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2013 Digital Heritage International Congress

federating the 19 Intl VSMM, 10 Eurographics GCH, & 2nd UNESCO Memory of the World Conferences, plus special sessions from CAA, Arqueolgica 2.0, Space2Place, ICOMOS ICIP & CIPA, EU projects, et al.
th th

Volume 1

28 Oct 1 Nov 2013 Marseille, France

Copyright 2013 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved
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IEEE Catalog Number: CFP1308W-USB ISBN: 978-1-4799-3169-9

Cutting-edge technologies for the survey and documentation of cultural heritage

The case study of the architectural-archaeological area of Aruch in Armenia
Antonella Versaci Alessio Cardaci

Faculty of Engineering and Architecture KORE University Enna, Italy antonella.versaci@unikore.it

Abstract One of the most important finalities of survey is the architectures comprehension. To the end of cultural heritage conservation, it is furthermore necessary to communicate the acquired knowledge. In the recent years, this need has resulted in a radical change in cataloging and digitization systems, as well as in telematics networking. Moreover, the use of 3D laser scanner has transformed not only the approaches related to metrics data acquisition and graphic rendering but has also afforded the opportunity to share important information on the web. This paper focuses on the usefulness of state-of-the-art technologies for documentation, presenting a case study related to the architectural-archeological area of Aruch in Armenia. Keywordscultural heritage preservation and documentation; cutting edge technologies for survey, representation and imaging; photo stitching, Armenia

Department of Engineering University of Bergamo Bergamo, Italy alessio.cardaci@unibg.it essential to combine the concretization of a dutiful desire of communication. In recent years, this need has become more pressing than ever, engendering, as a direct consequence, a significant advancement in the cultural heritage cataloging and digitization processes, as well as of telematics networking and communication technologies. New approaches have therefore been identified, more and more taking into account, user's behaviors, in order to build more user-friendly and attractive systems. The growing technological development has also led to the creation of platforms with extensive visualization and 3D navigation, increasingly accurate in the image perception and able to capture and maintain user attention, involving him in fruitful interactive experiences [4]. Simultaneously, the improvement of 3D laser scanning has significantly revolutionized the practices related to the metric acquisition and graphic rendering, ensuring an accurate and objective understanding of the architectural object and its rapid re-drawing in two and three dimensions [5]. Moreover, specific sharing applications, integrated within websites specially created, allow today to make available, through the network, in addition to traditional information (such as images, drawings and digitized texts, GIS data, etc.), even 3D data. Unlike the two-dimensional data, however, showing just a static view of the monument observed from a single and the unchangeable projective center chosen by the operator, the three-dimensional information, organized like as geometric interactive models, can be freely explored, on the basis of user's skills and interests. A point cloud is, in fact, an incredible database, a kind of solid photograph allowing to investigate the object reproduced in its geometric essence, to make comparisons between different files of the same object obtained from measurements far apart in time (to check, for example, the state of preservation of the good), to elaborate models and include them in digital galleries. This paper aims to address the issue of the new frontiers of laser scanning, showing its utility for the documentation of cultural heritage, especially for articulated sites such as that analyzed here: the architectural-archaeological complex of Aruch, one of the main sacred sites in Armenia and valuable evidence of the Country's cultural heritage.



The main objective of "survey" is the knowledge of architecture: i.e., the creation of an interpretative model of reality which, by means of graphical representations and supported by consolidated elements, allows the reading, analysis and communication of the analyzed object. As a privileged instrument for scientific research, surveying activities aim at both the acquisition of information to be organized according to a synthetic language and their evaluation based on logical criteria [1]. The comprehension of the built heritage - an essential condition for the implementation of any conservative action thus requires a thorough research of bibliographic and iconographic data, as well as of information more properly related to perceptual, formal, geometric and chromatic aspects, which need to be collected in clear, comprehensive and comprehensible hierarchical structures [2]. Thus, the historical inquiry, the survey, the matterconstructive identification and the preventive diagnosis, are to be considered as partial phases that become really useful when all of them are related to each other and are strictly connected to the final purposes of the whole study [3]. For the aim of conservation, to the process of cognition, it is

978-1-4799-3169-9/13/$31.00 2013 IEEE





The safeguarding of Armenian cultural heritage is an element of great importance for the identity and history of the "people of Ararat". The national government of the young Republic, whose independence was proclaimed on November 23, 1991, recognizes in its monuments a valid reference point to testify its cultural identity, within the context of a tormented history and a complex geopolitical pattern that today sees the ancient land of Armenia, reduced in its original extensions and with many of its cities belonging to other nations. The monuments, especially religious ones, have contributed throughout history to assert and maintain the character and national tradition, allowing the population to survive the most complex periods of its history. Actually, despite the difficult conditions but showing large capabilities, the Armenian architects have animated a prestigious season of art and architecture that lasted for several centuries, creating buildings characterized by excellent seismic quality and always-original forms but at the same time, revealing a surprising uniformity of style. Most of the handed down heritage is made up of churches and religious complexes; unfortunately, not much of civil architecture, ancient settlements or fortifications is left. The deep respect of this "gentle and fantasizing" people [6] to the places of worship is manifested through the continuing maintenance work during the centuries (even through the in situ reconstruction of the destroyed buildings), but the same attention has not been given to the other architectures. This aspect can certainly be detected in the evolution of the main towns: a telling example is the capital Yerevan, where the contemporary city "replaces" the past one, erasing almost all the historical memory (the new buildings rise on the demolition of the previous, resulting in major changes also in the forma urbis with the modification of the streets and squares) within a vision that, paradoxically, intends to preserve only the monuments and not the buildings located around them [7]. Even during the period when Armenia was a member of the Soviet Union until its dissolution, the preservation of architectural heritage has been one of the key focuses of national interests [8]. Later, however, the destructive earthquake of 1988, the energy crisis, the problems associated with the need for a reform of the entire economic system and, last but not least, the conflict with Azerbaijan have caused serious financial difficulties resulting in the almost total blockage of the activities of the entities responsible for the restoration of monuments. Currently, due to the abrupt interruption of the restoration and maintenance work, many of them are in a serious state of deterioration. At the same time, much has been done from the point of view of cataloging and documentation of Armenian architectural heritage. Modern studies in this area began in the decades preceding the fall of the Ottoman Empire (from the late 19th and early 20th century) and were dictated by the necessity and urgency to leave a trace of a material culture that, equal to the population, had not been spared by terrible persecutions and destruction will. "Die baukunst der armenier und Europa", published in Vienna by J. Strygowsky (1918), is the first

descriptive catalog of the Armenian architectural monuments, rich in historical information, photographs and metric survey of the buildings. In 1921, Nikolai Marr published the essay "Any: la Ville Armnniene en Ruines", a report of excavations carried out in the ancient capital (now in Turkey, but from 1878 to 1917, part of the Russian Empire). Between the two world wars, with a stalemate of the research coincide, on the other hand, the work of J. Baltrusaitis that, supported by H. Focillon, helped to keep alive in France, the interest in Caucasian architecture. In the first half of the 20th century, the Soviet Union acquired the leadership position in architectural studies: the publication of T. Toramanian entitled "Nyouter Haykakan Tjartarapetoutyan Patmoutyan" dates back to 1948. Through a series of case studies, the author launched accurate research on each monument and outlined a complete framework for the works of architecture's periodization. Between 1950 and 1960, in Paris, A. Khatchatrian carried out a research on existing documentation, collecting all information about (and coming from) Armenia. Some of these documents are shown in Fig. 1. In Italy, thanks to the architect A. Zarian and to the exchanges carried on by P. Cuneo, T. Fratadocchi Breccia, F. Gandolfo and A. Alpago-Novello a keen interest in this architecture was developed from the late 60s. These studies led in the 70s and 80s in the organization of international

Fig. 1 Some documents related to Armenian architectural heritage published in the last two centuries


conferences and the publication of numerous books on Armenian monuments that will permit a significant step forward in the recognition of their historical and cultural value. This fervent activity was continued by the Center for Studies and Documentation of Armenian Culture (CSDCA), under the Department of Eurasian Studies in the University Ca 'Foscari of Venice, which worked at the inventorying and the digitization of all the documents in possession of the center (including more than 10.000 slides of Armenian architectonic monuments, a great deal of photographic negatives and prints in black or in colors and graphic surveys of numerous buildings. It gave life to the Eurasian Art and Architecture Digital Archive database whose networking, however, at the moment, is interrupted [9]. In the Scientific Series Hyperfolia of the Department of Eurasian Studies was also published the interactive CD-ROM: "Four centuries of Armenian Architecture" [10]. This publication presents almost all architectural monuments erected on the territory of the republic of Armenia during the period that Paolo Cuneo named "formative period", between the 4th and the 7th century AD [11]. In addition, in various parts of the globe, the current trend is to make collections of documents: exhaustive, as reliable as possible and accessible via the web. These sites appear indeed valuable instruments of cultural diffusion but they result aimed at the implementation of the tourism industry. The extensive work of data acquisition already accomplished, could be accompanied by accurate census activities based on advanced technologies of 3D modeling and/or other applications for interactive and virtual communication, by the time necessary for the knowledge, the analysis and the valorization of a cultural heritage, still greatly at risk, and that the authors of this work intend to propose. III. THE PROCESS OF KNOWLEDGE: FROM THE USE OF ARCHIVAL AND DOCUMENTARY SOURCES TO THE SURVEY, GRAPHIC RENDERING AND WEB SHARING ACTIVITIES Since World War II until the mid-70s, many Armenian monuments were the subject of restoration interventions undertaken by the Soviet government, during which metric measurements were carried out. What has been achieved, proposes geometric models, which are an interpretative visualization of the edifices, not always, then, a faithful exegesis of the monument, also because of the instrumentation and measuring methods of the time. The graphic restitution simplifies the architectural objects in their geometries; they are regularized in size, circular arcs replace the real curvatures, the alignments are parallel or orthogonal, set of exact (but not realistic) symmetries. The whole, enhancing and artificially highlighting a constructive and formal regularity not fully corresponding with what still exists and is measurable. The activities carried out by the authors of this paper have been finalized to a better and a more objective understanding of the major monuments of the Country, making use of the most innovative technologies and methodologies. They started from archival researches to which followed manual and instrumental measurement campaigns by means of laser scanner and other topographic, photogrammetric and photographic methodologies. The operational phases have, in the first instance, concerned, the architectural and archaeological site of Aruch.

A. The history of the site The complex of Aruch is located on the southern foot of Mount Aragats. Along the Aghbri canyon on the western side of Aruch, where now a small stream runs, earlier most likely used to flow a big watercourse, which was probably named Aruch River. Aruch is mentioned in the geological dictionary of S. Eprikyan as an "old settlement of town by the river of the same name". This ravine area is particularly rich with prehistoric cultural monuments; recurring excavations confirm that the village has a great history dating back to pre-Christian centuries. Excavations of 1975, headed by G. Areshyan, discovered a huge burial ground, covering more than 20 ha of area with approximately 8-12 thousand burials. Aruchs name was first mentioned by the historian Yeghishe (5th c.) according to whom it served as a winter-camp for the royal army of the Arshakuni kings. However, its most important period is connected with Prince (Hayots Ishkhan) Grigor Mamikonian (661-685) when Aruch became his official seat of power, as granted by the Arab caliph. The site is composed of several remains against which stands the St Grigor Cathedral, the largest church of Armenia's early medieval domed hall types (34.6 x 16.95 m), famous for its architecture and frescoes. According to historians, it was built during the reign of Prince Grigor Mamikonian, the mason inscription on the eastern wall and historical references pointing to its construction 662-666 [12]. With the exception of the drum and the dome (still missing), the church was restored between 1946 and 1948. Today, almost unused except by a few devotees of the small neighboring village, the church is facing a serious state of disrepair, especially from a static point of view. At the southeast of the cathedral are the excavated ruins of the Grigor Mamikonian palace, which consisted of two buildings, a great hall and a column hall. The column hall made up the main palace: in the area where the throne hall lay, two surviving massive capitals decorated with sculptures on capital stone slabs, are still in place. The central hall is divided into three aisles by massive stone columns identical to the Catholicos Palace at Dvin, if shorter. With regard to the great hall, some of its features (stylobates, cross-sculptural work on the northern wall) point to its earlier incarnation as a cathedral, later rebuilt into this palatial structure, as found during excavations in 20062007. There are two surviving capitals in the column hall: one decorated with extended palm leaves and the abacus adorned with undulating grape leaves and fruit. The other capital is smaller and, while similar to the first, is decorated with sixpointed stars on the abacus. The throne, made of tufa and carved, is the only surviving sample of its type in Armenia and is set in the middle of the central aisle at the eastern end. Not far away, there is a church from the 4th century with beside a small chapel. All around, an old cemetery can be also found. Much of the site remains to be brought to life. The presence of a city around the palace surrounded by imposing walls of which some tracks are still visible, has been hypothesized; this is, however, to be determined by further excavations and studies. This area generates the interest of the Ministry of Culture that expressed its intention to proceed with some interventions, in the short term.


B. The integrated survey In recent years, the practice of survey finalized to the study, analysis and valorization of architectural heritage has benefited from a considerable progress in integrated acquisition systems, allowing to combine traditional methodologies (including laser scanning) with the most innovative image based modeling for the rapid creation of high-impact realistic 3D models [13,14,15,16]. Moreover, new opportunities are offered today by the instrument of "virtual tour": an immersive and interactive means of knowledge obtained through the methods of photo stitching (spherical images connected together by hotspots), which better than other forms of representation, approaches the user to a real visit of places, both as a visual quality and as emotional perception, providing a greater understanding and "familiarity" with architectural objects, even from a distance. However, these systems evolution and their simplified application process, must not prevaricate. Actually, the study of the exact geometry of the monuments - an essential element in the context of an approach that seeks to interpret its behavior over time based on the understanding of the old structural system - cannot still neglect the use of topographic consolidated methods (total station, GPS equipment and 3D laser scanner), requiring the intervention of specialized operators, a significant commitment in terms of working time for the graphical rendering and some important financial resources for the equipment purchase. The studies carried out in Aruch - aimed at the accurate knowledge of valuable evidences of Armenian architecture (measured in days gone by instruments with smaller accuracies, and a tendency towards "geometric regularization" typical of the practice used back then, are shown in the Fig. 2) and finalized to the project of restoration and consolidation of the cathedral, as well as to the subsequent excavations in the rest of archaeological area, were then based on the use of the most extensive survey and measuring technologies available. These methodologies have been consciously selected on the basis of the study objects, taking into account the optimization of the cost/benefit ratio. They were therefore applied, following a will of different methodologies integration. First, the planned activities required the establishment of a closed traverse whose vertices (materialized by survey point nails set in concrete, even in view of possible future monitoring) were used to mark known coordinates, offset and georeferenced. The position of monuments and other archeological objects was established by total station and Global Positioning System (GPS) methods. The topographic survey was conducted in collaboration with a team of PhD students involved in the Tempus project at the Yerevan State University of Architecture and Construction (YSUAC). It has allowed - and it will allow even in the future - including in a single georeferenced system and with high accuracy, each partial survey performed in different periods using laser scanning and/or direct survey technique with the use of "squared reticles", with regard to the areas of excavation [17, 18]. In particular, because of its size, the particular climatic conditions (1200 meters above sea level and extremely exposed as facing the prevailing winds), as well as the relative difficulty of reaching the site and, last but not least the shorter of missions,

Fig. 2 The Cathedral of Aruch and the archeological site from archival sources. These metrics information and graphical representations have been handed down for several decades, without ever having benefited, to date, from the appropriate checks

the complex of Aruch was surveyed during two campaigns lasting 4 days each, carried out during the spring season in the years 2012 and 2013 as shown in the Fig. 3 a, b, c. A laser scanning survey has, during the first mission, concerned the cathedral (with the exception of the northern faade, the roof and some internal chapels). During a second mission, the survey of the palace, the basilica of the 4th century and the chapel nearby was accomplished. It has also allowed the conclusion of operations through the acquisition of the missing faade, part of


the old cemetery and the pitched roof: these acquisitions were only possible thanks to the use of an aerial work platform. 3D scans were entirely performed with the instrumentation Faro Focus 3D and aligned thanks to recording networks created by means of checkerboard paper targets. The small space between each station - always less than 15 meters to secure the optimal automatic detection of objects at the chosen laser scanner solution - i.e. 1/4 of the maximum one and a quality of 4x - has resulted in a very dense final point cloud with limited occluded areas. During every scan were acquired approximately 43.000.000 points in times slightly higher than 9 minutes (including color data). The subsequent operational phases allowed to obtain textured 3D models from which high-resolution orthophotos (at the nominal tolerance for vectorial representations of 1:50), necessary for the rendering of top and plan views, elevations, longitudinal and transversal sections to describe the structure as a whole and all of its structural components, were obtained. As shown in the Fig. 4, the orthographic projections produced were subsequently "reworked" in accordance with established practices of 2D graphics in order to get images allowing a more clear and defined reading of degradation phenomena (and in general of the status quo of the building) while not altering the veracity of colors, materials and geometry. C. 3D modeling and rapid prototyping for the knowledge, conservation and valorization of cultural heritage The 3D data acquisition and their registration within a single common reference system do not exhaust the problem, much more complex, of the information web sharing. The point clouds, as very heavy (in terms of file size) raw elements, do not easily lend themselves to a remote management on a dedicated server. Further processing steps are therefore necessary to transform them in a CAD model. In general, this practice once complex, it is now easy to implement by means of dedicated applications, transferring the cloud in AutoCAD-based environment. The cloud, digitized and imported as a block, has then provided the basis for a 3D modeling by means of elementary primitives, partly by simplifying the building and architectural elements in typological families with known geometry. This has inevitably resulted in the rendering of regular surfaces as an approximate spatial representation of sensor measurements [19]. However, this manipulation provides the best understanding of the building - expressed in its structural elements - and allows easy viewing on any computer, tablet or smartphone (even through a three-dimensional PDF file) and for this reason has been here adopted. The CAD model, easily converted in the STL format, was used to support the methodological processes of reverse engineering and rapid prototyping. Commonly used for industrial design, these methodologies are today progressively approaching the architectural world and becoming a valuable support to the study of historic buildings (and not only). The opportunity to quickly obtain virtual but also physical models of existing, destroyed or never realized architecture based on data acquired by photogrammetric or laser scanning techniques and/or resulting from the interpretation of archive documents,

Fig. 3a Surveying activities

Fig. 3b View of the southern faade of the Cathedral and of the Palace remains

Fig. 3c View from the aerial work platform (height > 35 meters) of the roofs


offers new possibilities both for a proper documentation (including the analysis of successive construction stages) and preservation, restoration and valorization, as shown in Fig. 5. Prototypes produced by 3D printers and CNC machines allow a deeper understanding of architecture and its easier communication. The acquisition is the first step in the data processing to which follows the 3D modeling for the creation of both virtual textured and navigable artifacts, and physical replicas: models able to provide a more realistic description of the object and based on accurate metric indication and also including materials and degradation phenomenas information. Eventually, it was decided to also go with the support of some stone decorative elements and, in particular, of the many khatchkar (carved stone, memorial stele bearing a cross, and often with additional themes such as rosettes, interlaces, and botanical motifs, characteristic of Medieval Christian Armenian art) located on the site, close to the cemetery area. For these elements, it was considered that, when the survey is solely aimed at the documentation of cultural heritage, especially if confined to the online fruition, does not always need a precise reconstruction of the metric model. On the market, several software that, from a series of images suitably acquired lead to realization of 3D models, are currently available (such as the Agisoft PhotoScan, here used as shown in the Fig. 6). Such applications, thanks to the high degree of automation, reduce the operator control and intervention and are characterized by a high final quality such as to often hamstring a subsequent postediting. Moreover, the results can be enriched by multimedia elements (texts, audios, videos, maps) act to make the dynamic representation even more communicative and by means of simple procedures undertaken by generic operators, without the need for complex and expensive equipment. This pattern has been employed for the elements described above. Frontal images to be subjected to simple photorectification have allowed the redesign in the shell of the decorations of each component. The other photographic images have been used for the reconstruction of the 3D model to understand its spatial dimension. All the material resulting from surveys and analysis carried out is already organized inside a database freely accessible on the web. The main pages of the site contain historical and bibliographical information, a summary sheet of significant steps in the process of acquiring and digital cataloging, multimedia plans, slides and image galleries (recent and historical ones), animation and 3D models in PDF format. The felt need to share with researchers the raw point cloud, has suggested supplementing database with a link to a hosting service where the Web Share project (2.5D images directly measurable) can be accessed, consulted and downloaded (after subsequent authorization of the webmaster) in FLS format as shown in Fig. 7. IV. CONCLUSIONS The use of state-of-the-art technologies to support cultural heritage documentation cannot completely replace the study and cataloging methods so far applied, but they can be considered a precious support to them. The point clouds and the 3D geometric models are a wealth of information that will be added to the already acquired knowledge of the monument, in order to ensure

Fig. 4 Ortographic projections of the site and the Cathedral obtained by laser scanner data acquisition and registration made by Faro Scene 5.1


its better understanding. The major issue is related to the fragmentary nature of this information and to the difficult access to the archives, including telematics one. The numerous existing projects for the valorization of Armenian cultural heritage are lacking of coordination between the various components and, too often mix the documentation for the knowledge up with the documentation for communication. Armenian culture has produced over the centuries a cultural landscape dominated by tangible legacies of the Christian religion. On this basis, policies for the promotion of Armenian cultural heritage abroad (also oriented towards cultural tourism) has started to be developed [20]. There are more and more projects of databases and websites cataloguing cultural heritage of Armenia (through photos, cards, drawings, etc.) but with the aim of a faster dissemination and a high impact, to create curiosity about these mysterious and evocative lands. This is the purpose of the "documentation for the communication" proposed, for example, by www.armenica.org, www.virtualani.org, www.cilicia.com or even www.armenianmonuments.org, providing the needed basic information for the visitors but too approximated for the scholars. The work here synthesized is still a pilot project at an early stage which provides for a development and a continuation, even through the data sharing and collaboration with digital archives and other similar structures (such as CyArk, http://archive.cyark.org, for example). Significant effort is needed in documenting heritage sites and digital preservation can significantly help in ensuring that critical information about our invaluable heritage become virtually available to the public. Our heritage sites have to be cared for today and protected for tomorrow, to ensure and keep alive the collective memory of humanity. ACKNOWLEDGMENT This work has been carried out in the framework of a teaching assignment within the Master Conservation design. Training in Armenia in the restoration. A project for development cooperation, 1st and 2nd edition, organized by the Polytechnic of Milan, in collaboration with the YSUAC-State University of Architecture and Construction of Yerevan and financed by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Polytechnic of Milan. The authors thank the director of the Master, prof. Francesco Augelli, prof. Maurizio Boriani and arch. Gaian Casnati. Special thanks to arch. Stefania Zuccarello and Luca Fauzia. REFERENCES
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Fig. 5 CAD modeling and rapid prototyping


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Fig. 6 3D image-based reconstruction of stone carved elements

Fig. 7 The website of the pilot project realized and the web sharing system