Notre Dame Cathedral will be rebuilt to perfection, thanks to a digital replica

Yesterday was marked by a massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, one of France’s most iconic and popular landmarks. Fortunately, the rebuild may be easier than originally thought.

Notre Dame Cathedral will be rebuilt to perfection, thanks to a digital replica

The Notre Dame fire is a huge loss for the entire world, especially since the elements and the rescue operation significantly damaged not only the roof and spire, but also the priceless artwork inside (some of which was saved). Fortunately, good news is beginning to appear in this tragedy. First of all, there is no indication that the fire is the result of a deliberate act, simply put, arson. Secondly, firefighters managed to control the situation and save the structure and facade of the cathedral, as well as the two distinctive towers. And thirdly, French President Emmanuel Macron has already announced that the cathedral will be rebuilt and modern technology developed by Dr. Andrew Tallon could help here.

Indeed, French authorities will be able to use the 3D models of Notre Dame that he has developed, restoring the cathedral to its former appearance down to the smallest detail. Tallon created a digital archive of the building in 2015, using laser scanning technology. Notably, he has also used the technique to scan other Gothic cathedrals around the world.

In a video published by National Geographic in 2015, Tallon described the entire process as follows: “I had to set up a network of markers, which are simply geolocated points in space. Then the density of the scan (its resolution) was determined and the whole procedure is carried out. The laser sends out a beam and measures the time from emission to hit and the time it takes to return.”

The video above shows the entire process performed by Tallon. Although it shows Washington National Cathedral and not Notre Dame, the same technology was used in both cases. Most importantly, however, it is extremely accurate and guarantees highly detailed 3D models. For example, the model of Canterbury Cathedral consists of 5 billion laser scan points and takes up over 100GB of storage space.

Tallon’s scans are so accurate that he was able to use them to discover why some of Notre Dame’s columns are not in alignment. It turns out that these may have been built on top of pre-existing structures. At the moment, it remains to be seen whether the French authorities will draw on his work in a future restoration of the cathedral, and the tragic death of Dr. Andrew Tallon last year. However, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that it will be successful.

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