Venice’s Buildings Are Being Digitally Scanned to Preserve What Climate Change May Destroy

The Grand Canal in Venice on September 9, 2020. ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images

Perhaps the most vivid visual evidence of climate change that the world has recently seen came in the form of orange skies and wildfires in California, but last November, the city of Venice flooded to such an extreme degree that it was impossible to look away. In the aftermath of this disturbing incident, Venetian scholars and art historians banded together in order to do whatever they could to preserve the city’s history and most valuable art objects. Now, a group of scientists working on behalf of the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation have come up with another novel solution for preserving Venice: creating a “digital avatar” of the city using a light-detection and ranging scanner.

According to The Art Newspaper, Adam Lowe, the scientist leading this effort, has an aspiration to scan the totality of the city of Venice so as to capture it eternally before the actual, physical city erodes entirely. He’s working on this project by using LiDAR technology to begin scanning buildings in Venice such as Palladio’s church on the island of San Giorgio. LiDAR scanners work by beaming out pulsating laser lights towards whichever building or structure is being captured; then, the scanners measure how much time elapses before the laser bounces back. LiDAR technology then tabulates the total distance the light beam has travelled, and subsequently records this data in a 3D model.

SEE ALSO: In the Face of Venice Flooding, Is the City Still a Safe Place to Exhibit Art?

Given that the Venetian government as yet has no concrete plans for saving the city, such technologically advanced efforts will likely be very necessary in the years to come. Flood barriers costing up to $2,200 could be installed around the city’s perimeter to beat back encroaching waters, but even that might not be enough. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the sea level’s rise could reach around 30-60cm by the year 2100.

Venice’s Buildings Are Being Digitally Scanned to Preserve What Climate Change May Destroy