The Triumphal Arch in the News

It’s “a symbol that we will not stand for acts of terrorism, we will not stand to have people murdered and thrown out of their countries,” said Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen as the arch was set up in City Hall Park. “We in New York have always been a city of inclusion and tolerance and welcoming people, and a city where we like to marry the old and the new. So what could be more appropriate than to have this symbol of freedom in front of City Hall?”

Among the major turning points of the Syrian conflict, few have been laden with as much symbolism—or geopolitical posturing—as the recapture of the ancient city of Palmyra on March 27, 2016. After a weeks-long campaign by Russian bombers and Syrian regime soldiers, the withdrawal of ISIS forces from this extraordinary desert oasis was celebrated as bringing an end to an infamous reign of barbarism.

"Specifically, in conjunction with UNESCO, engineering specialists at Oxford University and Harvard University, the IDA captures millions of 3D images of threatened objects throughout the world through volunteers armed with 3D cameras, specifically within conflict zones, captured by ordinary people living in these zones who are passionate about preserving structures and architecture."

"We hope to signal the potential for triumph of human ingenuity over violence and celebrate images from the past that unite the cultures they represent," said Roger Michel, the IDA's executive director. "We also hope that visitors to the installations will consider the role of physical objects in defining their history and weigh carefully the question of where precisely history and heritage reside."

In a statement on the occasion, Al Gergawi said that the project is a message from the UAE to the world that the region’s history is bigger than any ideology or extremists that are attempting to destroy the identity and history of the region.

“The UAE’s global message is that our objective is to preserve human civilisation and ensure that it transferred to future generations. This complements the vision of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to preserve heritage, because it is a source of inspiration for innovators, encouraging them to develop it further and build on it to meet future requirements,” said Al Gergawi.

The reconstruction is meant to "to provide an optimistic and constructive response to a destructive threat to history and heritage," said Roger Michel, the IDA's executive director. "No one should one should consider for one second giving terrorists the power to delete such objects from our collective cultural record. When history is erased in this fashion, it must be promptly and, of course, thoughtfully restored."


IDA’s final goal is to bring the arch back to Palmyra, where the original was destroyed in the summer of 2015. (Palmyra was recaptured by the Syrian government in March.) In New York, visitors will be able to walk underneath the replica and touch it. One person at the unveiling ceremony said she came all the way from Los Angeles to see the arch.

"I think it's great to remind us that ISIS can't destroy an idea or a culture," she said. "They can't say, 'we destroyed a symbol' and get away with it."

Why then put up the arch at all? It was originally created by the UK-based Institute for Digital Archaeology and unveiled in London's Trafalgar Square, where it was celebrated by then London Mayor Boris Johnson as an action representing 'technology and determination'."

He hopes that the arch will remind visitors of the “indomitable human capacity to rebuild what has been lost.”

You can check out the arch this week, before it moves on to Dubai at the end of the United Nations General Assembly.

The 11-tonne arch was placed in the small park directly outside of New York’s city hall, in the heart of the financial district. The park is usually occupied by tourists visiting city hall and the nearby World Trade Center memorial and office workers on their lunch breaks. The arch is not roped off, allowing visitors to walk under it and touch it.

The unveiling of the replica comes just two days after home-made bombs went off in Manhattan and New Jersey over the weekend, injuring 29 people. Glen said that the timing and location of the arch's unveiling is also significant "particularly on a day like today, where acts of vandalism and terrorism are so much on all of our minds".

“Syria’s future depends on the conservation and protection of Syria’s past,” ...The replica arch was built as part of a project by the Institute for Digital Archaeology, a joint initiative that works with Oxford, Harvard and the Museum of the Future in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, to draw attention to the destruction of cultural artifacts across the world, and to rebuild some pieces.

"Cultural heritage and historical evidence of the region's noble civilizations enjoy a special place in peoples' mind and spirit, and have a scientific and epistemological importance as they represent key elements required to identify the societies' identify and features", Al Gergawi stated.

Culture writer Charlotte Higgins explores the UN's peacekeeping agency, established 70 years ago to build peace through education, science and culture. Its founders knew that a safer world could not be engineered through economics or politics alone. With optimism and purpose, they called on countries to pull together to inspire hearts and minds.

IDA Director Roger Michel said the reconstruction of violently destroyed treasures serves a crucially important social value.

"Monuments, as embodiments of history, religion, art and science, are significant and complex repositories of cultural narratives," he explained. "No one should consider for one second giving terrorists the power to delete such objects from our collective cultural record."


ISIS-Destroyed Syrian Landmark To Be Resurrected in City Hall Park

A piece of history recently reduced to rubble by ISIS’ bombs in Syria will be resurrected thanks to advanced 3-D imaging in New York’s City Hall Park on September 19. The U.K.’s Institute for Digital Archaeology, a group of scientists from Oxford and Harvard and Dubai’s Museum of the Future, have recreated the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra’s recently destroyed Triumphal Arch in marble using photographs of the site taken by high tech 3-D cameras.

Move over Temple of Dendur: You'll soon have competition for status of most selfie-ready, ancient ruin in New York. On September 19th, the Institute for Digital Archaeology will be bringing a full-scale replica of Arch of Palmyra to Gotham at a yet-to-be announced location.

“Anything that can bring awareness and bring people together, that honors our past and looks towards the future — I think that’s a good thing,” he said. “I think if it sparks a discussion, that’s a step in the right direction.” The discussion the arch has largelysparked, however, is whether the replica is really executed in good taste and what message it conveys, if any.

The arch installation in City Hall Park is possible through the cooperation of The Mayor's Office of Citywide Event Coordination and Management. Stay tuned for more coverage from the unveiling today!