Virtually recreating churches

Researchers from Spain’s Cartif Foundation and the University of Valladolid have created full-colour plans in 3D of places of cultural interest, using laser scanners and photographic cameras.

The technique has been used to virtually recreate five churches in the Merindad de Aguilar de Campoo, a region between Cantabria, Palencia and Burgos, which host the highest number of Romanesque monuments in the world.

’With this methodology, an exact model of the monuments or places of interest can be obtained in a virtual way’, said Pedro Martín-Lerones, co-author of the study and researcher at the Cartif Foundation in the Technological Park of Boecillo, Valladolid.

The project, which has been published in the Journal of Cultural Heritage, makes it possible to create three-dimensional plans with colour images of historical places of interest. The data is recorded by laser scanners that take the maximum number of geometric measurements from a minimum number of positions.

’This ensures that accuracy is maintained, while also reducing the time spent on field work, because generally more shots are usually taken than are needed’, said Martín-Lerones.

The data provided by the laser scanner is complimented by images captured by photographic cameras. This information is processed using two specific software programs developed by the researchers. One superimposes the information in colour of the photographs onto the three-dimensional model and another generates the final plans in 3D in a time frame that is claimed to be 40 per cent quicker than the traditional method.

’It makes it easier to draw up intervention projects, as well as preservation and renovation projects on churches or other buildings, in addition to its potential uses for popularising – on the internet, for example – the monuments in 3D,’ said Martín-Lerones.

3D model photo of the Valberzoso Church, Palencia, Spain
3D model photo of the Valberzoso Church, Palencia, Spain

Of the five churches recreated, the Palencian church of Valberzoso turned out to be one of the most representative, thanks to its state of preservation and accessibility.

’There, it can be observed that by using three-dimensional measurement of a place of cultural interest the result is that the quantity of information captured is thousands of times better than what is obtained from conventional methods, while the time spent on field work is reduced by around 75 per cent’, said Martín-Lerones.