Posted on July 14, 2020 at 12:00 PM by Chuck Fox
One of the most beloved landmarks worldwide, Notre Dame Cathedral has made an indelible impression on many. More than 13 million people visit Notre Dame annually. This grand cathedral is one of the most widely recognized symbols attached to the city of Paris, as well as to France as a nation.
Originally commissioned by Maurice de Sully, the bishop of Paris, around 1160, it is unknown who constructed Notre Dame. Though there were no records left behind, the late Vassar Associate Professor of Art, Andrew Tallon, employed the precision of 3D laser scanning to see if he could better understand how this Gothic masterpiece was built, and in doing so, captured and invaluable 3D record of the priceless cathedral.
His quest to discover what the data would reveal began in 2010. Ultimately, Tallon laser-scanned more than 50 locations in and around the cathedral, collecting more than one billion points of data, stitching them together to form a stunning and precise computer-generated replica. This new level of forensic detail quenched Tallon’s curiosity and provided a great gift to future generations. He couldn’t have known how quickly the data would be needed.
Catastrophe Strikes Notre Dame
April 15, 2019, was a tragic day for all who admire this majestic Gothic structure. On that day, the cathedral’s roof and spire were destroyed in a devastating fire that burned for 15 hours. News coverage showed harrowing images of giant flames and clouds of smoke billowing from the roof. Many wondered if the entire structure would be destroyed. Fortunately, the firefighters stopped that from happening. Today, the world waits patiently for architect selection for reconstruction, as well as details of approved plans, and timeline updates. Fortunately, Tallon’s detailed and precise 3D point cloud data is available to support reconstruction efforts.
History tells us that groundbreaking of Notre Dame began in 1163 and completion occurred in 1345, spanning a 182-year period. Thanks to modern-day technology – including Tallon’s critical 3D scans – reconstruction could take as little as five years, depending on final plans.
Though Tallon died in November of last year, his scientifically accurate laser scanning work that precisely captured Notre Dame’s architecture is now part of history. It is expected that his data will be consulted during reconstruction to recreate beam measurements, provide accurate dimensions for the spire, and will serve as a reference for the overall structure of the cathedral.