European Commission, Erasmus+, KA2 – Capacity building in the Field of Higher Education
From 01-02-2022 to 31-01-2025
The European Commission’s support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
European Architectural Cultural Heritage is immense. Yet part of this Heritage is invisible: churches, synagogues, mosques that have either been destroyed or never been built. Now the digital revolution offers possibility to bring these artefacts to a new life, through 3D reconstruction.
A new way of studying and representing the past has become increasingly important in the academic world and in the domain of digital entertainment (such as films and video games). This new way makes use of the so-called “virtual 3D reconstructions”, that is 3D models based on figurative and textual sources of artefacts that no longer exist or have never been built.
Today architects, art historians, restorers and archaeologists use this medium to study and represent the past. The large production of these studies and models has encouraged an international debate about the scientific reliability of these (re-)constructions. Two important theoretical guidelines have been drawn up in this regard: the London Charter (http://www.londoncharter.org/index.html) and the Seville Principles (http://sevilleprinciples.com/). These documents have fixed general guidelines on the scientific nature of Computer-based Visualisation of Architectural Cultural Heritage (CVCH) models. However, despite several studies which were dedicated to similar subjects, so far there are no shared standards or applied methods on this specific topic. There are European projects dedicated to the digital studies of CH as Horizon 2020 (i.e., Inception-project Horizon 2020 https://www.inception-project.eu/en), but not specifically dedicated to the topic of no longer existing/vanished/destroyed and unbuilt projects.
What are the specific needs we plan to address? Today it is not possible to distinguish a scientifically valid 3D virtual reconstruction from an amateur 3D model, because there are no reference standards.
The main objective is to define applicable/practice guidelines and operational methodologies aimed at the study, as well as the implementation, visualization (including access) and critical evaluation of the 3D models, in accordance with the Charter on the Preservation of Digital Heritage (UNESCO, 2003). The aim is to define a clear methodology for the creation and documentation of the CVCH model.
The CVCH model can be used as an instrument for scientific dissemination as well as a three-dimensional reference document for scholars of CH. For the latter objective, to build a valid CVCH model, it must be accompanied by all the methodologies and references used. All this material should be stored in the clearest and most transmissible/accessible way. To pursue transmissibility and transparency, the actors of this field should discuss and adopt shared standards at international level.
Which is the reason why this project has five universities and two companies from different countries as principal partners. The Institute of Architecture at the Hochschule Mainz is member in the Time Machine project (https://www.timemachine.eu/membership-overview/, and our actions are strictly connected to the FAIR data principles, see https://www.go-fair.org/fair-principles/).
In addition to scholars (architects, engineers, art historians, archaeologists, restorers), the project is also aimed at proactively involving associated partners (museums, municipalities, etc.) and the public.
Sensitizing the public to distinguishing accurate from inaccurate historical reconstructions has become critical nowadays because the gaming and film industry makes large use of 3D models. Movies and games have a huge impact on the collective imagination that is not comparable with text or academic lessons. It is important to provide tools and increase public awareness on the scientific nature of these “reconstructions”. This will contribute to increasing the knowledge of the European architectural heritage.