The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences
Publications Copernicus
Articles | Volume XLII-5/W1
15 May 2017
 | 15 May 2017


D. Oreni, R. Brumana, S. Della Torre, and F. Banfi

Keywords: Survey, structural geometry, earthquake, HBIM, conservation project

Abstract. Surveying a monumental building damaged by the earthquake means to analyse its geometries, the structural elements, the connection still exist between the different parts, in order to define its state of conservation, to make structural analysis and to plan a proper project of restoration, consolidation, seismic improvement or addition of new elements. The survey of structural geometry represents the first necessary moment of building’ knowledge investigation, to be performed after the securing of the building by the Firefighters or Civil Protection. How and by which instruments the geometric analysis are conducted depends on many factors, not always exclusively on the will of the experts involved in the restoration project, but more often dictated by political, technical, social or economic needs. The accurate geometrical survey is referred as fundamental operation even by national Directive for evaluation and earthquake risk reduction of cultural heritage (GU n. 24 – 29/01/2008 and 2011 updates), which defines guidelines for preventive interventions on built heritage in order to make the structures less vulnerable in case of earthquake.

Nowadays, the wide use of tools and accurate surveying techniques makes it possible to achieve an adequate level of accuracy of information related to the buildings, overcoming the difficulties due to accessibility of the damaged structures.

The geometrical survey of the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio in L'Aquila, was made by Politecnico di Milano starting from 2013, within the project "Ripartire da Collemaggio" (, financed by Eniservizi. The basilica, an important symbol for the community of L'Aquila, was gravely damaged by the earthquake of 6th April 2009. The objective of Eni was to turn the restoration of the building in a re-birth moment for all the community. The knowledge step was aimed to plan a restoration project able of returning the basilica to a safe and full use. In the two years knowledge investigation steps (geometric survey, historical and stratigraphic analysis, materials investigation, structures and soils examination, in situ tests and numerical elaborations) was involved an interdisciplinary group of researchers from various Italian universities, Politecnico di Milano, Università La Sapienza in Rome and the University of L'Aquila, called to provide a scientific advice to the Soprintendenza ai Beni Architettonici e Paesaggistici per l’Abruzzo, project manager of the restoration step. In early 2016 the yard of restoration was opened and it is still on-going.

The geometrical survey of the basilica was aim to investigate, measure and represent the exact geometry of the damaged structures and their three-dimensional complexity; the survey was planned choosing the tools and methods most appropriate in relation with the accessibility and safety of the structures, the operating ranges of acquisition and the level of detail required by the analysis and the project. This meant to integrate global and local surveying techniques, in order to cross relate data derived by different tools and to make the graphical restitution of the entire monumental complex: topography, laser scanning, photogrammetry, but also hands on instruments, at a scale of representation from 1 : 1 to 1 : 50. The laser scanner survey, registered in the accurate geomatics network, responded to the need to punctually investigate and interpret the geometrical configuration of different spaces of the Basilica, as well as its structural articulation, enabling a series of horizontal and vertical profiles, as requested by various experts involved in the diagnostic steps.

HBIM model (Historical Building Information Modeling) of the entire basilica was primarily intended as a tool for stereotomic description of the building and its parts, following the constructive logic of each structural element; then it was used as a support tool for the restoration simulation, project, management and yard. To perform the division of the building in its constructive elements, sometimes it has been used stratigraphic methodologies and instruments of analysis. The entirety of the geometric and structural complexity of the basilica, was guarantee using sophisticated 3D software and drawing complex entities, integrated and stored in the parametric BIM logic. This process has allowed to accurately and timely represent the geometry of the structural elements, of the areas characterized by crushing, empties, variations of the masonry sections and out of plumbs.

It is on the pillars of the nave that was focused the attention of survey: the will to preserve as much as possible the existing structures, in their material authenticity, required a careful analysis of each individual stone element of each pillar, investigated in its geometry, texture and state of conservation. The aim of the project was to ward a complete replacement of the pillars, preferring instead a removing and replacing intervention of only of the stone ashlars completely deteriorated and no longer recoverable, considering the question of structural safety as fundamental. The HBIM of the basilica had the primary function of connecting into one virtual space all the available data; that model has also been made as a tool for managing the restoration yard, supporting the computation of stone to buy, quarry and grossly slot, saving time on site.

Different and complementary skills were used in every knowledge and restoration steps; the accurate analysis of the structures made it possible to plan a consolidation and restoration project as close as possible to the structural conception of the existing building, adding only the new structural elements necessary to increase the resistance and to guarantee the safety of the structures, also in case of new earthquake. The Italian Codice dei Beni culturali e del paesaggio (DL n.42/2004), at paragraph 4 of art. 29, states that the restoration includes structural improvements. For the restoration of Collemaggio the solutions chosen were the ones able to be more effective and, at the same time, less invasive, more respectful as possible of the sacredness of the architecture, its highest historical significance, the authenticity of the material and its cultural significance.

The main principles and criteria of restoration were: maximum correspondence of conservation doctrine, with a focus on improving the structural characteristics compared to the seismic risk; exemplarity of the management practices of the restoration process; exemplarity of innovative techniques; transparency of all processes and accurate communication of cultural and scientific content. Despite of some inevitable compromises, the detailed knowledge of the building allowed to design punctual interventions, inserting new structures where the oldest were collapsed and consolidating damaged elements, in order to improve the global safety of the building but without modifying substantially the structural conception of the stratified basilica.