Ferreira Lopes, P. & Pinto Puerto, P. (2015). Application of a Schema to Late Gothic Heritage: Creating a Digital Model for a Spatio-temporal Study in Andalusia. WIT Transactions on the Built Environment, v. 153, 29-40

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The application of a schema to Late Gothic
heritage: creating a digital model for a
spatio-temporal study in Andalusia
P. Ferreira Lopes & F. Pinto Puerto
Research Group HUM799, Department of Architectural Graphic
Expression, University of Seville, Spain
Abstract
Late Gothic architecture was produced during the late 15th and early 16th
centuries in a “supranational” European context in which the rich interaction of
professionals created a map of exchange with a significant impact on the
territory. This historical period can therefore be viewed as a complex system
shaped by the activities of various actors and phenomena. Our methodology
includes geographical analysis and visualisations of historical data geolocalised
primary sources and allows us to generate new hypotheses and interpretations
about this historical period. This project proposes a new perspective for studying
transit in Andalusia during the Modern Era, based on the creation of a digital
model of Late Gothic heritage using the spatial data infrastructure currently
being generated by the International Late Gothic Network (www.tardogotico.es).
Our research examines four geohistorical elements roads, fluxes, buildings and
professionals and uses a methodology that may have applications in the future
for many fields of heritage research and management. This paper presents the
initial results of this innovative way of researching cultural heritage.
Keywords: Late Gothic heritage in Andalusia, digital model, heritage
management and research, geographic information system, geohistorical data
infrastructure.
1 Introduction
This paper has been produced in connection with the Strategies for Heritage
Knowledge research currently being conducted by Group HUM799 [1], which is
based on the premise of a possible convergence, in practical terms, between
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Structural Studies, Repairs and Maintenance of Heritage Architecture XIV 29
doi:10.2495/STR150031
diverse and currently disconnected fields of knowledge that impact on
architectural heritage (such as documentary, archaeological, architectural, visual,
analytical and economic data) and on cultural heritage in general. Heritage
knowledge must draw on information from different disciplines, which when
interrelated and juxtaposed will allow us to obtain a holistic view of the object of
our analysis.
In recent decades the dimension of architectural heritage has transcended the
purely material and intrinsic view of the object to encompass the cultural
significance of the work, irrespective of whether this significance is material or
immaterial in its cultural context. Understanding heritage as both the producer
and product of a cultural and historical context therefore leads us to reflect on
how we might turn a highly specialised and compartmentalised view into an
open, dynamic and systematic view.
Many scientific references [2, 3] have argued that cultural heritage is
underpinned by several key factors: knowledge, memory, and the traditions and
customs created by society. In accordance with our knowledge of cultural
heritage, and based on the consideration of space as an essential entity for
understanding, identifying and managing this heritage, we expect the creation of
a digital model to make it easier to work with a vast quantity of data, collect
linked data, formulate a multiscale and multidisciplinary interpretation, link
spatial and non-spatial information, generate new forms of visualisation and
analysis, and therefore improving the generation of knowledge in general.
According to Capra and Sempau [4], the world should be seen as an
integrated whole rather than a collection of parts. Capra considers three different
but complementary perspectives of the life phenomenon that can also be applied
to architecture: pattern, structure and process. He also stresses the need to think
about elements as forming part of a complex system in which they are
interdependent and immersed in a cyclical, open process.
Below we offer our findings following our multidisciplinary research
combining digital humanities, information systems, cultural heritage and
architectural history to create a spatio-temporal digital model for analysing Late
Gothic heritage in Andalusia.
The region of Andalusia is the result of the superimposition of numerous
cultures that have forged its identity. The countless civilisations that have passed
through this land have left their indelible mark, from the Roman domination and
the Islamic conquest to the subsequent Christian reconquest. Each of these stages
played a role in shaping the region’s geography: the border tensions between the
kingdoms of Granada and Seville during the course of several centuries gave rise
to the construction of a considerable number of military buildings, the
exploitation of the natural resources through irrigation systems during Islamic
rule, and following the Christian reconquest the organisation of large towns that
centralised the social movements and monopolised the most important
construction enterprises. Out of this lengthy process we have chosen the period
spanning the late 15th and early 16th centuries, which was characterised by the
consolidation of the borders on the Iberian Peninsula and increasingly important
links with Europe through political and cultural expansion, manifested in the
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30 Structural Studies, Repairs and Maintenance of Heritage Architecture XIV
numerous exchanges between the political leaders, intellectuals, scientists and
technicians of the main centres of power. In the field of architecture, these fluxes
and influences played a crucial role in consolidating roads, creating centres to
produce materials and products, and founding monasteries and cathedrals. The
scale acquired by these enterprises was directly responsible for the consolidation
of many of today’s towns, infrastructures and provincial organisations. One
example is Seville Cathedral, the largest Gothic building erected in such a short
space of time: just 73 years, between 1433 and 1519. This endeavour required
the transportation of stone from 100 km away by land, river and sea, the
construction of docks, cranes and vessels, the excavation of quarries, and a
constant flux of master builders, who simultaneously worked on the construction
of the main churches in the larger towns of the diocese, repeating the solutions
and reproducing the same building processes as those employed in the great
cathedral. Meanwhile, the cathedral attracted master builders and craftsmen
from all over Europe, from a Normandy at war to the burgeoning Germany.
Furthermore, this coincided with the expansion to the New World, a
phenomenon in which Seville acquired an extraordinary protagonism and came
to be known only a few years later as the “New Rome”. Visualising these factors
and determining their influence on different scales of architecture would be a
very complex task without the new tools and digital models that enable us to
relate them in both time and space.
A “spatio-temporal digital model” is understood to represent a view of
heritage based on a multiscalar focus comprising the attribute, time and space.
Within the Late Gothic context, these three components interconnect different
types of entities – professionals, buildings and infrastructures – which, as we see
them, interact to transform their context while simultaneously being conditioned
by it. As Tufte [5] and Calvino et al. [6] have pointed out, micro and macro
readings combined offer a complementary view of the relationships between
elements, their space and the events of the past. The digital model of Late Gothic
heritage that we are creating will reveal the development of Andalusia as a
complex system in this specific historical context, following a long process of
reconquest during which two cultures overlapped. Data mining and the
visualisation of this data using new digital resources will offer new perspectives
and interpretations of the relationships between the production of buildings, as
related to space and time, the movement of professionals, knowledge transfer,
clusters of buildings, funding structures, the supply of building materials, and
transportation.
In light of the aforementioned considerations, this paper proposes the
integration of different types of data on different subjects and from different
spaces and times to offer a rhizomatic, holistic insight into how the territorial
structure of Andalusia developed in the Late Gothic context. Using maps as a
medium, we attempt to discover how the structure of Andalusia was shaped
during the 15th and 16th centuries. Our research therefore aims to advance the
understanding of space as the result of many processes and relationships [7].
Furthermore, the methodology applied in this research can be applied to other
historical contexts and even to other disciplines and fields.
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Structural Studies, Repairs and Maintenance of Heritage Architecture XIV 31
2 Methodology
In recent years, a network of researchers in Spain, Portugal and Italy has
produced a database on the Late Gothic (www.redtardogotica.es), which to date
consists of 2,700 professionals associated with works built in the 15th and 16th
centuries. The database includes the provenance of each professional, the
bibliography in which he is cited, the time he was active, and his professional
category. Using this database and an entity-relationship model, we have
implemented a system that offers us the flexibility to describe the spatio-
temporal interconnections between the objects stored and create a complex
universe of analysis that enables us to establish numerous interrelationships.
The Late Gothic context was characterised by architecture without frontiers, a
transnational architecture [8] in which the transfer of knowledge was achieved
by the mobility of professionals and the constant sharing of wisdom between
architects but also between philosophers, theoreticians, theologians and senior
representatives of the state and clergy. Consequently, we can only fully
appreciate it by using a methodology that contemplates the activities of the
different agents involved in the formation of this architecture, seen as the product
and producer of these relationships.
The framework of reference for this project is a historical geography that
permits the organisation and visualisation of data relating not only to kingdoms,
dioceses, towns, roads and infrastructures, but also to the agents [9] who played
an important role in shaping these elements: master builders, stonemasons,
monarchs, bishops, patrons, etc. We aim to map these networks [10] in which the
essential properties of the different entities are derived from their interactions
and interdependence. Our model goes beyond simply analysing the separate
parts, and instead offers a view of interconnected systems and sub-systems. The
inclusion of a temporal dimension in our maps reveals relationships, routes and
objects that were hitherto invisible and disconnected.
The principal aims of the project are as follows: to create an infrastructure of
spatial information on the Late Gothic in Andalusia, in line with the European
directive INSPIRE to guarantee the interoperability of the data collected; to
establish the relationships of identity and knowledge for the agents involved;
to create a holistic view of the Late Gothic context in order to generate new
interpretations and knowledge; to develop new techniques with applications for
other lines of research in the humanities and other fields; to facilitate
interdisciplinary research by providing a visual medium to act as the point of
convergence between disciplines; to publicise the findings of the project as
widely as possible in order to foster a knowledge and appreciation of
Andalusia’s Late Gothic heritage and promote a holistic view of this heritage; to
provide the means for the future inclusion of this regional context in the contexts
of the Iberian Peninsula and Europe.
Although we live in the digital age, we are still presented with enormous
difficulties when working with historical documents. From an organisational
point of view, a project based on such wide and diverse information relies on
accuracy – accuracy of the data themselves but also in how they are searched for
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32 Structural Studies, Repairs and Maintenance of Heritage Architecture XIV
and processed. Furthermore, digitising and processing the data found requires
preliminary selection and exhaustive graphic representation, which in our case
primarily consists in creating thematic maps of the data.
The first problem posed by this project is precisely the representation of the
information we wish to analyse. Since the project encompasses very diverse
entities with highly complex relationships, we have been obliged to use an
unconventional methodology that enables us to systematically draw cross-
referenced conclusions and that may provide a source for other researchers in the
future. Our research is therefore open-ended, allowing us to add new information
and edit existing data.
The complexity of our project also encompasses different scales, from the
architectural object to the geographical context. However, the Late Gothic in
Andalusia cannot be viewed in isolation; it must be set within the context of the
Iberian Peninsula. Consequently, part of the information gathered must be
processed and visualised on a peninsular scale, and part on a regional or
Andalusian scale. In this case, the digital model created must comprise several
levels of data which selectively represent the most important information. This
flexibility may be achieved through two schemas – geographic information
systems and graphical visualisation – which have enabled us to systematically
represent blocks of interrelated information.
In addition to the spatial factor, time is another consideration in creating the
digital model because its representation and processing will affect all the entities
in the system. We know that GIS models do not normally include a time factor,
offering only a synchronous spatial representation of a specific point of reference
in time [11]. However, that does not mean that time cannot be managed through
a GIS. In the digital model created for the Late Gothic network, time is being
processed in two different ways: by means of entity attributes (such as start and
end dates for the construction of buildings), and through temporal layers in order
to compare layers from different chronologies – for example, by superimposing
them – and understand their transformations. We therefore aim to analyse the
changes and connections that have occurred through time in order to obtain
knowledge about the possible cause and effect relationships [12].
So what advantages have we gained by applying these tools to our digital
model? The first is that we have been able to store, organise and structure a vast
and diverse quantity of data. The second is that we now have a model that will
enable us to interpret systems on their different scales and obtain a holistic view
of their relationships in space and time. And a third advantage is that we can
conduct spatial and mathematical analyses, depending on the type of concurrent
relationships we want to explore.
We will now describe some of the specific results that we are obtaining in the
Digital Model of Andalusia’s Late Gothic Heritage project by using geographic
information systems and graphical representation. To do this, we will describe
some of the information we have worked with to date and the partial results
obtained.
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3 DMALG: digital model of Andalusia’s Late Gothic heritage
The aim of DMALG is to create a new approach to Late Gothic heritage based
on the theoretical framework of Lefebvre [13], who proposes observing the
network of links, collaborations and conflicts between architectural, geopolitical
and social space in order to discover the multiple agents, builders and users of a
given space over time.
The digital model of Andalusia’s Late Gothic heritage will comprise eight
phases: design of the GIS and database; data collection, processing and selection;
data analysis and input to database; production of visualisations of the model;
assessment of problems encountered; establishment of data interconnections and
interrelationships; generation of queries and reports; development of the
documentation system; and dissemination of the model. However, these
development phases of the project are neither static nor isolated. We know that
in a project of this scale, with such a large quantity of data and so many diverse
sources, information processing will be constant throughout, as the project takes
shape and is restructured. This constitutes further justification for the use of GIS
and the generation of a database.
The flexibility of the interface offered by GIS and by the construction of a
database has been demonstrated in similar projects [14, 15], in which the GIS
was established, designed and developed in line with the needs identified during
each project. In keeping with the advances in national standards and institutions,
DMALG includes guidelines and input data provided by the IECA (Institute of
Statistics and Cartography of Andalusia) and the ING (National Geographic
Institute) in order to guarantee the compatibility of the digital model created. The
data are being created in shapefile format using the ArGIS platform by ESRI.
The format of the initial database is Microsoft Excel to permit its translation to a
Microsoft Access format. The GIS is being developed in accordance with ISO
19100 and OGC (Open Geospatial Consortium) standards and in line with the
recommendations of the INSPIRE and LISIGE (Infrastructures and Geographic
Information Services Act) directives.
The data that have been gathered and processed have been used to create a
digital model of geographic information that enables us to obtain detailed
representations of the relationships between the entities analysed to date. This
task has been facilitated by using GIS technology to store, organise and visualise
its elements (kingdoms, dioceses, roads, towns, buildings, etc.). Meanwhile,
graph-based technologies will enable us to represent the information through
relational schemas, which in turn will facilitate the representation of other stored
elements (professionals, occupational categories, works, etc.). Graphs not only
allow us to highlight these relationships and their significance but, on certain
occasions, to quantify them.
One example of the historical information selected and processed to date is
the collection of road maps of Spain drawn up by Juan Villuga in 1543, which
enables us to visualise the connections between a total of 139 roads that linked
the main towns at the time and witnessed the journeys of monarchs and different
authorities. The reason for beginning with these maps was that as our first step in
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34 Structural Studies, Repairs and Maintenance of Heritage Architecture XIV
Figure 1: Development phases of the digital model of Andalusias Late Gothic
heritage. As you can see these phases are neither static nor isolated,
they are a cyclic mechanism.
the process we needed to visualise the network of roads that existed
throughout the Iberian Peninsula during the Late Gothic period in order to
understand how the territory was organised, the routes along which materials
were transported, and which towns acted as trading centres. To process these
data, we have begun with the southern region of the peninsula, which
encompasses the present-day region of Andalusia, and we are digitising,
georeferencing and vectorising the roads using ArcGIS software. By identifying
every route with its arrival and departure points and adjusting the roads to the
topography of the territory, we can provide a more reliable visualisation of
the possible routes used in the 16th century. Another great advantage of using
GIS tools is that we can create visualisations by juxtaposing different historical
maps, such as the Nova Descriptio Hispanie from 1553 and the Nova Tabula
Hispaniae from 1482. This helps us to verify, for example, the towns represented
and the mountains and rivers, and to perceive which elements were
represented in a more significant way. These data enable us to juxtapose Roman,
medieval and modern communication routes and to perceive how their
development conditioned the construction of major architectural works. We can
also assess the quality of works through its influences and the greater or lesser
presence of professionals, and the proximity to or distance from the main
production and funding centres.
On a peninsular scale, using the historical maps obtained from the
ecclesiastical dictionary of Spain in the 15th and 16th centuries [16], we can
visualise the development and transformation of the dioceses, which will provide
information about the interrelationships between the funding for works, the
characteristics bestowed by the patrons, the management of the works and
the gradual formation of the territory. Furthermore, we will also be able to
juxtapose these with the dividing layer of the five kingdoms that existed in the
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Structural Studies, Repairs and Maintenance of Heritage Architecture XIV 35
Iberian Peninsula in the 15th century: Aragon, Castile, Navarre, Portugal and
Granada. In the case of the division of the kingdoms, we have also been able to
link the data to the demographic information for the period. ArcGIS offers
powerful analysis tools which, coupled with the database, will enable us to
integrate the information and generate more information by interrelating and
analysing the data stored.
Figure 2: The map shows the juxtaposition of ancient cartography – Nova
Descriptio Hispanie 1553 and Nova Tabula Hispaniae de 1482 –
and the layer of Juan Villuga roads. Roman and existing roads also
can be seen.
With regard to the data related to the professionals of the period that have
been uploaded to the tardogótico.es database, we have begun to process the
information on those who worked on the construction of Seville Cathedral, based
on our belief that this work had a significant impact on Andalusia’s territory [17,
18].
Using the database of Seville Cathedral professionals, which is structured in
CSV format and includes ID numbers, a hierarchical classification system and
related attributes, we have created a series of graphs to obtain a preliminary
visualisation of the relationships between professionals, works, times and
categories, grouping clusters of data in this complex network by means of nodes
and edges.
4 First conclusions and recommendations
The conclusions we have drawn from our research are still provisional, but we
can at least mention some of the ones that have a bearing on the theme of this
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36 Structural Studies, Repairs and Maintenance of Heritage Architecture XIV
Figure 3: The graph shows the relations between some of those who worked
on the construction of Seville Cathedral (minor nodes), their
professional category (middle nodes – top of the image) and the
others building that they participate in the construction (major
nodes).
gathering. 1) We can only obtain a more complete and flexible understanding of
the Late Gothic phenomenon by creating a body of knowledge that combines
both space and time. The interpretation of a place at a particular moment in time
requires a precise understanding of the chronology of how that place developed;
in other words, we need to understand its historical process. And we can only do
this by establishing links between the diverse histories, events, actors and places
that played a role in the process. The production of the place, with all its entities,
is in and of itself a great laboratory. This makes consideration of the spatial
dimension indispensable, because it is here that the different histories coexist and
impact one another. At the same time, the scenario provided by the visualisation
of different phenomena is dynamic, active and generative. 2) It would be
impossible to carry out this project without the large database created by the Late
Gothic network and without using the new information technologies now
available. Clearly, by using GIS for our research we are challenging certain
methods for constructing database components based exclusively on a
historiographic and documentary approach and demanding new fields: spatio-
temporal dimensions and the determination and classification of attributes to
define them. 3) Visualising and relating these attributes through an information
system on cultural heritage has steered our work in two directions: the creation
of systems built around the entities, and the implementation of analyses to
observe and interpret their relationships. 4) We can affirm that the new
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Structural Studies, Repairs and Maintenance of Heritage Architecture XIV 37
information tools will modify the research process. Some of the positive aspects
derived from this are as follows: it allows us to develop a holistic view in our
research and answer questions that would be impossible to answer otherwise; we
can formulate new questions and create new knowledge based on new ideas and
investigations stemming from the use of new tools and methods; it allows
researchers to share their knowledge; and it makes it easier to link existing lines
of research. 5) With regard to the Andalusian Late Gothic, we are still in the
process of implementing the necessary data, many of which have arisen from the
use of GIS systems. It is crucial that we ask the right questions at this stage, just
as it is essential that we involve a large group of researchers, historians,
archaeologists, architects and geographers. Our participation in the “Late Gothic
Network” and its biannual meetings is proving to be enormously beneficial in
this respect thanks to the new topics of debate that have emerged surrounding the
use of new technologies.
Acknowledgement
Related to the project (HAR2012-34571) funded by the Spanish Ministry of
Economy and Competitiveness and led by the lecturer Francisco Pinto Puerto.
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  • The Faro Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society. Council of Europe. Online
    • Faro
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