A keen eye and a 3D printer piece together crumbling history



Where others see rot and decay, Patrick Letourneau sees beauty.

The 32-year-old Winnipeg artist revels in the decrepit, doomed structures slated for demolition, seeing beyond the rusty reds of corroded silos and worn-out old granaries, the sagging beams of fragmented ghost barns in farm fields.

Letourneau looks into spaces that once thrived, then, using a technique called photogrammetry, he brings them to life.


MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Patrick Letourneau cleans one of his 3D printed buildings which he carefully photographed and reproduced.

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MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Patrick Letourneau cleaning one of his 3D printed buildings which he carefully photographed and reproduced.

“I am thrilled to see how the structures age and the character that their long life has given them. Older structures, especially wooden structures, show their age and aging in unique ways,” said studio owner Letourneau. Polygon Sandwich 3D animation.

“They move with the earth, they sag and warp, they speckle with moss and rot. It’s a very organic and impermanent method of construction that reflects the landscape in which it was built.”

The artist takes hundreds of superimposed photos of the ruins he encounters using a portable camera as well as a drone.

The photos are cleaned and processed before being fed into special software which converts the images into three-dimensional digital images. Then the 3D laser printer turns them into hard plastic models, some as small as a postage stamp.




<p>MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
<p>Letourneau looks into spaces that once thrived, then, using modeling techniques such as photogrammetry and laser printing, brings these doomed structures, destined for demolition, back to life.< /p>“/><figcaption>
<p>MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
<p>Letourneau contemplates spaces that once thrived and then, using modeling techniques such as photogrammetry and laser printing, brings these doomed structures, destined for demolition, back to life.</p>
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<p>“I can hold these ghost towns in my hand;  it’s magic.  The printer resolves details as small as 50 microns/0.05mm to ensure details hold.  I can see the individual boards,” says Letourneau.			</p>
<p>But not all the decrepit buildings he encounters get this treatment.  Létourneau is drawn to the massive wooden structures, collapsing silos, and towering grain elevators that are a “fun challenge” to capture.			</p>
<p>His favorite work is the Windsor Family Grain Elevator, a granary built in the 1890s by Diggory Windsor and his brothers.  The building once stood on a farm field east of Provincial Highway 242 in Pembina.			</p>
<p>“When I first found it it was collapsing. I knew demolition was planned. So I went on a little road trip; I had to wait until the lighting conditions were good before I could capture what I needed,” explains Létourneau.			</p>
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<p>MIKE DEAL / FREE PRESS WINNIPEG</p>
<p>Patrick Letourneau </p>
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<p>MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
<p>Patrick Letourneau </p>
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<p>It helps to have overcast skies to ensure the 3D print is as close to life as possible and Letourneau often has to wait for the clouds to block the sun before sprinting to get as many shots as possible. .			</p>
<p>“I can tell you that in Manitoba it’s not easy, we have so many sunny days. The more even the lighting, the better the color of the model is retained in the computer. Cloudy weather is the best for capture the true colors of objects without shadows or lights that get embedded in the models,” he explains.			</p>
<p>When Létourneau returned to the farmyard to attempt a second capture of the Windsor family grain elevator, it was too late;  the attic had already been destroyed.			</p>
<p>“It was gone, and that’s where the historical aspect of what I’m doing really hit me. I felt grief but, at the same time, gratitude that I was able to be there when it was still there.”			</p>
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<p>PROVIDED </p>
<p>The artist finds structures to photograph from suggestions on Facebook or chance encounters on rural roads.</p>
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<p>PROVIDED </p>
<p>The artist finds structures to photograph from suggestions on Facebook or chance encounters on rural roads.</p>
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<p>Letourneau finds structures to photograph from community suggestions on Facebook groups or chance encounters on rural roads.			</p>
<p>He also mentions a map compiled by Gordon Goldsborough of the Manitoba Historical Society, which he studied extensively.			</p>
<p>“I rely on the map, which has all the notable old structures, and that was my guide for most of the project. It was spectacular. I spent a lot of time there.”			</p>
<p>It has 20 digitized structures all waiting for a reason to be printed, each posing different challenges.			</p>
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“There is a lot of work to do and I do it in sprints and bursts, often evenings and weekends. It can take the printer five to 30 hours to rebuild the building slice by slice, often more than 4,000 layers of vertical resolution.”

The Manitoba structures are a passion project, even if it’s expensive on Létourneau’s wallet, like the $4,000 camera he recently purchased to advance the project.

“It’s an expensive business, from scanning and 3D printing to lighting and photo equipment. But I hope to recoup my costs. I’m focused on perfecting the technique and I have drawn from work.”

Létourneau hopes to embark on a road trip in the future, traveling through neighboring provinces to preserve their decaying old buildings.

“I consider myself a technologist working in the service of historians. I feel both a sense of duty to preserve more of it and a fear of the logistics involved,” he says.

Twitter: @nuchablue


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