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The world watched in horror Monday night while flames tore through the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. As fire consumed the roof and toppled its iconic central spire, it seemed as though the historic church could be lost forever — but it’s possible, thanks to cutting-edge imagining technology, that all hope may not be lost.
Thanks to the meticulous work of Vassar art historian Andrew Tallon, every exquisite detail and mysterious clue to the building’s 13th-century construction was recorded in a digital archive in 2015 using laser imaging. These records have revolutionized our understanding of how the spectacular building was built — and could providea template for how Paris could rebuild.
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According to Wired, “architects now hope that Tallon’s scans may provide a map for keeping on track whatever rebuilding will have to take place.”
In 2015, National Geographic profiled Tallon and his unique scanning process, highlighting his digital imaging of the Notre Dame Cathedral. For centuries, the only tools we had to measure medieval buildings and structures were primitive — strings and rulers, pencils and plumb bobs — but by turning to 21st-century technology, Tallon was able to tease out the secrets of this miraculous structure.
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“If I had texts at every point, I could look in the texts and try to get back into the heads of the builders,” Tallon said to Nat Geo. “I don’t have it, so it’s detective work for me.”
For his scans of Notre Dame, Tallon recorded data from more than 50 locations in and around the cathedral, resulting in a staggering one billion points of...
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