For the 10th consecutive year The Raymond Lemaire International Centre for Conservation (RLICC) at KU Leuven hosts an annual documentation training session for post graduate students in architectural conservation. Students are required to produce traditional architectural records by use of a selection of metric methods.

The concentration of expertise assembled for the teaching team is second to none. We have photogrammetric expertise, 3DCAD experts, GIS experts and of course an expert photographer. I am privileged to be working with representatives from Public Works Government Services (PWGC) Canada, the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI), the Historic American Building Record (HABS/HAER) and the Universities of Brussels, St Lieven, Ghent, Pennsylvania, Turin, Milan, Parma, Athens and Aachen. All the teams are experienced at the best kind of teaching: the enthusiastic sharing of knowledge.

The unique mix of technical and academic skills needed to succeed in heritage documentation is explored over 5 intensive days of theoretical and practical work.

The origin of the initiative was a partnership agreement between KUL and English Heritage who, through the outreach and capacity building work of its Metric Survey Team, strongly supported skills transfer in heritage recording as a way to maintain standards in draughtsmanship in the digital age. Working with RLICC, EH achieved international validation of its professional and technical standards in documentation technique. The current contraction of English Heritage’s skill base (sadly the legendary Metric Survey Team is no more) and its reduced commitment to training partnerships, means that for the first time since 2001 there is no institutional support from EH this year. This tells us much of the sadly diminished stature of what was once a world leader in conservation recording techniques.

The effectiveness of the initiative is very clear. 32 post graduate professionals  in Architecture, Art Conservation and Archaeology from 12 countries are able to produce high quality metric drawings of selected aspects the Leuven Charterhouse with very little prior survey skill. 3 principal technologies are responsible for this:

  • Digital photography
  • Realtime reflectoress total station
  • CAD

The impact of these tools on architectural recording is immense, the speed of image capture, the confidence of 3D point and line capture and the interoperability of information through CAD makes metric documentation multi-skilled and integrated, so that we can now get the best image, the best measurement, and the best drawing all in a single product: the DWG file.

But this is not all about technology! Learning the skill in applying these tools is the key to the success of the initiative, but this can only come from experience, and the ‘learning by doing’ aspect of the course is where the expertise of the teaching staff pays off.

Getting the camera into the best position sometimes requires improvisation. By working with a professional photographer students now work hard to take a better photo: this is a big part of the knowledge gain.

Point selection is always one of the hardest concepts to grasp. By mapping in real-time students can see the effect of their selection on the CAD drawing as they measure. There is no substitute for close examination of fabric, and surveying with TheoLt is a very good way of getting this done!

Rand Eppich(GCI) demonstrates the simplicity of real-time EDM survey with TheoLt.

A picture is worth a thousand words and so is a good sketch plan! Understanding what we are recording is as important as the recording process itself.

David Andrews (English Heritage -volunteer) introduces PhoToPlan. For the first time I had the problem of ‘too much’ computer – I had a hard time finding a 32bit machine to work with, as most of the new kit is 64bit now!

Sometimes you just can’t believe the numbers! Christian Ouimet (PWGS Canada) discovers TheoLt does NOT translate Gon to degrees under GeoCom!

An experienced photographer makes all the difference to image based records. Here Joe Elliot illustrates ‘depth cue’.

Leuven Charterhouse is surrounded by trees, tall buildings and high walled gardens, and in the short time the rain paused, I tried in vain to launch a kite – the KAP will have to wait for another day.

Mario Santana Quintero organised everything (except the weather!). As the new president of CIPA, Mario has an exceptional overview of documentation technique, and is also a skilled facilitator, teacher and architect. Always focussed, always positive, Mario is the embodiment of Raymond Lemaire’s vision of Architectural Conservation as an expression of international respect, cultural tolerance and humanity!

For me Leuven is not just the name on the Stella tin, it is a just a Eurostar away and the RLICC remains at the heart of heritage documentation knowledge. I look forward to the next 10 years!

Download links for the PDFs of the course material, including the RecorDim Teaching Guide are at the bottom of this page

About billboyheritagesurvey

Heritage worker
This entry was posted in Survey Practice. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to ARCHDOC 2011

  1. Hi Bill,

    I noticed your tristesse about the government pulling back financial support.
    Therefore I think you can appreciate the article “So who’ll look after the stones” on the heritage action blog. This week they also published my comment as a reader’s letter.

    All the best,

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