San Julián Project Update: January 31, 2019


Web presence of San Julián Project, work in progress

“San Julián de Samos: a digital approach” aims to study the architectural transformation of the monastic site of San Julián de Samos, in the northwest of Spain, over the course of centuries. This study includes the parallel evolution undertaken by its rural and urban surroundings, the sacred precinct and the nearby village. I utilize a multidisciplinary approach that combines historical sources, on-site investigation and digital technologies (2D CAD and 3D models) within the emerging field of Digital Art and Architectural History. The project addresses and visualizes questions of change and transformation over time that are crucial to analyze how the site was conceived, understood, and experienced as a sum of different parts instead of a single artifact.

After my participation in the June 2018 workshop “Visualizing Venice Summer Institute – Advanced Topics in Digital Art History: 3D and (Geo)Spatial Networks”, I set with the organizers two clear goals for our second meeting next June 2019; to make accessible the project through a web presence and to create an animation of the spatial evolution of the site. Both the web presence and the animation are currently works in progress, challenging me to explore new techniques in web development and animation making. In both cases, I took as references many of the projects presented during our two weeks in Venice.

Regarding the animation, it will show the design process and changes of the monastic site at Samos from the pre-monastic settlement to the secularization of this Benedictine community in the early 19th century. Thus, it is titled “Creating the Monastic Site: from the origins to the 19th century”. This animation could be used in a future exhibition in the monastery where the past of the monastic site is brought to life and told in an interactive way. I am in the process of applying for a grant from the Galician Regional Government to fund this exhibition at the monastery.

Developing the web presence of the project is a process that involves many technical challenges. First, it is necessary to say that all the files of the project generated from the archival documentation (2D maps and 3D models) are CAD files. The objects represented inside these files (roads, rivers, buildings…) have no attached historical data. Therefore, it was imperative to bring all of this files into QGIS (an open source Geographic Information System Application) to add the historical data attributes to the graphic objects.

Second, I needed to turn the QGIS files into an interactive map for the web presence. I evaluated two plugins for this purpose: QGIS Cloud and QGIS2WEB. With both it is possible to create interactive maps from the Shapefiles (SHP) defined in QGIS. However, the possibilities that these plugins offer to control how the interactive map is displayed and managed are limited. Through trial and error with these plugins, I learnt about Leaflet, an open-source JavaScript library for interactive maps. Currently, the Project is focused on developing the code with Leaflet along with HTML and CSS languages to create an interactive map. By making this project accessible through a web presence, new opportunities will be created to engage art, architectural, historical and cultural questions through interactive presentation and analysis.