Sta. Chiara Team in Barcelona

June 14, 2017

MA in Digital Art History graduate Lucas Giles presents the Sta. Chiara project in Barcelona. (Photo credit: Caroline Bruzelius)

The Duke/Naples/Padua collaborative team was recently invited by the Paisajes spirituales research group at the University of Barcelona to present their digital reconstruction of the choir screen at the church of Santa Chiara in Naples.  

At Santa Chiara, a convent church, the nuns were separated from the Franciscan community by a high wall penetrated by grates. The friars’ area, and the area of the royal tombs, were also separated by a monumental structure, a choir screen, that was destroyed in the late 16th century. Through digital reconstruction and visualization the team hoped to reimagine the division of space within the church that would have impacted individual experiences of sacred rituals. No images of the choir screen survive, so the team worked with Professor Leopoldo Repola at the Suor Orsola University in Naples to locate the choir screen’s foundations using ground-penetrating radar.

To create a highly detailed 3D point cloud of the church, the team collaborated with Dott.ssa Emanuela de Feo, from the University of Salerno, who had made a laser scan of the structure. The Duke team, which consisted of MA in Digital Art History graduate, Lucas Giles, and Professor Caroline Bruzelius, then worked closely with two architecture students from the University of Padua, Elisa Castagna and Andrea Basso, to construct a CAD model of the church and choir screen. The team used as evidence not only the GPR and laser scans, but also historical documentation of contemporary choir screens.

With the help of David Zielinski, the team later used Unity3D to create a life-sized experience of the choir screen’s effect within Santa Chiara’s interior in Duke’s Virtual Immersive Environment (DiVE). In a further continuation of the project, the team are now developing an app for mobile devices to visualize the model for church visitors. 

Members of the project team with their host. Left to right: Lucas Giles (Duke ’16), Elisa Castagna (Padua), Umberto Plaja (Duke ’10), Andrea Basso (Padua), Caroline Bruzelius (Duke), Nuria Jornet (University of Barcelona). (Photo credit: Caroline Bruzelius)

The project team presented their project to the community in Naples in Spring 2017.