HABS Documentation in the Digital Age: Combining Traditional and New 3D Methods of Recording | Catherine C. Lavoie
Laser scanning is rapidly gaining momentum in the field of architectural documentation, but in our zeal to apply new technologies are we missing the larger picture? Likewise, by relying solely on the electronic scans rather than using them as data to produce measured drawings printed on archival materials, are we neglecting our obligation to future generations? Key to understanding this issue and selecting the best tool(s) is defining what constitutes architectural “documentation” and its ultimate purpose. For centuries architects, builders, and scholars have relied on measured drawings to learn about, and convey to others, ideas about architecture and design. Thus, the value of measured drawings as educational tools and conveyors of cultural values transcend their importance as mere depictions of building forms. Using a laser scanning as a tool for documentation exclusively can undermine those values. While a scanner can produce extremely accurate form, it cannot record features it cannot see. Also, the most essential drawings—floor plans and details—are the most difficult for the scanner to capture. Thus, HABS uses laser scans as a supplement to, rather than a substitute for, hand measuring, and as a tool in the production of measured drawings rather than as the primary record.
The full article is available at Project Muse.
Image: The Woodlands, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; drawing of Vestibule Door Detail; HABS no. PA-1125. Morgan Gick, delineator, 2003. The early HABS program was clearly influenced by Beaux Arts traditions, and in fact the creation of an archive of period-specific details was viewed as one of the potential benefits of the program. HABS is still known for its attention to details. (HABS)