Digitizing Large-Format Architectural Plans
Student Commentary by James Barnett
¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Digitally scanning archival objects requires not only technical know-how but also an appreciation for the subject matter. My fine-arts background gave me the knowledge and skill set to digitize architectural renderings by Carrère & Hastings of historic structures in Saint Augustine, Florida. I worked on the scanning with two concerns: the drawing as an artifact and the drawing’s content, or what is being represented. The architectural renderings averaged six feet by three feet, some larger and some smaller, though all were difficult to handle. Add the paper’s age and brittleness to the immense size, and one has to have quite a bit of finesse in handling the renderings. I had to hatch a strategy to properly scan each of the uniquely sized drawings.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Going into the project, I thought my experience in printmaking would influence the way I scanned the drawings, not realizing that the reverse would happen; the scanning actually affected my art practice. In printmaking I have dealt with large paper before, but never anything quite as large as these archival renderings. My experience handling large paper for the digitization project scaled up my thinking in my own work outside of the project. Consequently, my own art work got larger. With confidence in my newly learned ability to handle paper larger than me, I started a large installation piece in which I put together staging proofs of an etching plate into a single four-by-six feet layered installation. The scale and construction would have never come to mind had I not worked with these large architectural drawings.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Working with the photo editing software to optimize the scanned images for online viewing has also affected my art. Most of the archival pieces were so large they had to be captured in successive scans of two or more and stitched together in a photo editing program. In the digital stitching process, layers are important in getting a seamless product. When scanning the segments, I had to figure out where the respective scans would overlap in their respective digital layers so that when I got to the stitching, they all line up correctly. This takes planning, calculating, and configuring measurements in relation to the object. This idea of smaller units constructing a whole informed my process in constructing the art installation mentioned above, and it continues to affect my work.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 While I did not realize it at the time, my artwork reflects the processes I was dealing with at work. All together, the many different renderings that are part of the Carrère & Hastings project build a picture of the architects’ process. I learned to see their end result, the building itself, as not the whole story but the final step in the process that you can only see if you include the drawings. This idea influenced my own installation. I felt that my whole process had to be shown; the print proofs (the intermittent states) are just as important as the end result. I never would have come to this idea had I not worked on the Carrère & Hastings project.