A citizen 3D scanner has captured and 3D printed a now-demolished building.
Reddit contributor “PM_ME_SQUANCH” posted images of a precise 3D print of Winnipeg’s former Public Safety Building, which was demolished in 2020.
The Public Safety Building
The building, constructed in 1965, previously held that city’s police headquarters. Designed in classic 1960s Brutalist style, the building generated both positive and negative comments from the public. Both were due to the Brutalist style, which I have to say is not my favorite type of architecture.
In recent years the building incurred a series of issues related to aging. In particular, the limestone facing elements became loose and were literally falling on passers-by. Some exterior limestone blocks were held in place with visible steel frames. This necessitated construction of a temporary wooden covering over neighboring sidewalks, whose appearance contributed to the building’s negative reputation.
Eventually, it was decided to tear down the vacant and unsafe building, in spite of its notoriety, much to the dismay of Brutalist fans. This was perhaps driven largely by the discovery of large amounts of asbestos, which would preclude efficient restoration of the building. Today the site is an empty gravel lot.
3D Scanning The Public Safety Building
All is not lost, however, as PM_ME_SQUANCH somehow managed to obtain a rather detailed 3D scan of the about-to-be-destroyed building using photogrammetry.
PM_ME_SQUANCH does not specifically describe the photogrammetry approach in the post, but given that the 3D model clearly shows elements on the building’s roof, a drone was likely used to capture images while orbiting the block. I have a suspicion this flight path may not have been exactly legal, but evidently it happened.
The images were transformed into a 3D model with Reality Capture and then printed using a resin 3D printer. The results are excellent, and certainly represent the building’s appearance — although the wooden sidewalk coverings are visible at the bottom.
Capturing All Buildings Before Destruction
The project demonstrated the ease in which architectural structures can be captured in detail before they disappear forever, and a way to reproduce them in miniature as a souvenir of the building.
The tools used in this project were all inexpensive and shows that it’s possible for almost anyone to attempt a similar project on buildings facing destruction. Perhaps this could become a hobby for interested citizens in every city, as a way to gradually record for posterity the structures used over the years.
Someday we may look back on these times at these early 3D building scans just like today we look back at the first photographic images — and wish we had more of them.
Spin up those drones!