The laser documentation of the Beth Sholom synagogue, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is taking place in the U.S.A., but the process described could be useful and interesting to preservationists in Europe, where detailed digital documentation may provide an alternative to physical preservation or restoration where such is difficult or impossible.
The synagogue, Wright’s only synagogue, is shaped recall Mt. Sinai and was built between 1954 and 1959 in the Philadelphia suburb Elkins Park. Wright died five months before it was dedicated.
Three backpack-sized scanners mounted on heavy-duty tripods were set in strategic spots inside and outside the landmark building outside Philadelphia this month, slowly rotating 360 degrees while shooting out green pulses of light 50,000 times a second. Each light beam wirelessly transmits a single line of corresponding points to a nearby laptop; row by row, the image takes shape.
It took three days to complete the roughly 40 indoor and 20 outdoor scans needed to digitally map the entire structure’s every nook, cranny and flourish. Next, the hundreds of millions of collected data points will be turned into a three-dimensional scale model of the synagogue.
The project was undertaken by Abington-based DJS Associates, which often performs laser scans to document crime and crash scenes for forensic investigations, and Oakland, Calif.-based CyArk, a nonprofit foundation that digitally records historic sites and monuments