Reality Capture..really?

I see a lot of these and, very occasionally I see them translated into drawings, the kind of drawings clients want for mark up.


The business of reality capture is storming ahead, we now have tools for passive capture like never before. There are great gains to be made in understanding structures from these kinds of data but if architecture can’t speak in its own language how real is the capture?

After millenia of understanding the plan, section and elevation where are we now?


Clear, weighted lines, defined planes, a shading convention and detail characterise architectural drawing.

It is now possible to capture an elevation in a point cloud slice provided point density is good enough:


but if we don’t understand the architecture the extracted drawing will fail:


The missing glazing bars, the odd section of the portico, the floating chimneys, the absence of ridge and hip detail, all detract from the record and of course the ignorance of line weight renders the drawing both incomplete and uninformed: it does not speak the language of architecture. This drawing is captioned thus: ‘This elevation of the Temple Portico of Tudor Place is from a laser scan project…’

This is all the more disappointing when the archive shows us this:HABS-Tudor-Place-South-Elevation_1999_aJust 8 years previous to the laser scan survey the elevation was recorded by draughtsmen, sensitive to the significance of the building and trained in architectural drawing.



The quality of the work is clear, the capture of detail is accurate and the architecural value of the facade is recorded.

The laser scan survey has failed, perhaps by poor point density, slicing errors or, more likely, a lack of understanding of the nature of the subject.TUD_20071130_135549_detail

I believe it is quite possible to achieve draughtmanship and spatial capture but let’s not be fooled by ideas of reality capture when all records are comensurate to their end neeeds. An architectural record demands an apropriate response to architectural significance and value.

This example is posted on wikipedia here:


About billboyheritagesurvey

Heritage worker
This entry was posted in Significance, Survey Practice, value and society and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Reality Capture..really?

  1. Andrew Shepherd says:

    So true Bill,so true…….modern drawing also have no soul. Hope all good with you.

  2. Jon Bylo says:

    Hi Bill. This was an interesting article. How did my drawings of Landguard Fort rate in the scheme of things? Pre-lidar days but used the modern technology of the day.

  3. Jon Bylo says:

    It was one of my most enjoyable surveys whilst at PCA. Was that photo taken from a kite or UAV?

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