HOW TECHNOLOGY WILL RESTORE NOTRE DAME
By Sterling Hall
A few years ago, I had the the amazing experience of visiting Paris and seeing Notre Dame. The arches, gargoyles, and stained glass blew me away. This week, many of us watched in sadness as Notre Dame was engulfed in a huge blaze, the roof and spire reduced to ashes. The building was the heart of French culture, today much of it is largely a pile of rubble.
Notre Dame has stood the test of time. The beams and roof over the main nave date from around 1200. As of now, we don’t know what all has been lost and what will be involved in rebuilding and restoring Notre Dame to all her glory. But quite thankfully, we do have technology to thank for being able to rebuild. How? Thanks to lasers and computers.
The late Vassar College Professor Andrew Tallon, who died only months ago, used lasers mounted on tripods to obtain over a billion different points of data about the interior and exterior structure of Notre Dame. He set the tripod up in over 50 locations, with the laser beam measuring distances throughout the cathedral. He used this data to create a digital 3D replica of the building, which is accurate down to 5 millimeters. Tallon also took extensive panoramic photographs of the building. He tied the laser points to the photograph pixels to create an amazing photographic 3D digital replica. These images will be invaluable in helping architects make historically accurate plans for restoration and help those doing the restoration to be able to visually see what they are recreating.
If you want to learn more about Andrew Tallon and his work at Notre Dame and other cathedrals, here’s a video National Geographic produced in 2015 that explains his work. https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/06/150622-andrew-tallon-notre-dame-cathedral-laser-scan-art-history-medieval-gothic/
In addition to Andrew Tallon, others have created intricate models of Notre Dame. Most surprisingly, the creators of the video game Assassin’s Creed developed a very accurate digital model for the game. Christine Miousse, a developer for the game, spent around 5,000 hours studying Notre Dame, and painstakingly recreated the structure for the video game. Art historians were even consulted, to be sure that relevant artworks in Notre Dame were accurately represented in the game.
As French authorities begin the process of determining the best course of action for Notre Dame, one thing is certain – technology will play a vital role in rebuilding and restoring the cathedral to its former glory.