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An Atlas of Dust

May 3 – May 14, 2021
Across New York City
Research Question

This workshop will teach students to document, analyze and interpret the atmospheric pollution that is encrusted on the building facades of the Columbia campus. Students will achieve an understanding of existing buildings as long term passive environmental sensors that can give us clues to past microclimates.

Students will work in and out of the Preservation Technology Lab, in collaboration with the CyArk Foundation, which is specialized in the 3D capture of heritage sites, data processing, and creating immersive experiences that convey the power of built heritage.

Project questions include:

  • Is it possible to map, document, isolate and visualize in 3D the layer of dust encrusted on building facades?
  • If so, can we recognize discernable patterns of how the dust settled on the facades?
  • What can these dust patterns teach us about the history of the weather and environmental pollution?
  • Can we learn to read buildings as long term environmental sensors encrypted with valuable material data about pollution?
Methodology

Through hands-on training led by Professor Jorge Otero-Pailos in collaboration with the CyArk Foundation, students will learn to 3D scan buildings using laser scanning and photogrammetry. We will 3D scan buildings on the Columbia campus. Students will:

  • learn how to process the data into 3D models viewable online.
  • experiment with various digital imaging techniques to isolate the layers of dust on the buildings so they can be visualized independently.
  • learn to analyze and interpret the dust patterns by correlating the 3D maps of dust with historical weather and pollution information, including prevailing winds, yearly rainfall, and historical air quality data.
  • learn digital humanities tools for making their analysis and interpretations available to the public through tagging videos and documents to the 3D dust patterns and 3D building scans.
Output and Findings
The workshop will result in interactive 3D scans of buildings that allow the public to visualize the patterns of pollution and understand their meaning and value for understanding climate change.

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