3D Modeling Aids San Juan Capistrano Restoration
by John Loomis and Elizabeth Sanchez
Tucked away in the sunny hills along the southern California coast stands one of the most breathtaking historical ruins in North America. When construction on the Mission San Juan Capistrano was completed in 1806, it was the largest modern structure west of the Mississippi River.
Since then, an earthquake and nearly 200 years of weathering have taken their toll. Now a restoration project is using computer techniques to analyze and document the stone ruin. We estimate that our use of VectorWorks for 3D modeling has reduced by 50 percent the time required for documenting and planning the mission's restoration.
The software provides an object-based modeling tool that makes it possible to define complex 3D structures in only minutes. The 3D model of the existing structure makes it easy to determine cross-sectional dimensions at any point in order to highlight areas where additional supports are required.
The model is also being extensively used to more quickly and accurately calculate materials requirements. The software's intuitive approach to layering was used to separately document the basic structure, structural and cosmetic problems, planned remediation, and actual repairs.
The Mission's Brief Moment in History
The Mission San Juan Capistrano is like ancient Rome transplanted to the United States. Walls made entirely of native stone tower 50 feet (15 meters) in the air. Huge, intricately carved cornices of rock are perfectly joined. Triple arches reach boldly to the sky and then abruptly break, leaving a mark of mystery and time.