Ukraine is racing to 3D scan its monuments in case they’re bombed in the war and need restoration

Image shows a 3D digital model of a Ukrainian monument.
Image shows a 3D digital model of a Ukrainian monument.   -   Copyright  AP Photo
By Euronews and AP

As the war in Ukraine rages on, art historians and cultural conservationists in the country continue to count the cost of the Russian invasion.

According to UNESCO, a total of 236 cultural sites including museums, monuments, libraries and religious sites have sustained damage as of January 11 this year.

But amid the destruction and despair, Ukrainians like Lviv-based architect and blogger Julian Chaplinskyy are finding ways to protect their nations cultural heritage using cutting edge-technology.

Several months ago, he launched a fundraiser to create digital copies of the numerous historic monuments that dot Lviv’s city centre, a protected UNESCO world heritage site.

The idea is that by 3D scanning the city’s monuments in minute detail, technicians can create high-fidelity digital models that can aid in their restoration should they come under shelling.

"We saw rockets coming to Kyiv and other cities - to Kharkiv, to the city centre. I see heritage objects one by one being lost. Then the Skovoroda museum burned down. That is [when] I realised that this [war] could have fatal consequences,” said Chaplinskyy.

Eager to avoid the fate of Lviv's Passage of Mikoliash, a famous shopping gallery which was destroyed in 1939 by the Nazi air forces, Chaplinskyyi teamed up with a local firm, Skeiron, with experience in 3D scanning.

Together with local authorities, they agreed on a list of priority buildings and funds were allocated for the project.

To carry out the work, specialists take turns to place a 3D scanner in different locations at each site and record hundreds of photos of the interiors and exteriors. The process can take hours or days, depending on the complexity of the site.

Once recorded, special computer programs ingest the material and generate detailed 3D models.

So far, the team has scanned 40 monuments in the Lviv region and is in a race against time to scan and preserve more of Ukraine’s historic architecture further afield.

For more on this story, watch the video in the media player above.

Video editor • Aisling Ní Chúláin