3D models of Manitoba buildings keep memory alive long after they’re torn down

As Manitoba’s skyline changes with new buildings going up and old ones getting torn down, a Winnipeg animator is working to preserve the memory of those that are not long for this world by creating three-dimensional models.

Patrick Letourneau uses a process of photogrammetry to obtain hundreds of photographs of structures around Manitoba and feeds those into his computer, eventually resulting in resin models.

“What you end up with is really sort of stunningly detailed handheld version of a structure with all these little details coming through,” he said in an interview with Stephanie Cram on CBC Manitoba’s Weekend Morning Show on Saturday.

Those details can include things as tiny as nail holes or wood grain in the side of the structure, Letourneau said.

“It’s really quite magical.”

Patrick Letourneau created this 3D model of an old Manitoba barn as a way to preserve it. (Patrick Letourneau/Twitter)

For the last 12 years, the animator has been practicing photogrammetry, and older structures like grain elevators and dilapidated barns turned out to be good test subjects, he said.

The more he travelled to visit the structures, the more he realized how short their life spans were.

“Especially some of these other grain elevators. They’re just disappearing every year. There’s fewer and fewer of them. So that’s when I started to think about preserving them,” Letourneau said.

A favourite, the Windsor family grain elevator in the Pembina Valley near La Rivière, was torn down before Letourneau could go back and create a second model of it.

“That’s when it really hit me that these buildings are not long for this earth and that we might only have one chance of preserving them.”

Next up, Letourneau wants to visit Elva, Man., to scan the grain elevator there, which has recently been purchased by a demolition company.

“it’s definitely not long for this, for this earth … but definitely something I want to capture before it’s gone,” he said.

Then he hopes to pack up a camper van with his drone and other photogrammetry and travel west.

“To do a little road trip through perhaps Saskatchewan and western Manitoba and visit every ghost town I can and try to preserve them while they’re still there.”

To see more of Letourneau’s models, visit his Twitter page.

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