Capturing the Realities through Digital Preservation ...

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The case of ZouMaTang Ancient Village, China. Ali Cheshmehzangi1, Eugene ..... areas that will first boom the local economy. The maintenance of the old ...
In proceedings for REHAB2015 Conference, pp. 633-645

Capturing the Realities through Digital Preservation and Scanning Techniques: The case of ZouMaTang Ancient Village, China Ali Cheshmehzangi1, Eugene Ch’ng2, Deborah A. Adkins1 1

Department of Architecture and Built Environment, The University of Nottingham Ningbo China 2

Department of Computer Science, The University of Nottingham Ningbo China


In China, many villages are facing severe decline and deprivation and some are even replaced or reallocated over time. In recent years, the effects from rapid pace of urbanisation on rural areas has been so significant and at such large scale that rural communities are now facing new economic, social and environmental challenges. This interdisciplinary research aims to study a particular case of Chinese Ancient Village in the region of Zhejiang Province, East China. This study includes techniques for recording and preserving the particular case of a declining village in the Yinzhou District of Ningbo. Out of the many villages of the region, ZouMaTang is selected as the historical site as it is in major decline. This study discusses the application of various recording techniques and explores how such applications can support a holistic approach for recording and documenting spatial qualities, livelihoods and environmental configuration of this particular community. In this study, we present ways of capturing the realities and argue that our approach is essential to the understanding of heritage, its living patterns and the many architectural features and qualities of an ancient site. In this paper, the authors point out potentials and possibilities for the transition from the digital preservation to the local government's actual plan for the purpose of future regeneration and redevelopment of the village. Key Words: Preservation; Scanning; ZouMaTang Village; China; Heritage.

1. Introduction Reality can be perceived in at least two ways in the context of this paper – tangible (physical) and intangible (cultural). Our perception of reality is acquired through the act of observation of our environments, and the reflection of what we have observed. The major input from which we learn reality is through seeing. Both the tangible and the intangible can be seen and reflected upon. The tangible of course is superficial and can be easily observed. The intangible however is embedded within the tangible and is at a more profound level, it requires more extended reflection. In this particular study, we present ways of capturing both types of realities embedded within the sites and monuments of the ZouMaTang village.


In proceedings for REHAB2015 Conference, pp. 633-645

Figure 1 – The aerial map of ZouMaTang Ancient Village with indication of old market and old community area in dashed red lines (Source: ZouMaTang Village Committee Documents, 2007, Ningbo Design Research Institute)

Heritage studies in the 21st century are increasingly reliant upon digital technologies within its framework of conservation and interpretation, and visualisation technologies plays a crucial role (Ch’ng et al., 2013), specifically in the representation of realities. Over the last two decades, the role of visualisation has certainly changed from merely being a product of heritage inquiry, to an actual process within the heritage research framework (Ch’ng et al., 2014). From 3D reconstruction methods for the digital preservation of cultural heritage (Gomes et al., 2014) to new methods, such as, Augmented Reality (AR) (Azuma et al., 2001), one can argue that research in these areas have contributed to the substantial progress of technological application in the fields of cultural heritage and preservation. The availability of new technologies has made the processes of recapturing and recording more comprehensive and effective for preservation and refurbishment practices within the ‘Built Environment’. In addition, this has given scholars and practitioners a broader ‘understanding of physical and material characteristics’ (Llopis et al., 2015) and beyond. In this study, the authors elaborate on the combination of techniques and technologies, and demonstrate the potentials of such applications in practice.


In proceedings for REHAB2015 Conference, pp. 633-645

Figure 2 – Overall plan for protected buildings of ZouMaTang (shown in dark grey) and future development plan of the village (Source: Village Committee, from the Village Exhibition Area)

This paper is part of an on-going interdisciplinary research investigation that aims to study, record and virtually preserve a particular ancient village (ZouMaTang) located within Ningbo, in the Zhejiang province of China. It is estimated that the village, together with more than 20 other villages in Ningbo will be demolished and/or reallocated in the next five years. Some of these tragic decisions are happening at such a rapid pace that act of preserving them using digital media is not possible due to the process of obtaining permission and process of change. However, digital preservation is necessary and of great motivation as the combined effect of rapid urbanisation and rapid development in China will provide a great opportunity to study the transition of these ancient settlements, and argue for preservation strategies that may or may not include original setting of the communities, living patterns, identity and traditional cultures. Here, we focused on ZouMaTang ancient village as a unique case study. ZouMaTang is not vanishing at present but is expected to change drastically in the near future. The present study was initially proposed as a platform between the community, research/academia and the local government. We found this linkage to be extremely essential as a course of direction for mitigating, and advocating the authorities for future preservation and development plans that are taking place in the region. Furthermore, this study evaluates the community’s livelihood, the villagers’ previous and current living patterns and what lies beyond the facades of the inner spaces of the village. In this respect, the study aims to virtually preserve the key characteristics, features and values of the village. Through a series of recording and documentation, the collated data is used in a multidisciplinary platform to bring back the vanishing realities that may soon become an unknown and a case of forgotten heritage identity for the region.


In proceedings for REHAB2015 Conference, pp. 633-645

Figures 3 and 4 - Some of the current preservation plans for preservation of traditional windows for traditional houses (left) and social values of the community (right), October 2014 (Source: Authors’)

The ancient village of ZouMaTang is located approximately 20km South of the City of Ningbo, China. Its historical and cultural values represent a remarkable example of Chinese ancient settlement; with both tangible and intangible heritage values. Home to largest group of ancient palace graduates or imperial scholars in China (from an incomplete statistics between 950 A.D. and 1946 A.D.: 76 palace graduates, 152 government officials including 4 ministers, 111 imperial college students, prefectural school students and governmentsponsored students – Source: Village Archive), ZouMaTang has some hidden values (both tangible and intangible) that are still embedded in the old district of the village.

Figures 5 and 6 – View of the old market street (left) and one of the old courtyard houses in ZouMaTang (right), October 2014 (Source: Authors’)

This ancient village is popular amongst tourists and the local. Despite its long-term heritage, the village is not yet fully commercialised for tourism; but is doing so at a slow pace. 636

In proceedings for REHAB2015 Conference, pp. 633-645

Nowadays, ZouMaTang is divided in to two parts of: ‘new zone’ and ‘old district’. This ancient village consists of 615 household with an estimated population of over 1,500 people, most of whom are surnamed ‘Chen’. The Chen Family residents still remain as the majority of village residents in the area. The village is known as a territory for people engaged in farming and study. As promoted by the community, these two are main features of culture in this ancient village. Nevertheless, ZouMaTang lacks vision and overall strategy of preservation and development. As a result of this, the undergoing study has been focusing on how the future planning and development may occur in the face of stepping changes that are taking place towards tourism and potential commercialisation of the area.

1.1 Methodology The study includes a wide variety of disciplines feeding in to development of architectural and community preservation strategies that are identified as lacking points for the current situation of ZouMaTang. In order to achieve comprehensive outcomes, the study includes a variety of methodologies, ranging from community engagement to scanning of key selected areas. The community engagement activity takes place at three levels of: 1- committee meetings; 2- community discussions; and 3- one-to-one interviews of local residents. The combined three approaches of data collation has offered us a collective knowledge of the community as well as detailed understanding of the key areas in the village. Apart from this approach, the research team has recorded key parts of the communal spaces and residential units, by recording the types and details of openings, gates, housing typologies, spatial arrangements and etc. Some representations of recorded dwellings are converted in to 3D drawings for further study of environmental and social features as well as their spatial qualities and performance analysis. The mapping and analyses of material uses, colour and typology of houses have enabled us to understand and identify the major transitions (both architecturally and socially) that have taken place in the past few decades/or are taking place at the current stage of development in ZouMaTang. In addition, this study has benefitted from the scanning techniques, with which we have scanned two selected housing compounds (including one traditional courtyard housing and one mixed new and old housing) and two of the main open spaces (including the old market street and one of the old distribution places).


In proceedings for REHAB2015 Conference, pp. 633-645

Figures 7 and 8 - Scanning in progress at ZouMaTang’s old market street (left) and one of the main community hubs of the old district (right), March 2015 (Source: Authors’)

Common 3D laser scanners are: handheld scanner, terrestrial scanner and airborne scanner. For this study, terrestrial scanner is used for 3D scanning of buildings (both inside and outside), streets and community environments. One major application of such 3D laser scanner is virtual preservation of traditional architecture. For scanning the built environments, positions, dimensions and shapes of features are important parts of the documentation and analysis process. Over a series of scanning, the undertaken surveys give a good indication of the speed of erosion/deterioration of a site. Finally, this method is an accurate recording method for buildings and sites that can later help planning conservation and restoration programmes. 1.2 Scanning Techniques When researching the rapidly changing landscape of ZouMaTang village in Zhejiang Province, East China it was important to appropriately record, document, and survey each site. Clear, accurate and complete three-dimensional digital documentation was used as a prerequisite for analysis and interpretation of the historical site of ZouMaTang. The three-dimensional digital acquisition of complex urban structures such as those found in ZouMaTang village can be performed by means of either passive techniques (image-based methods) such as photogrammetry, or active sensors (range-based methods) such as laser scanners or an integration of both active and passive techniques (Barsanti, Remondino, & Visintini, 2012; Fassi, Fregonese, Hackermann, & De Troia, 2013; Lehtomäki, Jaakkola, Hyyppä, Kukko, & Kaartinen, 2010; Tanaka, Masuda, Enomoto, & Miura, 2012). The most appropriate technique or set of techniques needed to be selected based on both the areas to be studied (size and level of detail required) and the constraints at hand (time and resources available). With the development of a wide range of low cost sensors and processing algorithms along with the advance of high precision systems, capable of working in most real world environments, numerous applications have opened up for laser scanner technologies. The laser scanners used in this work, are considered to be a good candidate for measuring buildings (Tanaka et al., 2012) and were able to provide highly accurate 3D point clouds of each site in 638

In proceedings for REHAB2015 Conference, pp. 633-645 ZouMaTang Village which in turn were used to produce highly detailed 3D models of each site, as shown in Figure 9 and Figure 10.

Figure 9 – Initial scanning of one of the outdoor environments in ZouMaTang

Figure 9 – Full point cloud (showing intensity) of one of the outdoor environments in ZouMaTang

The mid-range laser scanners used in this study were a Leica HDS7000 and a Faro Focus3D phasebased laser scanner, as specified in Table 1. Phase-based laser scanners use active devices capable of emitting an electromagnetic signal (laser light) that derives 3D coordinates by sending a laser impulse towards an object, then the distance between the instrument and the object is computed using the phase difference of the transmitted and reflected signal. Table 1: Product Specifications of Laser Scanners Scanner

Scan mode

Performance at 10m



In proceedings for REHAB2015 Conference, pp. 633-645 Resolution

Leica HDS7000

Super high











Phas e based scanners can acquire data at a rate upwards of a million points per second (Fröhlich & Mettenleiter, 2004). They benefit from an accuracy of the measured distances within 10 millimetres; however their range is restricted to around one hundred metres. Faro Focus3D






Pulsed systems have measuring rates of 20kHz maximum which results in a long surveying period for large environment sections. Especially when surveying a field of view of 360°x270° with a high point density, these systems need unacceptably long if details are to be detected as well. Due to long measuring periods as well as the restricted vertical field of view these systems are only partly suitable for the given environment as especially the vertical field of view means a big challenge when surveying higher points in the environment (Fröhlich & Mettenleiter, 2004).

2. Preservation Application and Strategies In previous studies on preservation of ZouMaTang ancient village, researchers have merely used two recording techniques of ‘photography’ and ‘2D drawings or photomontages’ (2007, Ningbo Design Research Institute). These have been previously conducted as main means of capturing and recording physicality of the village’s heritage sites and its main historical and physical landscapes. The 2D drawings (done as CAD files) indicate building and spatial dimensions and detailed information of buildings and the village landscape. The photomontages (done with Photoshop from the original photos) are used as representative images of the same areas in the village. An example of such studies is shown in figures 11 (2D drawing) and 12 (photomontage based on the original photos).


In proceedings for REHAB2015 Conference, pp. 633-645

Figures 11 and 12 – Two dimensional CAD drawing of one major historical façade in ZouMaTang and Photomontage of the same façade (Source: Ningbo Design Research Institute, 2007 - scanned copies with permission from ZouMaTang Village Committee).

While the 2D drawings provide informative data or representational images and photos show the visual and conditions of a particular site, the scanned images provide a more in depth and informative set of data. These data is comprised of detailed information about depth and size of scanned areas, age and detail of materials, texture and condition of materials and etc. In typical photos and 2D images (figure 13), such data is not presented, while through the scanning techniques (figure 14), a more detailed information is provided for further work and planning.

Figure 13 – The photo taken by a normal camera from one of the interior spaces in ZouMaTang, demonstrating the spatial arrangement and 2D image of the area (Source: Authors’)


In proceedings for REHAB2015 Conference, pp. 633-645

Figure 14 – Colour point cloud (2D) of one of the interior spaces in ZouMaTang, demonstrating detailed information of the spatial arrangement of the area including the sizes and depth of the space (Source: Outputs from the authors’ research team)

The limitations of the findings are mainly related to time and data processing. These two aspects are specifically important as scanning processes are often time-consuming work, requiring strong collaboration with both the local committee and the community. By developing a set of scanned housing areas, outdoor environments and major village routes (i.e. two of the main movements in the village), the next stage of the project (currently under progress by the research team) is to develop an interactive virtual reality platform. These data are developed as part of a report and will be given to the village committee for further development of a plan for future preservation strategy of the village’s old district. The current stage is very important for the local community as the committee has already developed a plan to replace houses that were developed in 1970s and 1980s with newly-developed traditional-looking buildings. With an overall budget of approximately 3 million Chinese Yuan (about 400,000 Euros), their aim is to first preserve and then develop some of the areas in order to promote tourism and better quality of life. Finally, through identification and preservation of key characteristics and places in the area, we can then support the key decision makers to find the relations between the ‘built environment’ (i.e. the context) and the ‘external qualities and elements’ (i.e. the content) (Cheshmehzangi, 2012) that are essential for exploration of identity and distinctiveness of such traditional communities. 2.1 Discussions: From Interactive Visualisation to Planning Decisions By Capturing the Realities, in this study we aim to highlight both tangible and intangible aspects of the village. By doing so, we aim to highlight the locality of the village rather than putting it in the process of gradual commercialisation. By distinguishing the village qualities from the others in the region, we use augmented reality and interactive visualisation as tools of investigating and redefining identity of ZouMaTang. While the tangible aspect of the village will elaborate on the physicality, materiality and visual characteristics of the village, the intangible matters will first raise the awareness of the local residents and visitors, enhance what is left of the village, and empower the locals to get engaged with the future of their community. In here, we can argue to progress towards 642

In proceedings for REHAB2015 Conference, pp. 633-645 what may be a better phasing plan for restoration and regeneration strategies that can be coupled for a holistic planning of the village. Table below elaborates on such strategies to help future planning decisions: Table 2: Suggested short-term, medium-term and long-term plans for redevelopment, regeneration and restoration of ZouMaTang Village Short term Tangible - Identification of key areas for development; - Identification of local material use; - Identification of colour and construction methods for new developments; - Careful assessment of redevelopment area before demolition. Intangible - Identification of local values, qualities and industries; - Development of an augmented reality for an enhanced community participation process. - Recognition and inspiration of the traditional living patterns and revaluing them in the community. Overall Planning

Long term - Gradual restoration of key areas; - Gradual replacement of the new construction from 1950s to 1970s; - Revitalisation of the traditional setting; - Balancing between living, tourism and industries.

Phase 1: 1-3 years plan

Medium term - Enhancement of artisanal training for the local residents for future construction; - Estimation on restoration costs and securing further budget where needed; - Development of a holistic framework for locality enhancement. - Representation of existing and local qualities; - Enhancement of industries and attracting new industries for the local; - Community support through local events and collective activities; - Developing a network system within the region. Phase 2: 3-7 years plan

Including, community participation and empowerment

Including, community engagement and enhancement.

Including new redevelopment and economic plan.

- Linking to a bigger context for local enhancement; - Attracting tourism and young residents for local industries; - Improvement to local living quality and quality of life; - Providing maintenance and financial support to the village. Phase 3: 7-10 years plan

Similar to the study of the preservation of chromatic image for the City of Valencia (Llopis et al, 2015), the scanning data can help the local authorities to identify and value the physical and material characteristics of ZouMaTang ancient village. This is very crucial in order to keep the traditional townscape and local material use for any of the future developments. Also the scanning techniques will enable the local authorities to highlight traditional construction methods that can be replicated (if to keep the pattern in a traditional setting) or/and represent the characteristics and identity of individual buildings in the area. For regeneration strategies, the scanned routes of the village can help us to assess how the key living environments of the area can be transferred in to future touristic hubs; not merely for the purpose of mass tourism that is often taken place with less consideration of the locality, but rather for highlighting the true image of the village and its residents. So far, in cooperation with the local authorities, this research has highlighted key areas of regeneration in the 643

In proceedings for REHAB2015 Conference, pp. 633-645 village and will, at a later stage, develop a series of interactive visualisations. This approach enables both the authorities and local residents to see and perceive their living environments in a different dimension compare to their everyday living. Through this recognition of the values and qualities embedded in the built environment, we can then suggest for regeneration plans that are highly limited financially. The overall budget dedicated for the regeneration of ZouMaTang is estimated at three millions RMB (around 300,000 GBP), which is very minimal and need to be focused on key areas that will first boom the local economy. The maintenance of the old houses and the market area is expected to be slow; however, the outcomes of this study will suggest a phasing plan for the local authorities to establish a framework for their priorities for regeneration and redevelopment. For the restoration strategies, the scanned areas give a detailed set of data to the authorities, in which we aim to inform qualities and status of the individual buildings. This enables us to estimate an overall cost of restoration based on the status of buildings, and again prioritise key areas for restoration rather than random restoration of the area. This is in line with the overall plan for bringing new industries and enhancing the existing local industries rather than commercialising the market areas with everywhere retail. To enhance the recognition of ZouMaTang beyond its physical boundaries, we aim for an interactive visualisation through the use of scanned areas. This will enable us, as the researchers, to highlight the values and qualities of village to a larger audience, not only within the local community but also beyond in the City of Ningbo and township areas. The transition of our findings to real practice will only be made possible through strong cooperation with the local authorities and community participation. One can only offer possibilities and opportunities by evaluating the current status; however, by capturing the realities, we are not only recording what exists and is rapidly vanishing but rather help to refine future planning decisions that may bring ZouMaTang out of decline and deprivation.

3. Conclusions The case of ZouMaTang Ancient Village is one of the many examples with a similar situation (or even worse) in the context of China. The decline in rural communities in China and the gradual disappearance of traditional and vernacular architecture from Chinese communities (both urban and rural) are becoming major issues of preservation strategies in China. By capturing the realities, we have explored the case of ZouMaTang to discuss tangible (physical) and intangible (cultural) heritage of traditional Chinese rural communities. The current stage of commercialisation and mass tourism in traditional Chinese communities, in both urban and rural areas, is having a major impact on how the built environment is preserved, renovated, regenerated and redeveloped. Finally, we can conclude that the use of scanning techniques helps to promote a platform for digital preservation of traditional communities (such as in China). This, we believe, is an approach to raise the awareness of the communities as well as promoting opportunities for careful and considerable preservation, regeneration and restoration strategies. For a rapidly developing context like China, this may potentially be an effective approach to help preserving some of the vanishing realities that are still embedded in and about the local communities. Acknowledgments


In proceedings for REHAB2015 Conference, pp. 633-645 The authors would like to thank The University of Nottingham Ningbo China’s Faculty of Science and Engineering for providing the Sandpit Grant for this study. All three authors are main research members of this funded project. We would also like to thank other research members for their contributions to this research project. References Azuma, R., Baillot, Y., Behringer, R., Feiner, S., Julier, S., & MacIntyre, B. (2001). Recent advances in augmented reality. Computer Graphics and Applications, IEEE, 21(6), 34–47. Barsanti, S Gonizzi, Remondino, Fabio, & Visintini, Domenico. (2012). Photogrammetry and Laser Scanning for archaeological site 3D modeling–Some critical issues. Paper presented at the Proc. of the 2nd Workshop on'The New Technologies for Aquileia', V. Roberto, L. Fozzati. Cheshmehzangi, A. (2012). Identity and Public Realm, Elsevier Procedia: Social and Behavioural Sciences, Vol. 50, pp. 307-17. Ch’ng, E., Gaffney, V. L., & Chapman, H. P. (2013). Visual Heritage in the Digital World. (E. Ch’ng, V. L. Gaffney, & H. P. Chapman, Eds.). London: Springer Cultural Computing Series. Ch’ng, E., Gaffney, V. L., & Chapman, H. P. (2014). From Product to Process: New Directions in Digital Heritage. In H. Din & S. Wu (Eds.), Digital Heritage and Culture : Strategy and Implementation (1st ed., pp. 219–243). World Scientific. Fassi, Francesco, Fregonese, Luigi, Hackermann, S, & De Troia, Vincenzo. (2013). Comparison between laser scanning and automated 3D modeling techniques to reconstruct complex and extensive Cultural Heritage areas. ISPRS 3DArch, Trento, Italy, 5, W1. Fröhlich, Christofer, & Mettenleiter, Markus. (2004). Terrestrial laser scanning–new perspectives in 3D surveying. International archives of photogrammetry, remote sensing and spatial information sciences, 36(8), W2. Gomes, L., Bellon, O. R. P. and Silva, L. (2014). 3D reconstruction methods for digital preservation of cultural heritage: A survey, Pattern Recognition Letters, 50, 3-14. Lehtomäki, Matti, Jaakkola, Anttoni, Hyyppä, Juha, Kukko, Antero, & Kaartinen, Harri. (2010). Detection of vertical pole-like objects in a road environment using vehicle-based laser scanning data. Remote Sensing, 2(3), 641-664. Llopis, J., Torres, A., Serra, J. and Garcia, A. (2015). The preservation of the chromatic image of historical cities as acultural value: The old city of Valencia (Spain), Journal of Cultural Heritage, in press. Tanaka, Ichiro, Masuda, Hiroshi, Enomoto, Masakazu, & Miura, Kenjiro Takai. (2012). Evaluating Positioning Uncertainty of Spherical Targets in Laser Scanning. Key Engineering Materials, 523, 356-361. Village Archive Documents on 'Regenration Plan', 'Histoical Data' and 'Future Masterplanning and Development' - all accessed and recorded with permission from ZouMaTang Village Committee in 2014 and 2015.


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