Large scale 3d printed reconstructure of Syrian cultural heritage architecture.

  • Dates: 2017
  • Location: Global
  • Role: Director
  • Collaborators:
    • Jon Phillips
    • Bassel Khartabil
    • Jim Ellis
    • Annie Schneider
Tetrapylon 1
Tetrapylon 2
Tetrapylon 3
Tetrapylon 4
Tetrapylon 5
Tetrapylon 6
Tetrapylon 7

The Tetrapylon a monument in Palmyra, Syria. A four quad-column pylon, or gateway, it would have marked a central place in the city. Palmyra is a desert oasis, a UNESCO world heritage site, and is considered one of the most important global archaeological sites. Since 2015, large sections of Palmyra have been destroyed by ISIL and many of its precious artifacts lost or sold on the global market.

In January 2017, it was confirmed by satellite imagery published in the New York Times that Palmyra’s ongoing destruction by ISIS continues – including this section of the Tetrapylon.

Together re:3d, an Austin-based 3D printing company, Creative Commons, and the #NEWPALMYRA project, a community platform dedicated to the virtual remodeling and creative use of architecture from the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, produced a 200 pound, 7.5 feet tall 3D rendering of one of the Palmyra Tetrapylons.

The #NEWPALMYRA project was begun in 2005 by CC Syria leader Bassel Khartabil, a Palestinian-Syrian open source software developer, educator, and free culture advocate. Working with the publisher Al-Aous and a team of artists in Damascus, Khartabil began remodeling the endangered ruins of Palmyra in 3D until 2012, when he was unlawfully imprisoned by the Syrian government. Much of this work was never published, though Bassel was committed to its free dissemination and use. In 2015, Khartabil was sentenced to death by the Assad regime. His whereabouts remain unknown.

A nonprofit founded by Bassel’s family, friends, and community, #NEWPALMYRA is freeing Syrian culture digitally, providing agency and advancement for the Syrian people through cultural heritage and digital preservation. Khartabil’s visionary work ignited a community that stands for transparency, openness, and free culture and continues to grow via the remix, reuse, and sharing of his foundational work.

re:3D began with a digital 3D model of Palmyra provided by the #NEWPALMYRA team and transformed the digital into the physical using their Gigabot printer, which uses a rope-like filament resembling hot glue to precisely build the model layer by layer. Each layer is between .2-.6 mm thick, depending on layer of detail. The entire structure was assembled from 25 separate pieces with an internal wooden frame for support. It weighs 91kg and took about 800 hours to print.