Look out over the water from the Doge’s Palace in Venice and you see the island of San Giorgio, home to the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, with its archives, rare books, music and high-level international conferences. It has nearly completed a project that is breathtaking in its ambition and implications.
From an article in The Art Newspaper by Anna Somers Cocks.
This summer, Adam Lowe and his team from the Factum Foundation, with ARCHiVE, the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and Iconem, have made a digital record of all its buildings, inside and out, in such high resolution that San Giorgio now exists in a terabyte of data, a kind of a digital avatar. They have used a LiDAR (light-detection and ranging) scanner, which sends out a pulsed laser light towards the target object and measures the time it takes the laser to return. It calculates the distance the light has travelled, and plots that point in a digital 3D space.
The LiDAR has recorded inscriptions so high up they cannot be read from the ground. And when Factum will have recorded the roofs using a drone, the grounds and the all-important relationship between the surface of the island and the rising and falling levels of the water, there will be a perfectly accurate record of the whole.
But what is it for? The answer is that it will allow the encroachments of the water and the consequent damage to the island and buildings to be monitored precisely as the water level rises in the Adriatic and the lagoon. And this is a certainty, according to the highly authoritative IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), although the levels it predicts vary according to various environmental scenarios.
The IPCC’s 2019 report is bleak: “Sea level will continue to rise for centuries. It could reach around 30-60cm by 2100, even if greenhouse gas emissions are sharply reduced and global warming is limited to well below 2°C [most experts now believe we shall not manage this], but around 60-110cm if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase strongly”. At 110cm, Venice will be under water at every high tide, and serious damage to its buildings will start at a much lower level.
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