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Leica HDS Technology Captures 3-D Grid of Manhattan

October 4, 2010
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Leica Geosystems and Lead Pencil Studio worked together to capture New York public spaces and urban infrastructure in 3-D detail.

This summer Leica Geosystems teamed up with architectural researchers Annie Han + Daniel Mihalyo of Lead Pencil Studio to capture public spaces and urban infrastructure using a Leica Geosystems laser scanner. Working on their 2010 New York Prize Fellowship through the Van Alen Institute, the researchers spent two full months scanning urban locations throughout Manhattan from Harlem down to Wall Street in an effort to create a catalogue of the city's iconic public spaces, details and architectural typologies - all in rich 3-D detail.

Despite record breaking July heat in New York City, the team worked 12 hours a day, often starting at 4 a.m. to cover as much ground as possible during hours of minimum vehicle traffic. A full range of urban locations were captured including all eight blocks of Times Square, Wall Street, Canal Street, Chinatown, SoHo, Broadway, Bowery, Bond and dozens more.

"Even though June and July was unbearably hot, reaching the upper limit of the ScanStation 1 operating temperature allowance of 40 Celsius, the equipment worked exactly as specified,” says Mihalyo. “We encountered many difficult conditions, including most problematically, squishy pavement from the beating sun. Fortunately the onboard dual axis compensator prevailed in all but a few conditions. The difficulty of capturing both narrow and tall streetscapes was made possible with thanks to the impressive range of the ScanStation 1. Despite visible air particulate matter, high humidity, glaring sun and subway vibrations, we returned excellent detail out to 220 meters from station points - adequate to scan most buildings to the 50th floor from street level.”

With months of data processing ahead of them, the team plans to begin a gradual roll-out of the results of their project across the next year, starting with a 20 foot wide mural created from scan data on the facade of the Van Alen Institute on 22nd Street in Manhattan. On December 1st, they will open an exhibition at Temple Gallery on the campus of Temple University in Philadelphia with new sculptural work derived principally from scanner-based observations titled Surface Deposit. They will spend December/January at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire to continue processing data toward the production of several new animated digital videos. In June 2011 they will open a major cumulative solo exhibition at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art based entirely on this summer's project with an exciting range of 2D, 3D and video work.

For more information about HDS technology, go to

Check at Van Alen Institute website at for more information about programs related to NY Prize Fellowship.

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