SPQR-ND: interpreting the Roman Forum through early architectural publications

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SPQR-ND: Interpreting the Roman Forum Through Early Architectural Publications

Speaker: Viveca Pattison Robichaud

Abstract: The University of Notre Dame’s Architecture Library, School of Architecture, and the Center for Digital Scholarship developed the SPQR-ND iPad Application which is now freely available for download in the iPad App Store.

This project started because of student desire to access the rare and antique architectural publications from our Ryan Rare Book Room that include plans, sections, and elevations of important buildings and monuments in the historic city center of Rome while studying in Rome during their third year and grew into a new model to study historic structures.

The Architecture Library’s rare book collection houses many important publications that document the historic city center of Rome and the Roman Forum including Andrea Palladio’s I Quattro Libri dell’Architettura (1570), Antoine Babuty Desgodets’ Les Édifices Antiques de Rome, Dessinés et Mesurés Très Exactement (1682), Domenico de’ Rossi’s Stvdio d’Architettvra Civile (1702-1721), Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s Varie Vedute di Roma (1748), and George Ledwell Taylor and Edward Cresy’s The Architectural Antiquities of Rome (1874). These texts, among others, were digitized and made available in full-text searchable PDF format on the Architecture Library’s website under “Digitized Rare Books” (http://library.nd.edu/architecture/ DigitizedRareBooks.shtml).

While this solved the problem of providing access to these rare volumes to our students abroad, we were interested in combining the historic methods of documenting and representing the built environment found in these texts with mapping and mobile applications as a way to bring the library into the field.

Our goal was to provide students, scholars, and the general public with the opportunity to study the monuments of the Roman Forum through this important collection of early architectural publications and create a unique way to visualize the development of Rome. With over 1,500 buildings and monuments digitized, we knew that we needed to start with a project that we could achieve and that could stand as a model to be expanded on and refined going forward, so we focused specifically on the Roman Forum. Architecture students who work in the library were involved with the process and plan and worked gathering, collecting and presenting the data while the team built a deliverable model. Based on a suggestions from the Dean of the School of Architecture we called our project SPQR-ND. Our project provides the fully digitized publications virtually broken apart in order to study different By Viveca Pattison Robichaud, University of Notre Dame

SPQR-ND Home Screen. SPQR-ND Map Homepage. SPQR-ND Layers, Nolli map layered on 2013 Satellite View. interpretations of particular monuments in the Forum sideby-side. The SPQR-ND app is designed to allow access to historic documentation of the monuments through either a map view or with a browsable list. Each monument entry contains a historic drawing and a current photograph, which the viewer can fade between, demonstrating the transition over time and showing the current state of the monument. Each of the historic plates is zoomable and each monument features multiple representations. Bibliographic information on each plate is given allowing the viewer to find the plate within the context of the original volume, either in-person or digitally from the Architecture Library’s website. Each monument in the SPQR-ND app is geolocated, which enables the user to understand not just their design but also their physical placement in the Forum through visualizing them on a map. The app also includes layers of historic maps of Rome. These maps, Giambattista Nolli’s 1748 map, Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s 1778 map, Taylor-Cresy’s 1874 map, a 2013 satellite map, and a hand drawn map of the Roman Forum by fourth year architecture student Michi Aman, are presented together as layers, which the viewer can fade through to see changes over time as represented by cartographers. The user is able to compare visually the different historic conceptions of the layout of Rome. This project started at the request of our students who study in Rome, and we have involved students in each phase of the process, from scanning the texts, virtually breaking apart the volumes to pull out the buildings and monuments, geolocating them in Rome, and creating content for the app. Students who work on the app are given attribution for their work within the app itself, and we have a waiting list of students interested in working for the Architecture Library because they want to work on these projects. Future plans for the SPQR-ND app include not only making it available on an iPhone, but also adding additional monuments and buildings within the center of Rome, translating the app into multiple languages, and developing a 3D viewer that will allow users to study highquality scanned data stitched together to create a virtual monument. For those interested in learning more about the SPQR-ND app, it will be presented in the Emerging Technologies Forum at the ARLIS/NA Annual Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, this upcoming March. 

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