Swimming in the Liquid Age: A Disciplinarily Reflection on Computer-Based Visualization of Architectural Heritage

Swimming in the Liquid Age: A Disciplinarily Reflection on Computer-Based Visualization of Architectural Heritage

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0029-2.ch001
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Aim of the chapter is to present a critical reflection on computer-based visualization of the architectural heritage and investigate on its relationship with other disciplines, starting from interdisciplinary experiences and from examples of other subject areas, in particular the archaeological one. In particular digital tools are used indifferently and simultaneously in dissimilar research fields, and scholars of different fields work and publish together. A clear definition of the ontologies, principles and procedures for advanced surveying, modeling, and visualization could allow the interdisciplinary collaboration. But cornerstone is the awareness of the disciplinary characteristics of the architectural heritage's issues for its critical digital representation.
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The International Arena

Digital surveying, modeling, and representation have produced important methodological changes in those disciplines that concerns the study, analysis, protection, and exploitation of cultural heritage. Technologies of laser scanning and photogrammetry, and advanced software of modeling and data analysis, have focused the process of historical and critical knowledge on the use of complex 3D models. Thanks to their characteristics of geo-referencing, interactivity and extended media experiencing, digital models favor new epistemological approaches to architectural disciplines. At the same time models are vectors for heritage’s communication and exploitation.

The cultural heritage studying has found place in many international conferences, and it is the subject of several associations and of interdisciplinary publications. We remember the initiatives of “CIPA – The International Committee for Documentation of Cultural Heritage” (http://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/).

The topics related to cultural heritage – therefore including architectural heritage – recur in numerous conferences and publications in the international arena. We cite the papers presented in IJHDE - International Journal of Heritage in the Digital Era (http://www.isprs.org/) and published in the Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, in particular the conferences of 2011, 2013, and 2015 “3D-ARCH – Virtual Reconstruction and Visualization of Complex Architectures”. Last but not least the “International Congress on Digital Heritage” (2013 and 2015). This list is not intended to be exhaustive but merely to provide some references and examples.

Moreover scientific social networks like Academia.edu (www.researchgate.net) – that are based on paper’s repositories – favor the diffusion of knowledge inside and outside fields, the meeting between scholars, and their updating. And these websites could be intended as one of the epiphanies of the “digitality” in our age of online continuous flux of information (The Onlife Manifesto, 2015).

In any case it is evident how the technologies and digital instruments – intended both as tools and as methodologies – are a common shared substrate across disciplines. This idea also involves the concept of “digital heritage”, and often it is intended as a cornerstone on which academic fields are making an “ecosystem” growing.

Moreover Stephen Ramsay (2013), arguing on Digital Humanities, highlights something true for the whole digital heritage field: “Digital Humanities is not some airy Lyceum. It is a series of concrete instantiations involving money, students, funding agencies, big schools, little schools, programs, curricula, old guards, new guards, gatekeepers, and prestige. It might be more than these things, but it cannot not be these things” (p. 240).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Representation of Architectural Heritage: Architectonical heritage’s 3D representation is conceptually related to knowledge, because it’s required the values understanding and their appropriate documentation and representation. Digital models have to describe the buildings, namely a complex system made by spaces, surfaces, materials, constructive technologies and degradation, with modification and stratification processes witnesses of events and cultures that have occurred over time. Therefore, the term “representation” takes a critical widest sense and all-encompassing than the terms “modeling” and “rendering”.

Transparency: Computer-based visualization must be testable by other professionals. The Paradata are useful to explain the philological process of visualization.

Information System: Tool for data management and elaboration. GIS was born for urban and territorial planning, while the first applications to cultural heritage have been made in the field of archeology. The first uses related to architecture were realized by applying the traditional GIS to two-dimensional drawings (plans and sections). Architectural information systems have been developed importing 3D models within GIS or using BIM for historical buildings.

3D Digital Model: Spatial model, made by digital solids and/or surfaces, able to simulate the architectural characteristics of a building (geometries, spaces, materials, historical and aesthetical values, etc.).

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 of restoration, 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 constructive cultures and of events occurred during the life of the building. In the study of architectural heritage is fundamental the archival analysis.

Historical – Critical Analysis: The historical-critical method refers to a set of criteria for the historical and philological study of the architectural heritage: the building it’s intended as a synthesis of modification and transformation that conduced it to the current configuration, results of architectural cultures and interventions that have taken place over time

Informative Model: Complex Model made by the synthesis of geo-referenced architectural models and correlated databases. The Informative Model has to be able to visualize and computize synchronically and diachronically architectural information.

Architectural Surveying: It’s the understanding of building characteristics and their appropriate graphical documentation, made by the analysis, selection, synthesis and representation of the architectural event. The survey is formed by the succession of the following steps: a preliminary study and acquisition of documents; the survey design; the measurement; the restitution with interpretative models of reading and communication of the architectural heritage. Only the measurement phase can be considered objective, the others are subjective as influenced in their outcomes on the skills, culture and experience of the surveyor.

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