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A new scientific process is making huge waves in the architectural world. A new 3D scanning and mapping tool is letting people preserve for posterity the important architectural sites around the world, by building up a database of more than 500 cultural heritage sites.

The CyArk programme was launched in London this week at the Tower of London and will seek to create these digital blueprints of more famous buildings and ruins around the world. The scans are accurate to within a degree of two millimetres, meaning completely lifelike 3D plans of many places can be stored for future generations in case of disaster.

One of the driving forces behind the programme is what happened to the 1,600-year-old Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan in 2001. Blown up by the Taliban, they will never again be able to enchant and enthral and the CyArk programme hopes to make that one of the last ever wonders lost for eternity.

Sites across the world such as Mount Rushmore, the Tower of Pisa and Pompeii have been preserved already and many more are planned for the archive. Architectural features, places of special interest and many more can now have their very own back up copy.

In England sites already surveyed include the Harmondsworth Barn near Heathrow, the Tower of London and Neolithic monuments in the Orkneys.

The archive will allow future generations to see what great buildings and architecture from the past looked like, even if the worst does happen. Features like sash windows, gargoyles, and stone masonry can now be preserved forever. Although some architectural methods are a long way from being consigned to the history books, this is especially true of sash windows in the UK.

This kind of fusion of modern scientific methods with traditional skills and craftsmanship will hopefully go a long way to preserving some of the techniques and styles that we have cherished in the past. Being able to see in all its glory, a 3D version of a famous landmark or building, anywhere in the world, will hopefully lead to the design and building of many more great projects in the future. To have a successful future, we always need to understand our past.

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