When I first saw the image above I was sure it was a painting, and in a way it is. That image is part of a 3d laser scanning project in Harar, Ethiopia. Charles Matz, a professor of interior design at NYIT (New York Institute of Technology), is leading a geospatial surveying project to collect and document data for the city of Harar, Ethiopia, aimed to restore the gates and walls of the medieval town.
Civil engineers from Addis Ababa University are working alongside Matz, and the results so far are breathtaking.
From images that look like expressionist paintings, to others that seem to have photographed ghosts, they capture the busy markets with people coming and going, the colorful dresses, the shadows, and the texture of the walls.
I think that something similar was done before with the rock churches of Lalibela, another UNESCO World Heritage site, and also at an old Jesuit Mission in the Region of Lake Tana. Here is an interesting article about that last one with lots of technical information.
3D scanning h as become more and more common, and it’s widely used to document historical sites to help restoring them.
Beyond the interesting scientific facts, I think that the images in the particular case of Harar are extraordinarily beautiful, and make me want to visit the place:
3D Laser Scanning of the Churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia World Monument Fund 3D Documentation Using Terrestrial Laser Scanning of the Remains of the Jesuit Mission in the Region of Lake Tana, Ethiopia E Conservation Magazine
Virtual Reconstruction of the Almqah temple of Yeha in Ethiopia by terrestrial laser scanning (.pdf) by M. LINDSTAEDT 1, K. MECHELKE 2, M. SCHNELLE 3 and Th. KERSTEN 1