ICMS Kalamazoo Abstracts, 2022

Restoring Medieval Art and Architecture I: Technology in Documentation and Research

“Visualizing Time: Analyzing and Documenting Layers of Polychromy on the Last Judgment Portal of Notre-Dame,” Jennifer M. Feltman, University of Alabama

The sculptures of the west façade of Notre-Dame in Paris were originally richly painted or polychromed. Flesh tones and rouge enlivened the faces of sculpted angels, while azure blue tinted the robe of Christ and other prophets on the central portal depicting the Last Judgment. During restoration campaigns in 1984, 1994, and 1999, scientists from the Laboratoire des Recherches des Monuments Historiques (LRMH) collected stone samples that revealed layers of paint on the sculptures. However, only a small portion of this data has been published, and the dating of the polychromy and relationship to the complex construction of the portal is not entirely clear (stones of the portal come from 12th cen., 1220, and c.1240.). The paper outlines the my project for the Chantier scientifique CNRS Notre-Dame Décor working group, which proposes to map this data onto a 3-D model in order to visualize and thereby clarify the portal’s development over time.

“Rammed-earth Almoravid Architecture in Southeast Spain: Proposals for Preventive Conservation and Restoration of Heritage at Risk,” María Lourdes Guitiérrez-Carrillo, University of Granada,  and María Marcos Cobaleda, University of Málaga

In the first half of the 12th century, several military works were developed throughout the territories under Almoravid rule, both in the main towns and rural areas of the Empire. Within this context, the aim of this paper is to present the results achieved in the framework of the PREFORTI R&D Project (BIA2015-69938-R) concerning the particular case of these military constructions built in the region of Southeast Al-Andalus (Granada and Almeria, Spain). To achieve this aim, we have selected two cases of study: the Alcazaba Qadīma in Granada and the walls of La Hoya and Cerro de San Cristóbal in Almeria, both reformed in the first half of the 12th century. Their remains have been studied from the documentation and field work, focusing on the risks that affect to their conservation. In this way, the analysis of current pathologies has been classified based on the risks systematized in the National Emergency Plan and Risk Management of Cultural Heritage (PNGRE 2015) and the National Plan of Defensive Architecture (PNAD 2006). Moreover, thanks to the different tools of analysis of the georreferenced assets of the Geographic Information Systems (GIS), several risk maps have been elaborated. In addition, the Delphi method has been applied in order to evaluate the impact of each risk on the selected cultural assets and to assess their vulnerability based on the effects that such risks produce on their structures. Concerning the analysis of materials and their pathologies, in the specific case of the Alcazaba Qadīma, a technical-scientific report has been elaborated. A detailed study of the crust samples has been carried out with an X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) and a petrographic study has been developed throughout microphotographs. Based on the results obtained, the sample of a systematic method based on preventive conservation and restoration measures has been detailed.

Capturing Medieval Architecture: Documentation Strategies for Digital Restoration and Research Projects,” Kristine Tanton, Université de Montréal

Digital methods are playing an increasingly important role in the study and restoration of medieval architecture. From 3D reconstructions of lost monuments to the documentation of sites that are in peril due to structural failures, climate change, or human intervention, digital methods have introduced new ways to organize and understand our objects of study, resulting in enhanced forms of curation in the service of critical discourse. Yet despite the advantages that digital tools and methods afford, there are some significant challenges, specifically the documenting and archiving of a digital project. How do we capture not only our data, sources, images, and project results, but also a project’s workflow (i.e., its conception, planning, design, implementation, dissemination, and archiving)? How do we make this material accessible to others? How do we ensure access to this data?

This paper explores how we can integrate architectural design studio practices into conservation and restoration documentation. Such an approach gives us a model for more fully documenting digital research projects of medieval architecture. In this paper I present my documentation strategies for two digital projects—a digital reconstruction of a twelfth-century church’s lost state and an online index of monumental sculpture. I propose an annotation process which integrates conservation practices and design studio practices tailored to the unique needs for historical research.

Restoring Medieval Art and Architecture II: Technology and Authenticity

“Technology versus Authenticity? The case of the Italian Basilica of Sant’Eustachio in Scala between Digital Reconstruction and the Perception of the Medieval Ruins,” Bianca Gioia Marino, University Federico II of Naples

The paper deals with the relationship between the digital restitution of the architectural artifact and the experience of use/perception of the ruins in their present state. In the communication of architecture as a ruin, it is necessary to consider two opposite issues: on the one side the reality (hic et nunc) of the work dialoguing with landscape generating a ‘work’ that changes over the time (G.Simmel, C.Brandi); on the other side the need to disseminate the original condition of the monument and the processes of its transformation. The iconic case of the 12th century basilica of Sant’Eustachio in Scala (south Italy) inscribed in WHL, sheds light on the complexity of the questions linked to the aforementioned issues. Today the basilica is mostly mythologized as a “romantic” site with its ruins overlooking the see, or it is known from the 3d reconstruction (2013-17) created after an extensive restoration campaign(2010).
A few people has instead experience of the real context of this architecture, recognize its features in relation with the local tradition, and the know the complex history of its progressive ruin and consequent reuse of decorative material in other monuments of the area.

Starting from the recognition of the value of a ruined architecture as a part of the context of exceptional landscape value, this case study is emblematic to explore boundaries and potentialities of technology. Through this case-study we intend, from an interdisciplinary perspective, to highlight different levels of authenticity: the transformations over time, the events linked to this architecture, a reading of the different perceptive scales, the attention to the material are all elements that converge to define its authenticity. If technologies are able to record its multidimensionality, they can become a useful critical tool for the communication of values but also for a greater sensitivity for restoration interventions.

“To Restore Practice: Parametric Modeling at Notre-Dame in Paris and the Authenticity Question,” Joseph Williams, University of Maryland

The burning of Notre-Dame in Paris in April 2019 presents opportunities that, without offsetting the tragedy of the event, are nonetheless significant. In particular, it occasions fresh research into medieval design and construction techniques as the restoration team attempts to integrate their efforts with the old build. Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, who helmed the cathedral’s 19th-century restoration, championed a symbiosis between restoration and the study of ancient techniques. The Venice Charter of 1964 (a guiding light for the present restoration) also emphasized the use of traditional techniques as part of an overall mission to preserve monuments “in the full richness of their authenticity.”

This paper discusses a method of studying historical building techniques that MArch students applied in my seminar on Buildings Archaeology: parametric modeling, the modeling of existing or prospective buildings by way of rule-based algorithms, as opposed to direct drafting. Using the program Grasshopper 3D, students created parametric models to reverse-engineer the step-by-step design and assembly processes of various damaged elements of Notre-Dame, such as the lost wooden-truss roof, partly destroyed rib vault, and scarred tracery of the great roses. Starting from accurate orthographic views taken from Andrew Tallon’s pre-fire LiDAR scan of Notre-Dame, students inferred the geometric rules of thumb that medieval builders applied when devising specific elements: rules that served as aesthetic guidelines as well as structural constraints.

Such efforts to understand Notre-Dame not merely as a formal product, but also as a trace of underlying intellectual processes, can support a more informed restoration and conservation effort. As modern architects become aware of ancient approaches and are challenged to negotiate between their own design habitus and those of the past, we not only learn more about the histories of great monuments, but are also better equipped to hone our theoretical understanding of the concept of authenticity.

Restoring Medieval Art and Architecture III: Technology and Access

“Visualizing History: The Enriched Timeline Project,” Meredith Cohen, University of California, Los Angeles

This paper presents the Enriched Timeline Project, which brought together a cohort of students and scholars under my direction this past summer to create 14 digital timelines of Western European “Gothic” architecture (primarily, but not exclusively, in France). The digital timelines display images, historical events, and contextual information as well as their interconnections in chronological order, while linking directly to primary or secondary sources for reference.

Most obviously, these timelines will serve as an aid to research, pedagogy, as well as a faulty memory (!), but more interestingly, they raise and clarify epistemological questions about the nature of history itself: what are histories of premodern buildings based on? How do we visually distinguish history from historiography, fact from speculation? What irrefutable knowledge has scholarship in this field generated? What has been incorporated and what has been forgotten in the historical discourse about these buildings? The timelines facilitate answers to these questions through graphic display, which distinguishes the primary from the secondary and intermediary sources. In visualizing history, the timelines provide a non-narrative alternative to written histories that convey complex information in a linear fashion. Rather, the timelines function as a form of visual communication by conveying history as a network of events.

Integrating multiple building histories in a single venue that is dynamic, interactive, and searchable allows for the organization of extensive, detailed, and multilayered architectural-historical data in a scale not possible in the mind’s eye. The timelines complement and extend internal mental processes of memory and cognition, and in doing so, create the opportunity generate new perspectives on Gothic architecture. In this way, the digital visualization of timelines provides broader and more complete access to, and insight on, the history of architecture.

“Rebuilding a Medieval Tower at Saint-Denis,” Sarah Thompson, Rochester Institute of Technology

The proposal to rebuild the north tower of Saint-Denis, dismantled more than 170 years ago, includes a significant emphasis on the use of medieval construction techniques to be exhibited in publicly accessible workshops at the site.  The medieval fabric of Saint-Denis is not being repaired, but reproduced, and the source material for the reconstruction is itself primarily drawn from a nineteenth-century restoration project; yet both the most recent proposal and prior iterations stress the use of medieval stonecutting methods and tools forged on site according to medieval practices, with stones lifted with medieval technology and set by hand. The project relies on expectations that the completed tower would restore the building’s intended medieval state, and that the tower’s reconstruction would stimulate positive public engagement by allowing visitors to witness and explore medieval working practices. The emphasis on historical methods as producing truly medieval work–within proposals that, at the same time, assure the audience that the most modern means of archaeological exploration and structural evaluation will be employed–smooths over complicated issues of the monument’s diachronic nature, and reveals tensions between a functioning church, a site of medieval patrimony, and a tourist attraction. How is the medieval state of Saint-Denis determined? When and how do accretions or alterations over time become part of the monument? How is authenticity of the monument–or perception of that authenticity–measured, and for what audiences?

“The Tape Cannot Replace the Compass,” John James, University of New South Wales/Independent Scholar

Modern methods are out of sync with medieval work because we use universal units of measure – unknown to them. They built without the tools we take for granted, yet can we replace their work without understanding their procedures? There were no universal measures, and therefore no dimensioned drawings. Today, the lack of working drawings would pose severe technical problems–but not then, for they turned it into a benefit that was holistic. Without working drawings how were intentions passed on, if at all? The absence of working drawings throws doubt on the possibility for long-term supervision and control, especially important as teams and masters changed from season to season.

Masters changed for technical reasons because they used soft mortar. Their mortar was slow-setting, and placed restrictions on the amount that could be constructed in a season. The number of courses that could be built in a season was normally limited to 5-8, a dozen at maximum. This was a policy that had lasted for over a thousand years, and for this reason masons came for only short stints that led to their being continually on the move. How then, did the new mason in a later season know how to carry on work left by his predecessor? The answer lies in the tools of the trade, tools we know well, but which do not show measurements. These were in fact tools specially created for the ratios and proportions that ruled their work.

How can we handle restoration in a way that respects the measurelessness that was at the root of medieval contracting?

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