Surfing Between Disciplines: Interdisciplinarity of Architectural Digital Heritage

Surfing Between Disciplines: Interdisciplinarity of Architectural Digital Heritage

Stefano Brusaporci (L'Aquila University, Italy)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2871-6.ch012
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The aim of the chapter is to reflect on how ICT and digital tools and methodologies influence the study of architectural heritage, favouring interdisciplinary interactions. First, the chapter analyses the characteristics of digital heritage from real built contents in relation with the general concept of heritage. Then, it discusses the communicative characteristics of 3-D digital models and the related issues, common among the different disciplines. Finally, it presents the peculiar aspects of architectural heritage and the building information modeling applied to architectural heritage as a specific kind of digital procedure naturally born for this kind of heritage. In conclusion, it highlights new trends and points out issues in transdisciplinary temptations.
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Reflecting on the concept of “Digital Heritage”, Pescarin (2016) highlights a double approach based on ‘tracks’ and ‘themes’, respectively referred to the words “digital” and “heritage”. The “digital” approach includes the following ‘tracks’: 1) Digitization and Acquisition, 2) Computer Graphics and Interaction, 3) Analysis and Interpretation, 4) Theory, Methodologies, Preservation and Standards, 5) Digital Heritage Projects and Applications. While the “heritage” approach includes five ‘themes’ according to UNESCO classification: a) Built Heritage from monuments to archaeological sites, cities, and landscapes, b) Culture & Traditions from folklife to languages, crafts, song and dance, c) Museums & Collections from movable objects to the museums, d) Libraries & Archives documentary heritage from books to audiovisual and e) Art & Creativity from digital / new media art to creative digital and online culture (p.1-2). Interesting are her conclusions: She highlights the role of the ‘human dimension’ and the importance of “narrativity”, realized with different kind of outputs: “Which trends can be recognized, looking at this overlapping area, which is Digital Heritage, through presented projects and demonstrations? One of the first element to appear is the position of the ‘human dimension’, considered more and more a key element. Heritage professionals necessities are better taken into consideration, from digital projects early stages; end users, such as visitors of museums, tends to be involved in some cases during the planning phase. The ‘wow’ effect of ICT technologies for heritage researchers, practitioners and curators is now diminishing, while the sustainability of digital projects and their effectiveness as referred to a specific goal, in constantly increasing. The role of design and co-creation is emerging […], filling the gap among audience, developer and heritage curator. The role of ‘narrativity’ is also considered as important as the coding, for the success of a digital heritage project […]. Mixed digital outputs (i.e. serious games including short movies, VR immersive applications that includes passive and active moments, etc.) are experimenting different levels of user interaction and involvement, while trying at the same time to find and define new communication styles and approaches, since the traditional proved to be unsatisfactory […]. Finally, most of the projects have demonstrated a high interest toward the quality of user involvement, a topic currently under investigation from different perspectives” (p.3). The lesson are two: Designers and users are the heart of the process and the most important role is not played by amazing and photorealistic images but by “narrativity”, that is photorealism could be important but the cultural involvement is essential.

Previously, in 1999, in the UNESCO’s World Heritage Magazine, Stone described “Virtual Heritage” as “the utilization of technology for interpretation, conservation and preservation of Natural, Cultural and World Heritage” (Stone 1999). According to this definition, ‘virtual heritage’ is not in opposition to traditional one – it does not substitutes cultural heritage in a virtual dimension – but it is a tool for heritage interpretation, presentation and conservation. Virtual heritage and cultural heritage live together.

Afterwards, from the publication of the Charter on the Preservation of the Digital Heritage (UNESCO, 2003) many pages have been written on the concept of “Digital Heritage”. The Charter explains: “The digital heritage consists of unique resources of human knowledge and expression. It embraces cultural, educational, scientific and administrative resources, as well as technical, legal, medical and other kinds of information created digitally, or converted into digital form from existing analogue resources. Where resources are “born digital”, there is no other format but the digital object. Digital materials include texts, databases, still and moving images, audio, graphics, software and web pages, among a wide and growing range of formats” (Art.1).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Architectural Heritage: The UNESCO 1972 World Heritage Convention indicates as cultural heritage monuments, group of buildings and sites, outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science. In the modern theory by Brandi, the qualities of a cultural heritage are the historical and the aesthetic values. An historical building is a complex system of spaces, volumes, materials, surfaces, constructive aspects, actual and past functions and configurations, degradation, etc. The whole is the result of a continuous historical process of modification and transformation. An architectural heritage can be interpreted as an “artifact”, where its elements are witnesses of the cultures, actors, and of events occurred during the life of the building. In the study of architectural heritage is fundamental the archival analysis.

Semantization: Logical division of digital model’s components and of related information according to their meaning. In architectural heritage models, the semantization can be realized “a-posteriori” (reverse modeling processes) or “a-priori” (for example Constructive Solid Geometry processes).

BIM: Building information modeling is a process about the whole lifecycle of a building, from project, to construction, maintenance, management and dismantlement. BIM is based on the realization of the 3-D models, where the digital elements are constructive objects (walls, floors, windows, etc.) uploaded from predefined parametrized libraries. The objects relate to a database with the design information that allow structural, energetic, economic, timing, computing. BIM involves the architectural, civil engineering, and plant aspects, and it favors the interoperability between professionals that work on the same model. BIM rises for new building design, but its application to historic architectures (the so called HBIM) presents numerous matters, because it is difficult to reconcile the unique character of historical architecture made with artisan procedures, with parametric 3D objects from standardized libraries and typed databases; interesting solutions rises from the integration of BIM procedures with Visual Programming Language.

Visual Computing: Technique of analysis based on the visual representation of large amount of data. Those data can derive from various kinds or phenomena, also from non-visual ones. Visual computing consists in the representation of three-dimensional digital environments, where there is a complex interaction of an elevated number of agents simulating different kinds of data and information. The images provide information and through images, the user can observe, interact with, compute and control data and information, and create new knowledge.

Virtual Reality: It bases on a total-body immersion in a computer-generated environment. Perceptions derives from digital information and, although the synthetic environment often follows laws different from real word ones, the user has a psychological involvement and lives it like a real experience.

3D Modeling: Realization of a system of information based on and referred to a model in the virtual 3-D space. The model is made by digital solids and/or surfaces, able to simulate the characteristics of an object. The 3-D model can rise from physical objects (according to a “reverse modeling” process) or directly assembling 3-D digital forms. 3-D modeling includes the modeling of the scene, lights, cameras, textures, using both 2-D (for example background images or the so called “impostor billboards”) and 3D elements. The characteristics of the 3-Ds are related to the ones of the object and to the aims of the representation. A model could present a photorealistic image or both iconic and symbolic representations.

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