(Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA)

Keywords: CAD, Photogrammetry, Historical Reconstruction, Diachronic

Until recently, scholars have employed conventional modes of representation and analysis—think plans, sections or elevations—which generally isolate a building at a single moment in time, rather than consider it across its history. Such representations have their value, but they also curtail a deeper understanding unleashed by today’s digital representations, which enable us to “know what was where when” in three dimensions and across time with uncanny precision. Digital drawings help to unleash the diachronic realities of architecture and to foster the visualization and analysis of overlapping sequences of buildings, which is to conceptually approach architecture as ever-evolving process, rather than finished product. This is a profound paradigm shift toward a more spatiotemporal understanding of cultural processes.
My talk will illustrate the theoretical implications of this innovative approach with concrete examples drawn from over a decade of now completed work on the Basilica of St. Paul in Rome. Our ability to understand that site’s long, complex history has been hindered by a devastating fire in 1823. The absence of the original is offset only by a smattering of physical remnants, a vast corpus of historical images and a handful of archeological excavations. Extant fragments such as column capitals were digitized and virtually reconstructed using photogrammetry. Similarly, historical imagery was tapped to reconstruct the building’s decoration and liturgical furnishings. And, finally, reports of archeological excavations scattered about the building were reconciled into a coherent 4D model. All told, by interpreting the structure, its decoration and furnishings in three dimensions and across time, I offer myriad visualizations, new working hypotheses and novel understandings of the long history of this major monument of medieval Christendom.

Relevance conference / Relevance session:
This recently completed project showcases a decade of innovative problem solving that addresses how best to employ extant evidence to vicariously study a building that no longer exists.

The innovations presented here include using diverse modeling software to create a coherent, analyzable and interactive compilation of architectural evidence from disparate sources.