Headshot of Debra Laefer

On September 17th, Professor Debra Laefer gave a talk on “Historic Preservation through Advanced Remote Sensing Capabilities” as part of Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP)’s Preservation Lecture Series.

While ground-based commercial imagery and laser scanning have been widely adopted remote sensing technologies in built-heritage documentation, much more is possible with the current generation of remote sensing equipment and platforms. This talk will highlight a handful of these opportunities with respect district-level documentation, city-scale modeling, automated material identification, and façade inspection. The talk will cover aerial remote sensing platforms and advances in laser scanning and hyperspectral imagery. The talk will conclude with some lessons learned on equipment limitations, processing challenges, and where the industry is likely to be in 5 years from a technology perspective, as well as a few thoughts on the role of such technologies amidst the current debate on public monuments.

If you missed the event, you can listen to the full talk here.

Dr. Debra Laefer is a Professor of Urban Informatics at New York University in the Center for Urban Science and the Department of Civil and Urban Engineering. She holds undergraduate degrees in Art History and Civil Engineering from Columbia University (CC’89 & SEAS ’91). She earned a masters’ degree in Civil Engineering from New York University (’94) and her doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prof. Laefer’s work often stands at the cross-roads of technology creation and community values such as devising technical solutions for protecting architecturally significant buildings from sub-surface construction. As the density of her aerial remote sensing datasets continues to grow exponentially with time, Prof. Laefer and her Urban Modeling Group have pioneered computationally efficient storage, querying, and visualization strategies that both harness distributed computing-based solutions and bridge the gap between data availability and its usability for the engineering community. Her current research interests focus on subsurface data integration with high density laser scanning, hyperspectral imagery and historical data about the built environment and its forgotten remnants as a way to both understand urban spaces and to manage them. Her work has been funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Ford Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the US Department of Defense.