How a Video Game Could Help Save Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, was a labor of love that took 182 years to build, starting with the first bricks in 1163.

This majestic building, one of the best examples of medieval architecture, is famed for its incredible timber beams and wooden carvings that made up the Gothic vaulted ceiling.

Rick Embers, principal at Pulse Design in Kansas City, told KCTV, “It is on the bucket list for every architect to go and see this structure.”

Sadly, Embers never got the chance to see Notre Dame Cathedral in its former glory before the devastating fire ripped through this UNESCO World Heritage site.

But Embers can do the next best thing, viewing the cathedral through Google’s satellite data and his company’s VR headset.

VR and video game technology might even help restore it.

A digital version of the building is featured in Assassin’s Creed Unity, a 2014 Ubisoft release known for its historic accuracy.

Ubisoft designer Alexandre Pedneault and his team spent two exhaustive years capturing the Gothic cathedral to perfection — down to its individual bricks (via The Verge).

“They try to get it as close as possible,” said Ashley Jones, Park University Esports coach. “It used a lot of laser mapping to help with that,” she told KCTV News.

3D mapping measures every brick and every surface, which lets architects have an exact blueprint to restore historic buildings.

Reportedly, the French video game publisher still owns the original 3D models and photos. If so, this would prove incredibly helpful to whoever is tasked in rebuilding and restoring the cathedral.

The game development company – which is headquartered near Paris – has told the BBC that it would share the design with the French authorities if requested.

“We would be happy to help,” a spokesman told the BBC.

Modern builders won’t have access to the same kinds of materials (see below). But thanks to technology developed for VR and video games, they do have a good map.

“I think it’s special that we can see video games as more than entertainment,” Jones said.

Architects say Notre Dame CANNOT be rebuilt the same way because France no longer has trees big enough

  • Notre Dame’s cathedral roof was built using an estimated 1,300 ancient oak trees
  • Wooden roof was built with beams more than 850 years ago from primal forests
  • An estimated 52 acres of ancient oak trees were cut down from 1160 to build the roof
  • Due to deforestation, similar trees cannot be used to rebuild the famous ceiling

Bertrand de Feydeau, VP of preservation group Fondation du Patrimoine, was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying “we don’t, at the moment, have trees on our territory of the size that were cut in the 12th and 13th century.” So much timber was needed in the construction of churches, castles and ships during this period that much of France’s forested land was cleared.

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