Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Past, Present and Future

Notre Dame, Paris

When asked what 500-year-old gothic cathedrals and artificial intelligence (A.I.) technology have in common, you would think not much, right? However, the application of this new(er) tool could help explain the architecture of these historic buildings. Providing a new method for studying building design, particularly that of medieval times, A.I. looks at how the pieces work together to create a well-built structure. In addition to studying architectural giants such as Notre Dame Cathedral, the computer can also generate those structures that have since turned to ruins.

The group running the study, which is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, is led by Stefaan Van Liefferinge, an assistant professor of medieval art and architecture in the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia, as well as Don Potter and Michael Covington, two professors from the university’s Institute for Artificial Intelligence. Van Liefferinge says, “The aim of our project is to develop an ontology or knowledge representation for architectural history that will make it possible for us to apply methods from artificial intelligence to historic descriptions of architecture,” basically meaning computerizing the structures in order to study them in a modern context and, thus, creating relationships between many different medieval buildings.

The group hopes that the research will help students learn about different architectural styles in addition to creating software that simulates parts of or entire buildings that are now lost. Starting with a simple part of a building, like a window and its surrounding supports, the research will expand to the cathedral as a whole when more information is added to the system. The application of A.I. to architecture is new, and the group recognizes its potential to investigate much simpler building structures too, such as bungalows. According to the article, “the long histories of cathedrals, though, make them perfect as a test case for this intersection of science and art.”

This makes for an exciting future in art and technology. It could lead to the study of older paintings, tapestries and more, all the while closing the daunting time-gap between then and now.

Quotes and facts taken from an article written by Philip Lee Williams.

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