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Best Practice – Spring 2017

An Ancient City Becomes a Smarter City

The convergence of technology and civic ambition resulted in a unique scanning project involving a handful of Pittsburghers and one Italian city in October 2016. Using a combination of digital tools, a 12-person team of architects, engineers, digital technicians, drone pilots, software gurus and politicians helped the ancient city of Volterra in Tuscany, Italy, begin to document its built environment. During the two-week trip, participants managed to capture the details of design and construction that took place thousand years Before Christian Era (BCE) and learned even more about using technology to support the modern built environment.

The International Reality Capture Workshop was a collaboration between the Volterra-Detroit Foundation, Pittsburgh-based Case Technologies, which was the project’s primary sponsor, Autodesk and the City of Volterra. The Volterra-Detroit Foundation is a collaboration between the University of Detroit-Mercy School of Architecture and the city of Volterra, where a residential college was established to house about 20 students in a live/study environment.

Architect/Technologist Mark Dietrick has been a board member of the Volterra-Detroit Foundation since 2010 and he helped lead the project to create a digital model of the Etruscan-era Italian city.

Dietrick, who works as director of services at Case Technologies in Carnegie, became involved with Volterra-Detroit at the request of long-time friend Dr. Wladek Fuchs, the president of the foundation. Fuchs and Dietrick studied architecture together through an international exchange program between the University of Detroit-Mercy and Warsaw Polytechnic Institute. Fuchs has long been a student of Volterra, which is the site of the oldest standing Etrucscan arch (and one of only two) on Earth. Volterra is also home to a recently unearthed Roman amphitheater and a Roman theater, which was discovered in the mid-1960s.

Volterra’s mayor, Marco Buselli, was a champion of the workshop. It was his hope that the project would allow Volterra to record the architectural and cultural history of this city of 7,000 people, making Volterra a more attractive tourist destination. The city has been continuously inhabited for more than 3,000 years and has both buildings and remains that are at risk from the ravages of time and the earthquakes that shake the region. The collapse of one portion of its Medieval wall in 2014 showed how vulnerable Volterra’s ancient structures were and was another impetus for the workshop.

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