Advanced Preservation Technology Studio

Columbia University, 2017

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Taught by Adam Lowe and Carlos Bayod, the course Advanced Preservation Technology Studio inaugurated in Fall 2016 at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP). The Studio is a project-based course that explores advanced applications of technology for digital preservation. Drawing on previous knowledge of architectural structure systems and materials, students are taught to use 3D scanning, photogrammetry and fabrication technologies to devise experimental preservation treatments of historic buildings and artworks. The Advanced Preservation Technology Studio encourages students to consider the use of digital technology in a broader cultural, political and aesthetic context.

Adam Lowe, Jorge Otero-Pailos and Carlos Bayod follow the student's midterm presentations

High-resolution 3D scanning technologies allow us to look at art and architectural elements under a new light, transforming the ways in which we study and preserve them. The possibility of documenting not only the shape but also the surface details of an artwork at a hundred-micron level can provide invaluable information about the history of an object: the way the object has aged, how it has been looked after, and why it looks the way it does today. High-resolution surface data, in combination with other relevant diagnostic techniques, allows us to learn more about the objects we have the duty to preserve.

Adam Lowe and Andrea Barbon demonstrating the uses of the Replica 360 Recto/Verso Scanner during a lesson at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini.

The Studio is based on the belief that digitization and replication should be an essential part of every conservation process. From large-scale buildings documentation and diagnostics to the closer, forensic analysis of a wall’s texture, 3D recording technologies now give us the opportunity to embrace a vast range of case studies that are relevant for the evolving discipline of historic preservation.

A XIV C. panel by Simone Martini's workshop was recorded at The Met in 2016 as a demonstration of the possibilities of non-contact high-resolution 3D scanning.

The course provides students with an opportunity to carry out specific, international projects on different scales. Activities such as the digitization of artworks and where appropriate, the production of facsimiles aim to help students develop a methodology and a criteria for conducting digital conservation. In fact, some of the students in GSAPP's Advanced Preservation studio join the Factum Arte team for a summer immersion internship.

GSAPP students Andre Paul Jauregui and Halley E. Ramos interned at Factum Arte's during the summer of 2017.

GSAPP students Andre Paul Jauregui and Halley E. Ramos interned at Factum Arte's during the summer of 2017.

Factum Arte's interns are assigned conservation projects and specific practical assignments.

The digital should be understood not only as a set of specific technological tools but as a broader, comprehensive approach to conservation. The course is primarily practical and based on on-site fieldwork, in collaboration with national and international partners. Most projects focus on techniques of digitization of buildings or objects, thereby contributing to its preservation.

Documenting in high resolution the surface of an object is essential for its preservation: the obtained digital data provides invaluable information of its current conservation state; successive recordings over time could help to monitor its evolution.

All digitization and replication processes use diverse media to transform data of an original object (input). This transformation, or digital processing, results in a prototype (output) that can be materialized. A facsimile, or exact replica for conservation, would require a material processing involving craft techniques.

The students recorded a damaged Monet painting and produced a high-resolution model of its surface

The data obtained during the various activities programmed for the course can help participating institutions. From an academic perspective, the projects should encourage strong collaborations spread across different disciplines and should instigate further postgraduate research, publications, conferences and exhibitions.

Areas of interest of the Advanced Preservation Technology Studio:

  • Digital preservation
  • Non-contact recording
  • High-resolution data
  • Multi-layered information
  • Digital restoration
  • Archiving and dissemination
  • Digital fabrication
  • Conservation facsimiles
  • Originality and Authenticity
  • Sustainable tourism

Carlos Bayod explains techniques for 3D scanning a series of panel paintings

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