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Notre Dame Laser Scans to Help with Reconstruction

Monday, April 29, 2019

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Digital scans of the Notre Dame Cathedral could prove integral to the historic landmark’s rebuilding, according to officials.

Digital 3D scans taken by the late Andrew Tallon of New York’s Vassar College in 2015 could provide the necessary information that fast-track construction for the President Emmanuel Macron’s ambitious 5-year timeline.

What Happened

On the evening of April 15, flames engulfed the more than 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, destroying the spire and nearly two-thirds of the roof.

Milliped, CC-BY-SA-4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Digital scans of the Notre Dame Cathedral could prove integral to the historic landmark’s rebuilding, according to officials. On Monday (April 15) evening, flames engulfed the more than 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, destroying the spire and nearly two-thirds of the roof.

With the help of about 500 firefighters battling the blaze, the fire was brought under control by the early hours of the following morning, five hours after the outbreak. Officials recently stated that no fatalities took place and only one firefighter was reported seriously injured.

There were no initial reports about what had caused the blaze, though police said at the time that it appeared to be accidental and that the cause could be linked to the ongoing 6-million-euro ($6.8 million) renovations. Since then, though, investigators have said they believe an electrical short-circuit is the culprit.

Firefighters were also able to help remove priceless artworks and religious relics from the medieval structure.

Macron has said that he wants the monument to be rebuilt in five years, in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics, which Paris is hosting. And while many are skeptical of such a timeframe, plans are already in full motion with the launch of a design competition for the new spire that will sit atop the cathedral.

French prime minister Edouard Philippe announced that instead of recreating the original spire, the city hopes to create a new design that is “adapted to the techniques and the challenges of our era.”

The details and an official call for proposals have not been released, architects and designers, including firms such as Foster + Partners, are already pitching their ideas.

What Now

Both the timeline and the design will prove challenging, particularly with Macron’s 5-year goal.

Some experts are warning there might not even be enough skilled workers to complete the task.

“We’ll have to recruit 100 masons, 150 woodworkers and 200 roofers,” said Jean-Claude Bellanger of the artisans’ organisation the Compagnons du Devoir, in an interview with The Guardian.

“The problem is that these manual crafts are undervalued and don’t attract many people. We have the firms and the expertise, but there’s a serious lack of young people for this work.”

In addition, there’s anticipated discussion about whether or not the designs revealed by the images will even be followed, or if more modern construction methods will be used. Choosing which era of Notre Dame to recreate from remains a challenge as well.

“Which Notre Dame are we going to rebuild?” Michael Davis, chair of architectural studies, professor of art history at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, and a former colleague of the late Tallon, said to the Engineering News-Record, which reported on the use of the scans.

“It is a kind of beautiful Frankenstein of all these different parts, 12th, 13th, 14th and 19th [century] parts, so is that the one we are going to restore or is this an opportunity to undo some of the restorations of the 19th [century] where we think they got it wrong and rectify errors we have identified? It is a ticklish and complex decision.”

What is known, though, is that the scans prove to be an invaluable piece of information.

Tallon used a tripod-mounted Leica ScanStation C10 laser and spent five days mapping the structure, combining the scans with high-resolution panoramic photos. Tallon reportedly repositioned the scanner 50 times and as a result obtained more than a billion points of data in blueprint form.

“Having laser scans [of Notre Dame] is critical in shortening the reconstruction time frame,” said John Russo, president and CEO of Architectural Resource Consultants and president of the U.S. Institute of Building Documentation.

“If you don’t have that data, where do you go? You are going back to hand drawings that may not exist and those are going to be two-dimensional and not have as much information. As far as answering questions and shortcutting the timeline on doing the repair work, 3D scans are going to shave an incredible amount of time off.”


Tagged categories: EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); EU; Fire; Maintenance + Renovation; Ongoing projects; Public spaces; Renovation

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