Recording the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore
In collaboration with the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, EPFL, Iconem and Divirod
2020 - in progress
© Otto Lowe for Factum Foundation
From 6th to 17th July 2020, a team from Factum Foundation spent twelve days in Venice recording the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore in its entirety.
This ground-breaking ARCHiVe project, linked with EPFL's Venice Time Machine, involved the collaboration of Factum Foundation, the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and Iconem. The aim was to demonstrate that technologies such as aerial and ground-based photogrammetry and LiDAR recording could eventually be used to record the whole of Venice.
After the acqua alta of November 2019 reached the highest recorded level in fifty years, ARCHiVe's aim of efficiently and effectively aiding the preservation of Venice's fragile cultural heritage acquired a new note of urgency. Swiftly convened discussions between the partner institutions led to this project being undertaken as soon as the COVID-19 emergency allowed for the respective teams to travel once again.
The island was recorded from more than 600 different recording spots, from which a massive 60.000 million-point cloud was generated. The data acquired through photogrammetry is currently being merged with the point-clouds - with the aim of creating a 3D model of the whole island.
Tonal map image of the island © Factum Foundation
The first phase of the project involved recording the Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore. To do this, Factum Foundation's Pedro Mirò and Otto Lowe, aided by Emanuele Zampieri and Francesco Cigognetti, employed LiDAR scanning (using a Leica RTC360) and ground-based photogrammetry (using a Sony A7Riv camera). The first day saw the recording of the interior of the Palladian church, the apse and the inside of the bell tower, while the following days were dedicated to the exterior of the church and the crypt.
Recording the façade of the Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore © Otto Lowe for Factum Foundation
First (right) and final (right) data processing of the render of one the statues on the façade © Factum Foundation for ARCHiVe
Recording the altar inside the Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore © Otto Lowe for Factum Foundation
3D model of the San Giorgio Maggiore altar © Factum Foundation
3D model of the altar and the lectern © Factum Foundation for ARCHiVe
Point cloud of the inside of the flooded crypt © Factum Foundation for ARCHiVe
3D model of the palladian refectory of San Giorgio, housing Factum Arte's facsimile of 'The Wedding at Cana' by Veronese since 2007. The floor uses data taken from a 2015 recording of the Longhena Staircase floor tiles © Factum Foundation for ARCHiVe
Pedro Miró recording the library with a LiDAR scanner © Otto Lowe for Factum Foundation
3D model of the Sala del Soffitto's ceiling without colour (left) and with colour (right) © Factum Foundation for ARCHiVe
Point cloud of the Borges Labyrinth © Factum Foundation for ARCHiVe
Following a radio programme on the ARCHiVe project, discussing the digitisation of the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice (The World, September 2020), Factum Foundation was contacted by Divirod, a start-up from Boulder, Colorado.
Divirod have developed a passive radar sensor that uses satellites and locally recorded data to generate accurate hydrological models. The software uses harmonic recordings to create dynamic representations of tide, wave activity and wind speed to predict erosion and flooding. Divirod have provided one of their advanced sensors to monitor the relationship between land and water on the island, with the data being accessible in real-time on desktop and mobile devices. The installation of the sensor in late August is part of ARCHiVe's work to document and study both cultural heritage and natural changes on and around the island.
The advanced sensor installed in Venice detects the unique signature of satellite signals bouncing off the water of the Lagoon. This provides a local, accurate and dynamic image of the relationship between a fixed point on the land and the water. The data is uploaded to the cloud in real-time, where a machine learning software developed by Divirod aggregates and processes it. The more sensors that are installed, the greater our understanding of the relationship between the land and the water: a slow-moving but still dynamic body, versus a dynamic fluid that is animated by many forces, from gravity and the wind to the energy released by the passing of large boats. The accurate hydrological models generated from the harmonic recordings are used to create constantly updating representations of tide, wave activity and wind speed, to predict erosion and flooding.
It is hoped that with time, this collaboration will link ARCHiVe to Factum Foundation's AALTOSIILO projects in Oulu, Finland, which focuses on the recording of natural heritage in the Arctic Circle. Venice is sinking about half a centimeter a year, while Oulu (the city of the AALTOSIILO) is rising at almost 2 centimeters a year due to glacial rebound.
As the sensor starts to log vast quantities of dynamic information, we will be working with the Cini Foundation to find new applications and develop tools that will help provide answers to practical needs.
The Divirod sensor overlooking the landscape around the Giorgio Cini Foundation © Fondazione Giorgio Cini
- On Digital Technologies, Our Cultural Heritage and Global Warming. How do they come together in Venice? (British Library, October 2021)
- Venezia, l'isola di San Giorgio diventa digitale (Repubblica, September 2021)
- Venecia se inunda, y la tecnología de este ingeniero español ayudará a saber a qué velocidad para prevenir posibles daños al patrimonio (Business Insider España, September 2021)
- Sunken Treasures (Project Management Institute, March-April 2021)
- Cutting-Edge Technologies are being used to help save Venice (Architectural Digest, October 2020)
- New technologies might save Venice's cultural heritage from the floods (ArchDaily, October 2020)
- Preserving the floating city of Venice digitally (The World, September 2020)
- New laser-scanning project will allow Venice to live on forever as a digital avatar (The Art Newspaper, September 2020)
- La Magnifica Preda (Il Giornale dell'Arte, September 2020)
- Un visionario sull'isola di Borges (Il Giornale dell'Arte, Vernissage, July-August 2020)