3D Documentation and Visualization of the Forum Romanum:

The DHARMA Forum Project
  • Krupali KruscheEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11196)


Documenting large scale sites like the Roman Forum, in Rome, Italy can become a mammoth task. While there is a set methodology for traditional documentation of large sites, as the one developed by Giacomo Boni in the early 1900’s, there is very little standardization in the field of digital documentation and cataloguing or making the digital data user friendly for various purposes of conservation of large site. This paper presents the methodology and techniques used by the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture DHARMA team to digitally document for the first time the Forum Romanum, Rome, Italy between 2010 till 2015.

The complexity of site, terrain, and the data to be collected, were supported through three major segments that can be useful for any on-site documentation project. These include (1) Pre-site, (2) On-site and (3) Post-site methods. Employing a comprehensive approach—including 3-D laser scanning, hand measuring, photogrammmetry, and Gigapan technology—the team thoroughly documented the current state of this World Heritage site. Laser scanning was central to this effort, and the details of its implementation contributed to time and terrain effective methods are discussed in this paper. The team working on this project included architects, archeologists, computer engineers and students from various disciplines.

The team’s post-site production efforts resulted, most notably, in a highly-accurate point cloud model that can be manipulated for various educational and scholarly uses. These were further transformed to create user friendly outputs including 2D drawings and 3D visuals comprising a 3D app.

As many scholars from different disciplines get involved in the field of digital documentation, it becomes increasingly important to create a methodology of operation that can be described as best practices in the field for large scale sites of great historical value. This study takes the knowledge known in our field over centuries and combines the results of latest technologies to get us the best of both worlds.


3D laser scan Digital documentation Roman forum 


  1. 1.
    Watkin, D.: The Roman Forum. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (2009)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Convention Homepage, Accessed 02 Aug 2018
  3. 3.
    Gorski, G., Packer, J.E.: The Roman Forum: A Reconstruction and Architectural Guide. Cambridge University Press, New York (2015)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Martin, T.R.: Ancient Rome, from Romulus to Justinian, pp. 43–50. Yale University Press, New Haven (2012)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Steinby, M.E.: Lexicon topographicum urbis romae. Quasar, Rome (1993)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Claridge, A.: Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide. Oxford University Press, New York (1998)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Bignamini, I.: Archives and Excavations: Essays on the History of Archaeological Excavations in Rome and Southern Italy from the Renaissance to the Nineteenth Century, pp. 15–22. The British School at Rome, London (2004)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Borsi, S.: Giuliano da sangallo: I disegni di architettura dell’antico. Officina, Rome (1985)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Pizzi, A., (ed.) Le Antiche Rovine di Roma Nei Disegni di du Pérac, Milano (1990)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Portoghesi, P. (ed.): Giovanni Antonio Dosio: Roma Antica e I Disegni di Architettura Agli Uffizi. Officina Edizioni, Rome (1976)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Zorzi, G.: I Disegni delle Antichità di Andrea Palladio. N. Pozza, Venezia (1959)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Desgodets, A.B.: Les édifices antiques de rome, dessinés et mesurés très exactement. Chez Iean Baptiste Coignard, Paris (1682)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Coarelli, F.: Ruins of Ancient Rome: The Drawings of the French Architects Who Won the Prix de Rome 1786–1924. Getty Publications, Los Angeles (2002). Massilimano, D. (ed.)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    D’Espouy, H., Blatteau, J.W., Sears, C.: Fragments from Greek and Roman Architecture: The Classical America Edition of Hector d’Espouy’s Plates. W.W. Norton and Company, NewYork (1981)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Packer, J.E.: Digitizing Roman Imperial architecture in the early 21st century: purposes, data, failures, and prospects. JRA Suppl. Ser. 61, 309 (2006)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Taylor, G.L., Cresy, E.: The Architectural Antiquities of Rome. Lockwood, London (1874)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Boni, G.: Le recenti esplorazioni nel Sacrario di Vesta, Tipografia della R. Accademia dei Lincei (1900)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Coarelli, F.: Il Foro Romano, 2 v. Quasar, Rome (1983–1985)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Coarelli, F.: Lexicon topographicum urbis Romae. Quasar, Rome (2004)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Digital Scholarships Collection, UCLA Cultural Virtual Reality Lab (CVR Lab). Accessed 02 Aug 2018
  21. 21.
    Frischer, B., Abernathy, D., Giuliani, F.C., Scott, R.T., Ziemssen, H.: A new digital model of the Roman Forum. JRA Suppl. Ser. 61, 162–182 (2006)Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Krusche, K., Kapp, P.H.: Documenting National and World Heritage Sites: The need to integrate Digital Documentation and 3D Scanning with Traditional Hand Measuring techniques. SMARTDoc Symposium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (2010)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Gigapan. Accessed 02 Aug 2018
  24. 24.
    Hughes, K.E., Louden, E.I.: Bridging the Gap: Using 3-D laser Scanning in Historic-Building Documentation. APT Bull. 36(2/3), 37–46 (2005)Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Krusche, K., Sweet, C.: Documenting National and World Heritage Sites: The need to integrate Digital Documentation and 3D Scanning with Traditional Hand Measuring techniques. 3D Digital Documentation Summit, National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior (2012)Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Krusche, K., Sweet, C., Sweet, J., Turner, P.: History in 3D: New Virtualization Techniques for Innovative Architectural and Archeological Scholarship and Education. Computer applications and quantitative methods in Archaeology Conference. University of Southampton, UK (2012)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Notre DameNotre DameUSA

Personalised recommendations