The 26-story tower of the historic Biltmore Hotel rises majestically into the sky over Coral Gables. Visible for miles, it’s an icon, a landmark on the National Historic Register, and a lush and ornate example of classic Spanish colonial influences in Mediterranean Revival architectural style. Ninety years after its grand opening, it is being born again in virtual 3D, thanks to an innovative use of drones and revolutionary developments in mapping technologies created at CCS. The project is the brainchild of UM Department of Art and Art History Prof. Karen R. Mathews (a CCS Member), involving a collaboration between UM faculty and students across a variety of disciplines, the City of Coral Gables, and historically-minded members of the community.
The project began in the Spring 2016 semester with a detailed analysis of three historic 1920s buildings: ”I wanted buildings that had rich architectural detail—sculpture, three-dimensional ornamentation—so that we could see how effective our 3-D modeling technologies would be in capturing a complex architectural exterior and facade,” Prof. Mathews said.
Then came the wizardry of the Software Engineering team from CCS with a mix of standard digital photography and picture-taking drones flying in precisely regimented patterns creating thousands upon thousands of high-quality photos that are brought together through the technique of photogrammetry to form a mesh known as a point cloud.
”The virtue of the cloud is that one can experience this building as a three-dimensional model by animating it, moving it, circulating around it, spinning it on its axis,” Prof. Mathews said. ”From my perspective as an architectural historian, it has to be able to zoom in and get incredibly detailed images of architectural detail—of ornamentation, of decorative sculpture, of figurative sculpture. And that’s what this technique really has allowed us to do.” The team added three additional buildings for the fall semester. Eventually, she hopes to create a web-based experience that allows users to interact with the map and view and learn about the buildings through photographs, videos, and the 3D models. She also foresees an app-based approach that could offer on-site audio tours during real-world visits to the structures.
SOURCE: ”A Recreation of the Real World” by Carlos Harrison | UM eNews 1/10/2017
Project Description + More Photos: “3D Modeling in the Urban Classroom: Using Photogrammetry for the Study of Historic Architecture in Coral Gables, Florida“, The Journal of Interactive Technology & Pedagogy, 2/21/2018