A rendering of the Temple of Bel recreation in Trafalgar Square. IDA

And in New York, too.

When the Islamic State blew up the nearly 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel in Palmyra, Syria, last summer, one could be forgiven for thinking the world would never see the building’s façade ever again.

But the structure’s 50-foot arch survived—and this April, it’s coming to England. Thanks to 3D printing, a reproduction will be installed in London’s heavily-trafficked Trafalgar Square.

The copy comes via the Institute for Digital Archaeology’s Million Image Project. It is a collaboration between UNESCO and the IDA, which is a partnership between Harvard University, the University of Oxford, and Dubai’s Museum of the Future. The project has armed a number of volunteer photographers with lightweight, high-quality 3D cameras and charged them with scanning important, threatened sites across the Middle East and North Africa.

(IDA)

Though the Temple of Bel was destroyed before photographers could get it into IDA’s database, researchers were able to reproduce part of the ancient building with help from thousands of two-dimensional images.

The arch will be printed in segments and then assembled at two display sites—Trafalgar Square and a to-be-determined setting in New York—as part of a larger IDA celebration of World Heritage Week.

(IDA)

The aim of the proposed installation on Trafalgar Square is to draw international attention to the global crisis surrounding the looting and destruction of cultural heritage objects,” Alexy Karenowska, IDA’s director of technology, writes in an email.

Beyond that, though, she says the organization hopes the installation celebrates the beauty “and significance of these objects to the everyday lives of modern people.”

The gesture is particularly poignant for this temple, which was used throughout the centuries by Mesopotamians, Christians, and finally Muslims as a place of worship. In the 1st and 2nd centuries, Palmyra sat the crossroads of Greco-Roman and Arab cultures, and produced distinctively beautiful art and architecture.  Before it was destroyed, the Temple of Bel was regarded as one of the best-preserved remains of the era.

The Temple of Bel, prior to the Islamic State’s invasion of Palmyra. The front arch is the portion of the temple that IDA will recreate in London and New York. (Wikimedia Commons/Bernard Gagnon)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Transportation

    A Horrifying Glimpse Into Your Dystopian Future Transit Commute

    A comic artist’s take on what the future of transportation might really feel like.

  2. A cyclist rides on the bike lane in the Mid Market neighborhood during Bike to Work Day in San Francisco,
    Perspective

    Why Asking for Bike Lanes Isn't Smart

    In the 1930s big auto dreamed up freeways and demanded massive car infrastructure. Micromobility needs its own Futurama—one where cars are marginalized.

  3. Two men look over city plans at a desk in an office.
    Equity

    The Doomed 1970s Plan to Desegregate New York’s Suburbs

    Ed Logue was a powerful agent of urban renewal in New Haven, Boston, and New York City. But his plan to build low-income housing in suburbia came to nought.

  4. Design

    How Charlotte Perriand Defined Modern Design

    The pioneering French designer and architect is the subject of a new retrospective at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris.

  5. Supporters of the Hong Kong protests hold signs reading "Macau stands with Hong Kong" and "Tear gas only makes Hong Kong cry harder."
    Life

    A Polarized City, Mirrored in Its Diaspora

    Hong Kong’s protests have pitted relatives and friends against one another, including those who no longer live in the city.

×