Discovering Photogrammetry in France

I first encountered the concept of architectural photogrammetry while working as an architect in Paris in 1990 -and was immediately intrigued. So much so that I decided to swap my job with a 45 minute commute into the city for a new job just a short bicycle ride away (in the town of Egly)  in order to learn how to do this work.  Simultaneously I had to learn how to draw with a computer; up until then I had only drafted with pen and pencil (plastic leads for working drawings).  It was a lot to take in, but I think its fair to say that I loved it.

digitizing puck

digitizing puck

Back then, the process was nearly completely analog: We shot film and had it developed into 8″x10″ prints.  These were then taped onto a large format digitizer so that points on the photos could be communicated to software running on a PC.  Then after a photogrammetric analysis of this information was completed, we made drawings that were plotted to scale – and it was these prints that were the “deliverable” product desired by our clients.

I remember seeing a number of photos taped onto a digitizing table and watching my colleague Herve use the digitizing puck to point to the same location on a building as seen from various points of view and then push a button and seeing the point location appear in 3-D coordinates in an CAD drawing on a computer screen.  It seemed magical.

As more and more points were measured in this way, I could start to see the shape of the building.  This became even clearer as points were connected into lines and polylines; the “point cloud” was becoming a “wire frame”.

When I first got out of architecture school and was working for a firm in New York City, the first thing I had to do was to learn how to make measured drawings of existing conditions.  It was messy, confusing work on site and often yielded error-ridden results in the office that required repeated return visits to understand and clarify what was really happening architecturally.  When I saw a dimensionally accurate 3-D model representing an existing structure being created from a handful of photos, I was hooked.  Nobody I knew was doing anything like this in the United States.


Triumphal Arch Jardin de Tuileries

Triumphal Arch Jardin de Tuileries

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