When the virtual influences reality. The conservation project of the Toledo Gate in Ciudad Real (Spain)
Keywords: Virtual Archaeology, reconstruction hypothesis, 3D model, interpretation, public awareness, restoration project, interdisciplinarity
Abstract. The Toledo Gate of Ciudad Real, Spain, constructed between the late 13th and early 14th centuries, is the last remaining portion of a once complete medieval city wall. It represents the long history of the city and constitutes its main heritage symbol, dividing the historic city centre from the later 19th and 20th century expansions. In October 2012, the Town Hall and the Montemadrid Foundation started the conservation works to preserve this important monument. The preliminary phase of this project included an in-depth series of scientific studies which were carried out by a multidisciplinary team focusing on archival research, historic investigations, archaeological excavations as well as material composition analysis and main treatment application tests. As a result of these studies a series of virtual 3D models were created to inform, discuss and study the monument. A first digital model permitted visualization of the gate in the 19th century and how the main entrance to the city was integrated as a fundamental part of the city walls. This virtual reconstruction also became an important part of the campaign to raise awareness among the citizens towards a monument that had remained in the shadows for the last century, isolated in a roundabout after the systematic demolition of the city walls in the late 19th century.
Over the last three years and as a result of these archaeological and historic investigations and subsequent virtual models, surprisingly new and interesting data were brought to light thus permitting the establishment and corroboration of a new and updated hypothesis of the Toledo Gate that goes beyond the previous ideas. As a result of these studies a new architectural typology with construction techniques of has been suggested.
This paper describes how the results of this continuous and interdisciplinary documentation process have benefitted from a computer graphic reconstruction of the gate. It highlights how virtual reconstruction can be a powerful tool for conservation decision making and awareness raising. Furthermore, the interesting results of the final reconstruction hypothesis convinced the technical team responsible for the conservation to alter some aspects of the final project physical interventions in order to focus on some of the features and conclusions discovered through the virtual model study.