.
ArchDaily had the opportunity to interview Stefan Simon, the Inaugural Director of the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (IPCH) at Yale University, an organization “dedicated to advancing the field of heritage science by improving the science and practice of conservation in a sustainable manner.” Simon earned his PhD in Chemistry from the Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, and has broad experience in material deterioration diagnostics, microanalytics, climatology, and non-destructive mechanical testing. He previously served as Director of the Rathgen Research Laboratory at the National Museums in Berlin, as a member and Vice President of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), and as leader of the Building Materials section at the Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, in 2005, among numerous other accomplishments.
The conversation that focused on cultural preservation in the wake of conflict, and specifically, how to proceed in Palmyra now that the Syrian site has been wrenched back from the control of the Islamic State. The tragic case of Palmyra guided a conversation that sought out specificity on the options and considerations that must be taken in the wake of trauma.
The Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA), a joint-venture between Harvard University (US), the University of Oxford (UK) and Dubai’s Museum of the Future (UAE) have announced that they will replicate a structure of architectural significance that was destroyed earlier this year by IS, or 'Islamic State', at full scale in the centre of London and New York City. The arch—all that remains of the Temple of Bel at the Syrian UNESCO World Heritage site—was captured by militants in May and destroyed. By no means an isolated case, IS have looted and demolished a number of similar architectural and anthropologically important sites that "pre-date Islam in Iraq," condemning them as "symbols of idolatry."