In 2015, a Vassar College art professor named Andrew Tallon went to the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and set up more than 50 tripods endowed with a laser beam in different locations around the historical monument, according to CNN. He gathered data points to spatially understand the building the same way that self-driving cars use massive amounts of data to identify the objects around them. The result of Tallon’s excruciatingly tedious work created a nearly perfect digital replica of one of the world’s most renowned Gothic structures.
Tallon created the masterpiece to help art historians and architects gain a better understanding of the details behind the construction of a building that has undergone numerous renovations since it was built, the 12th century. In light of recent events, the data could actually do much more.
“If (restorers) have any questions about how it was built before, they can look at the scan and measure every single thing,” said Dan Edleson, principal of building information modeling firm STEREO. The scans are a “very accurate representation to the level that until a few years ago nobody could do.”
Tallon’s 3D laser scans unveiled details about decisions the original builders and later renovators made as well as unknown characteristics within the architecture. For instance, he showed that the interior columns at the cathedral’s western end do not perfectly line up.
Though Tallon died last year, his unique work will immortalize him in one of the world’s greatest architectural wonders, which will suit him considering his love for gothic architecture.
“He was a very special human being who loved these buildings and wanted to understand them better,” said John Ochsendorf, an engineer who worked with Tallon. “He wanted to be able to walk in the shoes and in the minds of the builders of the gothic. And he came as close to just about anyone to doing that.”