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Notre-Dame: 3D laser scans from 2015 could help with reconstruction

Credits : Andrew Tallon / Vassar College via National Geographic

Powerless, the whole world looked on in shock as flames ravaged the famous Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris on Monday night.  It is believed that the reconstruction process could take a good twenty years to complete.  However perhaps Notre-Dame could regain its former glory earlier with the help of these 3D laser scans collected in 2015. 

Around four years ago, Art historian Andrew Tallon from Vassar College, registered each architectural detail of the medieval building using laser imagery.   These images were originally collected so viewers could appreciate the ingenuity of Notre Dame’s stonemasons of during the 13th century.  However this precious information could now help the reconstruction of this historic building. What are these laser scans exactly?

3D laser scans of Notre-Dame

For centuries architects only had simple tools available to take measurements of buildings.  Despite their simplicity, tools like ropes, measuring sticks, a couple of pencils and lead wire were more than enough to create some of the most beautiful architectural structures.  However nowadays we are able to use more sophisticated methods including laser scans.  The general idea  of laser imaging involves placing a laser on a tripod in the centre of a building, in this case the cathedral.  The laser then sweeps the area in all directions.  When it touches a surface the beam bonces off it and registers its exact location and distance.

Every measurement is registered under the form of a colour point.  Eventually millions of colour points combine together to form an instantaneous three-dimensional and precise laser image of the building.  According to Andrew Tallon the detailed image of Notre-Dame is “accurate to within five millimeters“.

Notre-Dame before the tragic fire on Monday night. Credits: Pixabay

Notre-Dame will live again

A report like this detailed laser scan will undoubtedly be appreciated when new renovation plans begin.  Financially, donations have poured in since Monday night to help with the reconstruction of the cathedral. The Pinault, Arnault and Bettencourt families have already given half a billion euros alone. Added to other donations from anonymous donors and private companies, donations is are already amounting to almost a billion euros.

Despite the recorded damage, most of the priceless artifacts and stone structure has reportedly remained intact. In the end, only time will tell how many years it will take to restore Notre-Dame to her former glory.  Despite the fact centuries of history went up in flames in Monday’s disaster, there is a real hope that a reconstruction can commence.  In fact Emmanuel Macron has said that he hopes Notre-Dame’s reconstruction will be complete in time for the Summer Olympics to be held in Paris in 2024.  Although renovation experts have said this is an ambitious target.

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