Ben Kacyra and his company, CyArk, photograph World Heritage sites using cameras, surveying equipment, and lasers, all of which allow architects and historians to view historic buildings and monuments in splendid three-dimensional detail.
Hundreds of people have taken photographs of the Presidio’s Officers’ Club, one of the oldest buildings in San Francisco, but none have taken one quiet like digital imaging company CyArk. Armed with a high-def camera, surveying equipment, and lasers that generate 3-D data points, CyArk founder and TEDGlobal 2011 speaker Ben Kacyra and his team captured layers of images of the old Bay Area army outpost. The result wasn’t merely a photo print or JPG. Instead, they got an exact digital rendering of the site, inside and out, that can be rotated like an architectural CAD model and viewed as a virtual tour with breathtaking detail. Wall framing, roof rafters, and even pock marks in the exterior stone are clearly visible.
The Presidio is only the latest project for CyArk. Kacyra founded his Oakland, California-based company in 2002 after the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan. That’s when he decided to use his laser scanning technology to capture the globe’s World Heritage Sites threatened by weather or human aggression and couldn’t be safely housed in a museum. Kacyra and CyArk have captured dozens of locations already, including Ancient Thebes, Mount Rushmore, and Tikal in Guatemala. There are plans to digitally preserve the wreck of Titanic.
Another key part of CyArk’s mission is to make the digital archives publically available. Once a site is documented, Kacyra and his team upload the data to an open source site so that anyone can take a virtual tour of the historic hot spot. “Our heritage is much more than our collective memory,” said Kacyra from the stage at TEDGlobal 2011. “It’s our collective treasure. We owe it to our children, grandchildren, and generations we will never meet to save our heritage and pass it along.”