ArchDoc 2016 un-learning ‘line’?


Learning by doing. Archdoc is a practical element in the post graduate course in conservation at RLICC, Leuven. One out come is experience in ‘reading a building’. On the right a photo-reconstruction of a Southern Flemish ‘cross’ window of the 17th Cent. On the left the present condition. The evidence for the reconstruction is in the fabric, the scar of the shutter cut-out and the nib of the mullion survives if you know where to look. This is an example of the insightful work of the RLICC team in building archaeology, once again I am privileged to be invited to join the team for a week to teach survey skills.

Part of the joy of this work is the chance to travel by Eurostar- the fastest train ride in the UK. So with all checks done it’s off for the week on my favourite train, these are 22 years old now and have been replaced on the Paris service by smart new stock. This trip to Brussels may be my last trip on the original, one of a kind, 3 voltage TGV ‘Waterloo’ set.


The forecast keeps up with the ‘light variable’ wind typical of a high pressure system, there are hints of 6-7mph on Thursday so I decide to pack for KAP.  I carry all I need for terrestrial and aerial work on my back:

  • Camera & Rig : 0.54kg
  • 500m line: 0.750kg
  • Radio, video reciever etc: 700g
  • TST: 13kG
  • 2x Tablet PCs 2.5kg
  • Ground gear+ gloves: 2kg
  • Battery charger +leads: 1kg
  • Kap foil1.6, PB 20’special: .6Kg
  • Various adapters for tablets, USB cables etc 0.5Kg.
  • Clothes & ‘hygine’ kit: 1.5kg


Since the Brexit vote I feel like some kind of pilgrim to the motherland of Europe. I’m on a late train and Brussel Zuid is quiet as I shuffle along to catch my connection. As the last trains of the day depart the connectedness of Europe shrinks..somehow I feel the stregth of partnership with our neighbours has diminished. As a Brit at the heart of Europe I feel ashamed.

Monday morning is damp and still:


Getting architects, historians and conservators to grips with basic of survey theory is always tricky to begin, unravelling the mystery of selection starts here:


soon we have orthophotography to discuss …_r051272

…and an an almost intact 1683 facade to decode:


surface treatments from 1683 to present…


details to draw..


facades to scan…


panoramas to shoot…


and hidden spaces to investigate.

img_5263Catering is by the wonderful Alma and, being in Leuven, this includes one of the city’s great gifts to the world: Stella…


Un-learning the line? The brief for the project is clear: students are required to prepare and present measured drawings of the building in question, the method of production is up to them, all tools are available. Despite the speed and density of capture laser scans still prove difficult for the non specialist to use as basic CAD tools make data interpretation slow and cumbersome without heavy duty processing power. On seeing the point cloud data it looks like all possible information has been captured…until the drawing process begins. It was suggested to me (not for the first time) that we don’t need drawings any more as the point cloud has all the data and producing lines is an archaic practice – it is time we unlearned the line and embraced the new data forms point clouds present.

The nessesity of line work only becomes apparent when projects get underway and damage needs to be mapped, condition shown and treatments applied, a conservation project without drawings is likely to run into trouble very quickly. A marked up photo can help a lot but any instruction without delineation is open to question- a model may serve as a route to the line but it does not replace it.

The difficulty on agreeing feature abstraction for a given plot scale at capture is one thing when you are in the building but quite another when all you have is a pile of dots to base your decision on. Your camera can become a lifeline here.

Done with a drone. The wind never picked up, the aerial work was completed by drone, the DJI Phantom 4 did well and is a big improvement on earlier models with 20mins flying time and a decent camera, the limied time meant the photgrammetry was low density stuff but the potential for roof survey is strong.

I ask the students what they think is best about Archdoc, without hesiation they reply- ‘having the tools’.

Icomos Wallonia invited RLICC students to an afternoon seminar on documentation in Brussels and no sooner was the weeks work presented I was packed and ready to travel.

_r055306 _r055321

What will ArchDoc 2017 bring I wonder?


About billboyheritagesurvey

Heritage worker
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