Drawing, Information, and Design: Tools and Perspective for Conservation

Drawing, Information, and Design: Tools and Perspective for Conservation

Donatella Fiorani, Marta Acierno
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0675-1.ch012
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Although widely employed within the Architectural Heritage conservation process, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) techniques still present many serious issues for the discipline. Current research highlights a possible methodological approach to devise an ICT instrument that could support activities for Cultural Heritage conservation, while maintaining full respect for the specifics of the discipline. Reviewing current ICT and Architecture Engineering and Construction (AEC) applications, it is possible to note that the proposed approach is at the moment reversed: modelling does not arise as the projection of a future object, but rather from the knowledge needed to represent an existing site as accurately as possible. The proposed goal, reflecting the operative methodology of the conservation process, seems to offer a greater range of representativeness and to resolve, at least, some of the critical topics that have arisen from the application of ICT to Cultural Heritage to date.
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The importance within the conservation process of recording building information is required above all by the inherent features of cultural heritage, namely: cultural value, uniqueness, unrepeatability, and non-reproducibility. These features refer entirely to extant historical buildings, determined historically in close relationship with the physical context (Benjamin 1936, p.8). Issues arise from the specific characteristic of historical architecture that may not be considered a single creation, but rather an open work resulting from complex transformations built up over time through an involved interaction between man and nature. An open work occurs where many interpretations have taken place, and many different experiences of the world have been represented (Eco 1962, p. 45) either in a visible or non-visible form.

This raises the point that an accurate interpretation of the work must take into account its specific historical nature, and thus operate on two levels – concerning both that which is visible, and that which is not.

The visible geography of the architectural organism relates to its exterior physical characteristics, and are clearly defined by surveying. By contrast, the non-visible geography is oriented to the hidden items belonging to a more heterogeneous category that includes both concrete media and abstract concepts. The concrete media are the inner physical elements, which are not able to be recorded by a mere survey, and instead require more sophisticated activities such as diagnostic analysis and interpretation. The abstract topics deal with historical and cultural items. They pertain mostly to the building’s historical existence, where it displays the sign of aging over time. In other words, the transformations it has undergone, all the information sources that have documented those changes, and the cultural context in which they occurred. Also it is possible to include, among the abstract topics, other cultural meanings that may be also attributed to architecture, which can justify the different design choices. For instance, those that have arisen from an aesthetic, economic, or functional point of view.

Indeed to achieve an exhaustive knowledge of architectural heritage is a complex process, and multiple attitudes and disciplines are required.

A very careful and analytical approach is also required for recording physical characteristics – either architectural features or material quality and condition. Such issues occur specifically through the aforementioned direct investigations, which are carried out directly on the building. In current times such investigations are being developed using increasingly advanced technologies, and mainly focus on geometric and architectural surveys and diagnostic activities.

In addition to these analytical studies, a more interpretative endeavour is required when carrying out indirect investigations, focusing most attention on the non-visible geography of historical architecture, specifically referring to those topics that involved the building’s ongoing existence and helping to deepen knowledge about its cultural traits. Such an approach could pertain, for example, to bibliographical and archival research, or to studies on building techniques, plant typology, or architectural language.

Furthermore a third work phase is required to achieve a thorough pre-planning assessment. This consists of a synthesis of all investigations, developed through a significant critical point of view, which is able to take into account the heterogeneous results provided by the different investigations.

Such a broad investigation is necessary, for both professional and cultural reasons. The professional motivators are concerned specifically with conservation planning – namely with knowledge of the building and the major risk of the intervention betraying the building’s architectural identity and authenticity (Fiorani 2014 b). In addition to study and profound comprehension, recording also plays an important role, since it helps give an appropriate direction to conservation planning, management and appropriate decisions for use (Icomos 1996).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Conservation Process: The entire process involved in conservation, consisting of different phases: survey and investigation activities, design, building management and maintenance.

Interoperability: This is the capability of different ICT systems to cooperate and share information between each other in a reliable and effective way. The aim of interoperability is to facilitate interaction as well as information sharing and use within heterogeneous information systems.

Building Knowledge Management (BKM): Theoretical application developed by a research group led by Gianfranco Carrara ( Carrara et al. 2009 ) to achieve a formal representation of knowledge, focusing primarily on the collaborative and management methods of the design process.

Semantic Levels: This expression refers to the potential of an ICT application to provide information that goes beyond, and enriches, geometrical descriptions. This may refer to material properties, construction methods, historical data, etc.

Information Foundation Classes (IFC): An object-based file format that uses a data model developed by the International Alliance for Interoperability (IAI - now buildingSMART) to facilitate interoperability between the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industries. It is generally used as a collaboration format in BIM-based projects. The IFC model specification is open and available, and is an official International Standard: ISO 16739:2013.

Ontology: A formal representation of entities described by their definitions and the relationships between their physical or conceptual contexts. There are two kinds of ‘property’ describing the latter: ‘data properties’, where the contents relate to other entities, and ‘object properties’, where the information refers directly to the entity being considered. The semantic framework may be expanded by other properties that express ‘rules’. These rules clarify the relationships between entities, and allow deductions to be inferred from the system, thus revealing potentially incoherent representations.

Geographical Information System (GIS): A GIS provides geographical visualization that is able to produce, manage and analyze spatial data, associating one or more alphanumeric descriptions with each geographical element.

BKM Model: An ICT instrument developed to represent BKM knowledge relating to a given building, and specifically to the design process that went into creating the building. This application aims to be a supporting instrument for actors collaborating in the process; it simultaneously achieves analysis using the specialized knowledge of each actor, as well as the interaction that occurred between the actors. The basic concept of the BKM model focuses on the concept that design activity is the result of the complex interaction between multiple entities. Each individual entity and its relationships with others is defined by: ‘meaning’, a series of ‘properties’, and ‘rules’. This is accompanied by possible variations during the design process. The BKM model employs a formal language based on ontologies, to assist the actors to model or eventually re-model the entities and the rules that are assumed in their knowledge domain.

Historic Building Information Modelling (HBIM): HBIM is a prototype library (developed by Maurice Murphy, Dore et al. 2015 AU65: The in-text citation "Maurice Murphy, Dore et al. 2015" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ) of parametric objects pertaining to 18th century architectural heritage, which allows the creation of 3D models that are able to represent not only the surface characteristics, but also what is behind the object’s surface, its methods of construction, and its material make-up. The language used to facilitate data exchange is Geometric Descriptive Language (GDL).

International Committee for Documentation – Conceptual Reference Model: (CIDOC-CRM): The CIDOC-CRM is an ontology that provides a representation of cultural heritage, aimed at supporting the full variability and richness of available information, and at harmonizing heterogeneous data. The CRM provides a core ontology that can manage museum, archive, library, and other specialized cultural datasets. Other specialist ontologies also exists as an extension of the main one: the FRBR model (for the semantics of bibliographic information), CRMSci11 (for integrating metadata about scientific observation measurements), CRMarchaeo (for encoding metadata about archaeological excavation processes).

Carta del Rischio (Risk Map): An alphanumeric and cartographic system created by the Istituto Superiore per la Conservazione ed il Restauro (ISCR) in Italy. It aims to manage cultural heritage data with reference to the risk of decay, specifically with relation to the relative dangers of different geographical areas in Italy. Using vector or raster maps, the system constitutes an instrument for the study of the state of vulnerability of architectural and archeological heritage. It proposes two different investigation levels – corresponding to two kinds of data-entry –, and for each level the system proposes a data sheet, updated in real time, structured in three steps: identification, description, and state of conservation analysis.

3D Modelling: The modelling of geometric objects in a three-dimensional context. This type of representation describes an object’s geometry, but not its material or historical characteristics.

Architectural Information Modelling (AIM): An ICT application based on a framework that describes theoretical and historical building knowledge, instead of the explicit and component-based descriptions generally proposed by the BIM environment.

System for Monument Damage Description (MONDIS): This approach (introduced by Caciotti et al. 2015 ) applies an ontological representation to the field of the analysis of cultural heritage decay. The system provides support for damage surveys and diagnosis, as well as for possible conservation action.

Knowledge Base: Formal representation framework of concepts defined through a particular formal language, based on logical relationships. This kind of representation makes it possible to formulate statements, propositions and constraints according to the rigid rules that relate to propositional logic.

Collaborative Design: Constant interaction between specialized designers through computerised protocols that manage, within a network, the different ‘knowledge bases’ that pertain to each field of application.

Building Information Modeling (BIM): Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a digital representation of the physical and functional characteristics of a facility. A BIM is a shared-knowledge resource to catalogue information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life-cycle; defined as existing from earliest conception to demolition (the National BIM Standard - United States).

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