Digital Tools for Urban and Architectural Heritage

Digital Tools for Urban and Architectural Heritage

Michela Cigola
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8379-2.ch014
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Aim of this paper is focusing on experiences that combine an analysis on territorial, urban and architectural scale with computerized techniques of representation. These experiments (conducted in PRIN 2006 and 2008 national researches) had as focus the use and development of information systems to test their efficiency as an aid to analysis and survey of the Cultural Heritage, specially Urban and Architectural Heritage. Particulary, the aim of this paper is focusing on experiences that combine an analysis on territorial, urban and architectural scale with computerized techniques of representation.
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Digital Tools And Information Systems

Without dwelling on the many definitions that have come into being with regard to Information Systems as their applicability evolved, one can simply and briefly consider them, on the basis of their general use, as the union of a database with the information vectors [point, line or polygon] or rasters [centre of the pixel] of the digital cartography [georeferenced] that is used (Maguire & Rhind, 1999).

This kind of structures, if properly designed, are a dynamic and integrated system for the ongoing management of information on the part of the territory to which they relate, focusing on the transformations to which the latter is subjected (Maurelli 2006).

If the founding principle of Information Systems is the desire to represent reality in order to boost its knowledge and therefore manage it, their main feature is the way in which they represent reality itself: by making it possible to show a multiplicity of, or potentially all information on a single sheet of map [overlaying].

The process is made possible by the capability these systems have to create on maps different themes via the connection of databases to the representation of the elements that are the object of study, and to “intersect” the information gained, providing the complete displaying of results without any loss of legibility.

Because of these features, Information Systems are playing an increasingly important role as regards issues relating to Urban and Architetural Heritage, because they make it possible to develop different analytical methods in relation to the spatial forms and their different scales of representation, or to environmental modelling, which is generated by the 3D capabilities of the systems themselves.

Currently the features of these IT facilities, which have been designed to manage spatial data on maps at scales between 1:100,000 and 1:1,000, lack editing in the three-dimensional modelling at scales between 1:50 and 1:10; therefore, representations on these scales are handled in CAD environments and are subsequently acquired on request by the system, with procedures that have not yet been completely defined, in particular as regards particularly complex graphical models (Longley, Goodchild, Maguire & Rhind, 2001).

On the basis of these premises, our work began in 2002, with an early experiment that then had a high degree of innovation: the project was the planning and execution of a Geographic IT System applied to Cultural Heritage, in particular to urban heritage.

Our attempt was based on the belief that the digital tools constituted by IT Systems were and still are an adequate means of representation with which one can learn about and therefore enhance the cultural heritage of our country, and manage the data acquired through the gathering of documentary material or metric surveys; that is, the most typical tasks relating to the analysis and the knowledge of architecture and urban fabric (Cigola, 2010).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Survey: In Architecture is is the science determining a fully understanding the metrical, geometrical and historical aspects of an architectural work, penetrating the deepest and most hidden nature of an architectural organism, bringing to light the historical events of which it has been protagonist, original form and subsequent transformations over different eras, and providing us with full graphical imagery.

Cultural Heritage: Cultural heritage sites include hundreds of historic buildings and town sites, important archaeological sites, and works of monumental sculpture or painting. We can consider tangible Cultural heritage: architecture, paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, and objects of the decorative arts (furniture, glassware, metalware, textiles, ceramics, and so on).

Protection: Any activity that is aimed at recognising, protecting and preserving an asset of our Cultural Heritage so that it can be offered for collective knowledge and enjoyment. It is thus divided into: recognition, by the method of verification or declaration of cultural value of an asset, depending on its proprietary status; protection; conservation.

3D Modelling: Computing term that indicates a process aimed at drawing any three-dimensional shape in a virtual space generated on the computer; these objects, called 3D models are made using special software programs called 3D modellers, or, more in general, 3D software.

Archaeological Heritage: The heritage and the movable or immovable signs of the ancient past, brought to light through technical excavation or not yet unearthed, but whose presence has been established at a given place.

Architectural Heritage: All buildings, groups of buildings and monuments: real estate, therefore, whose artistic value or historical significance has been recognized.

Historic Centre: An urban and building compound that has never stopped its habitability and its urban function, nor has ever undergone the process of expansion outside the ancient walls, which would have altered the view.

Restoration: Any attempt to conserve and repair tangible cultural heritage that have been adversely affected by negligence, willful damage, or, more usually, the inevitable decay caused by the effects of time and human use on the materials of which they are made.

Conservation: Any activity carried out with the purpose of maintaining the integrity, identity and functional efficiency of a cultural asset, in a consistent, planned and coordinated manner. It is thus divided into: study, thereby meaning a thorough understanding of the cultural asset; prevention, thereby meaning a limitation of the situations of risk connected to a cultural property in its context; maintenance, thereby meaning an intervention aimed at controlling the condition of a cultural asset in order to preserve it over time; restoration, thereby meaning a direct intervention on a cultural asset in order to restore its physical integrity.

Enhancement: Any activity directed at improving the knowledge and conservation of cultural heritage and increasing its use by the public, so as to transmit the values of this heritage. The protection is the exclusive competence of the State, which lays down the laws and issues the necessary administrative measures to enforce them; enhancement is carried out concurrently between the state and the region, and also entails the participation of private entities.

Laser Scanner Survey: The survey with 3D Laser Scanner technology that allows to remotely detect the morphology of an architectural structure, through a beam of light (laser) that slides on the surface to be surveyed. Through a greater or lesser densification of the scan mesh it is possible to make both general and detailed observations in correspondence with particularly complex or significant architectural elements. The laser beam returns for each real point of the “stretched” mesh of the object a virtual point with the 3 spatial coordinates. The totality of all these points constitutes a cloud of points, or the faithful “solid image” of a monument. These points, in addition to describing the object spatially, are able to give information about the reflectance of the object and the RGB (image) of the surface.

Artistic and Historic Heritage: All works of art and monuments, movable and immovable, which have a recognized artistic value or a particular historical importance.

Information System: Is a system that integrates hardware, software, and data for capturing, storing, managing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information. Information System allows to view, understand, question, interpret, and visualize data in many ways that reveal relationships, patterns, and trends in the form of maps, globes, reports, and charts.

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