Advancing geomatics techniques for heritage restoration

Case study

Author: Reka Vasszi

Modern geomatics techniques, such as laser scanning, 3D modelling and photogrammetry are gaining more and more interest in the cultural heritage field. All the data acquired with these state-of-the-art technologies could be stored in a digital Building Information Model (BIM) database. Including all aspects and information concerning an architectural feature, such as the geometry, materials and restoration needs, BIM models can support any maintenance plan and the sustainable conservation of ancient buildings.

Training the future generation of heritage conservators with modern methods and equipment, is inevitable to preserve national sites and cultural treasures. DHARATAL, an architecture studio focusing on heritage conservation and sustainable development, and the Belgian Chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) in collaboration with Madhya Pradesh tourism are fostering the use of advanced technologies in the documentation of cultural heritage. The participants of a five-day workshop surveyed Rajnagar, a small historic town in the close vicinity to Khajuraho in India praised for its cultural and built heritage.

The workshop aimed to combine geomatics techniques and restoration methods for interdisciplinary knowledge and support the preservation and documentation of the fort complex of Rajnagar and the historic gardens of Orchha. The students participated in first-hand activities using a variety of Leica Geosystems’ equipment and software to learn the documentation process. The participants learned how to:

  • Carry out surveys using the Leica FlexLine TS06 total station and the Leica Viva TS11 manual total station.
  • Capture the ancient buildings with the Scanstation P20 and P40 High-Definition 3D laser. scanners Post-processed the data using Cyclone 3D point cloud processing software and Infinity survey software.

“I had a wonderful experience in this workshop. It was overall very well-managed and I learned how to combine geomatics and restoration techniques to preserve cultural heritage,” said Ar. Sanjukta Das, assistant professor at DY Patil technical institute.

Exploring the lost gardens of Rajnagar and Orchha

The region of Khajuraho is a globally renowned tourist destination, visited for its temples dating back from the 9th to 12th century. The temple group of Khajuraho is one of India’s most popular UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the region is also gaining more recognition for the neighbouring fort and royal gardens of Rajnagar and Orchha.

Rajnagar was a residential town of the royal families of Chhattarpur, where besides the royal palace and fort, several monumental gardens were built in the second half of the 18th century. The history of these gardens is unknown, as archives do not exist and the oral tradition is also scarce about the majestic gardens of the Maharaja. The preservation of the lost gardens of Rajnagar ─ as it refers to the limited scientific knowledge about the gardens ─ was taken up by the Belgian chapter of INTACH to restore and to turn the gardens into training centres for sustainable and organic agriculture as well as promote sustainable tourism in the region for the benefit of the local population.

Bird's eye view of Rai Praveen Palace and Gardens. Visible monuments in context are- Jahangir Palace and Chatarbhuj temple.

The project is part of a renovation strategy for the development of Khajuraho and the broader region. The first step of the project was to document all architectural features of the site, create 3D models and a digital database to plan a historically and scientifically informed reconstruction of the fort and the royal gardens. The workshop was open to students who wanted to deepen their knowledge on geomatics methods and modern technology applied in heritage preservation.

“The workshop at Rajnagar was one of its kind – a digital documentation training for architects and architecture students,” said Ar. Jivantika Satyarthi, assistant professor at SPA.

Training the future generation of heritage conservators

During the first week of the workshop 29 students were trained with Leica Geosystems total stations and the Leica P-series 3D laser scanners. The participants could learn how to survey and document historical buildings, in this case, the fort of the younger brother of the ruling maharaja of Chhattarpur.

Students were taught classical surveying techniques, using total stations and learn more sophisticated methods, such as 3D modelling, virtual reconstruction, close range photogrammetry, laser scanning and drone photography.

The result of the 5-day intensive course was a detailed point cloud, a 3D model of the fort complex and a master plan of future conservation work.

From digital realities to historic preservation

In the second week of the workshop, professionals documented and carried out a condition assessment of the Orchha garden. Both INTACH Belgium and Madhya Pradesh tourism board were presented with the documentation undertaken. The elaborate results helped to propose a future conservation management plan for the heritage structures and gardens.

“Fantastic documentation of Orchha Gardens and very good base for future reconstruction works,” stated Om Prakash Misra, senior consultant of Madhya Pradesh tourism board.

Training the next generation of surveying and heritage professionals with modern equipment and methods opens new horizons in heritage preservation – from planning in digital realities to taking actions on site.


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