Documentary Holography

[Image: A "detail theft" by ScanLAB Projects].

ScanLAB Projects, a reliably interesting and enthusiastic design-research duo formed by Bartlett graduates Matthew Shaw and William Trossell, explores, in their words, "the potential of large scale terrestrial laser scanning as a tool for design, visualization and fabrication. We use a range of state-of-the-art 3D scanning technologies to capture buildings, objects and spaces."

As it happens, they mean this quite literally, as they aim to "capture" and then illicitly reproduce, using multi-axis milling machines, architectural details scanned around London. These are what they call "detail thefts... arguably cloning the original architect's intellectual property."

[Image: A "detail theft" by ScanLAB Projects].

You can read an earlier write-up of their many projects—from "stealth objects" to scanner-jamming architectural ornament installed on an urban scale—here on BLDGBLOG (as well as in the forthcoming Landscape Futures book).

What I find so consistently interesting in their work, though, is that, over the past few years, they've been expanding the representational range of the laser scanner, using it to document highly ephemeral, even ethereal, spatial events.

Whether scanning mist and humidity or traveling north to the Arctic to shoot lasers at pressure ridges and melting ice floes, their work is almost a kind of documentary holography: not a film, not a photograph, not a 3D model, but also not simply a point-cloud, their work operates almost narratively as they capture objects or places in the process of becoming something else, blurred by passing fog or pulled apart by unseen ocean currents. You could write a screenplay for scanners.

[Images: From the "Arctic Climatic Tour 2011" of ScanLAB Projects].

For a more recent project, one that indicates a growing environmental or ecological emphasis in their work, the duo found themselves in the presence of heavy forestry equipment, a haunting and behemoth machine busy uprooting, de-branching, and stacking trees, converting a living forest to mere timber. The satiny black background makes it all that much more dreamlike, as if occurring in secret at 2am.

[Image: Forestry Commission Tree Harvester by ScanLAB Projects; view larger].

Cast in black and white and seeming to gleam in the laser light, the machine is both dinosaur-like and ghostly, implying the total gutting of the forest around it as the orderly bar code of the trees is disrupted by this artificial clearing.

[Image: Scans of a Forestry Commission tree harvester in action, by ScanLAB Projects; view image one, two, three, and four larger!].

In all cases, the images are much more evocative when viewed at a larger size (see captions for direct links), which you can also find on the ScanLAB Projects website.

Finally, if all this interests you, consider signing up for a 10-day workshop with ScanLAB Projects up in Ottawa, Canada, from 5-13 July 2013, focusing on "post-industrial landscapes." Here's the course description:
Set within the context of a post-industrial era, we find ourselves venturing through the Canadian wilderness of Gatineau Park, walking in the footsteps of industrial alchemist Thomas "Carbide" Willson. Within this natural blossom lie the ruins of his former empire, the decaying heart of industrialization and manufacturing in a factory that never fully materialized.

The course will explore 3D devices that can scan the unnatural post-industrial landscape in an attempt to fuse the accidental qualities of discovery—such as Willson’s trial and error of calcium carbide—with the mathematical precision of laser-scanned environments. Students will form their own architectural "carbide," a fusion of scans and digital modeling to generate a landscape that materialies from Willson’s place of decay into a new architectural ground.
More information, including registration, is available here.

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