Notre-dame de paris

bring life back to Notre-Dame de Paris

The devastating fire at Notre-Dame de Paris sparked intense emotion around the world, demonstrating the cathedral’s important place in history and culture as well as its enormous symbolic power. As France and other countries around the world continue to mourn the tragedy, the French government, experts, journalists and others are already mobilizing to launch an ambitious restoration – funding, planning, skills, materials and technologies.

The debate has already started between traditionalists and modernists. Should the cathedral be restored exactly as it was, including the timber frame? Should metal or other fire resistant materials be used? Whatever choices are made, digital heritage tools will be critical, both in restore and preserve the iconic monument and to develop virtual access to past and present treasures during the restoration process and after its completion.

Drone flight over Notre-Dame de Paris after the April 2019 fire.

Cathedrals as places of digital experimentation

the adoption of information and communication technologies (ICT) by heritage organizations serves both their two missions, curatorship and access. Due to their size and complex structures, cathedrals have always been the testing ground for technological innovation, flying buttresses at huge domes, and this remains true today with digital technologies. Projects such as digital cathedral, e-cathedral, and Cartography of Gothic France testify to the interest of the scientific community, public authorities and private companies, who see digital technology as a powerful tool for promoting the understanding, preservation, restoration and transmission of heritage.

For example, the Department of Computer Science at Columbia University in New York has launched a major project to digitally preserve the Saint-Pierre de Beauvais cathedral, France, which has the highest vault in Europe at 48 meters. This monumental structure suffered several partial collapses during its construction in the Middle Ages, and long after work stopped in 1604, it suffered bombardments and fires during the Second World War. Due to its bold design and advanced age, as well as unstable ground, past shocks and poorly managed weathering, the structure is very fragile. To document and model 3D computing, the researchers made 220 interior and exterior scans in multiple locations to better enable the cathedral to be preserved and passed on to future generations.

Digital archaeological technologies have been used to reconstruct and visualize lost or inaccessible sites such as Pompeii, the Lascaux Caves and Palmyra. They have a memorial function for inaccessible monuments, as well as those which have been partially or totally destroyed. These technologies can reproduce them so faithfully that it is possible to feel a certain sacredness in their virtual doubles.

A National geographic documentary, “Laser Scanning Reveals Cathedral Mysteries,” featuring Andrew Tallon of Vassar College explaining how he used digital scanning to map the interior of the Washington National Cathedral.

For example, the Cathedral of Saint Donato in Arezzo, Italy, demolished in the 16th century, received a complete digital reconstruction. A research group from the Department of Computer Science at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, has Saint-André cathedral digitally reconstructed, which was ransacked during the Protestant Reformation in 1559 and then fell into disrepair.

the Vista-AR European project aims to use digital technologies to “uncover the past and unseen history of a site”, including the Concergerie in Paris, where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned before her execution in 1793. Set in south-west England , Exeter Cathedral has been transformed, damaged and rebuilt many times over its long history, including after being bombed during World War II. Now, through the use of augmented reality systems, visitors will be able to witness scenes from past life, meet characters from the past, and virtually access missing or inaccessible artifacts.

Digital technologies are also widely used to create audio guides, apps, sound and light shows and video games. Some digital events are also based on a combination of technologies, including the summer multimedia shows on the facades of the cathedrals of Amiens (“Chromium”), Reims (“Royal Insignia”) and Montreal “Will have”. Before the April 2019 fire, Notre-Dame de Paris naturally had its own, ” Lady of Heart “.

Digital technologies for catering

Given the severe damage to Notre-Dame de Paris, digital would have a wide range of potential applications:

Notre-Dame de Paris is not only the most visited tourist site in Europe, it has also been widely studied, documented, filmed and analyzed. Before his death in 2018, the pioneering art historian Andre Talon digitized and documented Notre-Dame and many other cathedrals. The valuable data collected, which contains more than one billion data points, has been made freely available.

Graphic Art & Heritage 3D digitization of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.

The firms Graphic Art & Heritage (AGP) and Surveyors-Experts (GEA), specialized in 3D scanning, also worked on Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. They produced a 3D model of the roof and beams for the ongoing renovation which may well have started the fire. This model will now be crucial for the restoration of the building.

Digital technologies for access

Digital technologies can provide on-site and online audiences with experiential access to heritage knowledge, artifacts and places. In the case of Notre-Dame, digital can be used to disseminate knowledge on the evolution of the monument through the ages, the restoration project, the historical techniques that will be involved and behind the scenes of the construction site.

A similar effort is underway in the Basque Country, Spain, where the 800-year-old Santa Maria de Vitoria-Gasteiz Cathedral is being restored but is “open for construction”. The foundation supporting the project proposes two-hour guided tours, from the foundations to the steeple. The tour ends with a sound and light show, “El portico de la Luz”, revealing how the entrance was originally painted. So far, more than 1.5 million people from all over the world have taken part.

For Notre-Dame de Paris, the first stage of the process will be the construction of a temporary wooden cathedral opposite, to maintain a living link with the cathedral. Within the temporary cathedral and via an online portal, visitors will be able to follow reports on the progress of the restoration, participate in the virtual community of Notre-Dame and learn about related events.

Indeed, to compensate for the potential drop in cultural tourism, “phygital” heritage technologies (physical and digital) could be combined next to the cathedral, to create a new fascinating environment with interactive screens, digital tables, lounges virtual reality and arcades integrating simulations and games providing thrills and emotions. For example, visitors could discover the video game Assassin’s Creed: Unity, which has a complex simulation of the cathedral in all its beauty.

Recreation of Notre Dame by Ubisoft for its game Assassin’s Creed: Unity.