UNISA  •  Italy

4 min read

How Researchers at the University of Salerno used Enscape to Rediscover the History of Villa Rufolo

Anna Sanseverino and Carla Ferreyra have earned their Ph.D. in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Salerno (UNISA). Anna’s research focuses on the structural aspects connected with BIM methodologies, and Carla’s on the virtual dissemination of Cultural Heritage.

They had the opportunity to work together on the Villa Rufolo project, which involved architectural surveying and using real-time visualization to understand the history of the building.

Reconstructing Villa Rufolo’s history

Villa Rufolo is a ‘jewel in the crown’ of Ravello in Italy. It’s a structure that has lived moments of glory and darkness and has a style that continues to attract attention over the centuries, inspiring artists, writers, historians, and lovers of beauty.

Due to its strategic position on the shores of the Amalfi Coast, it became a place of enormous cultural, natural, and commercial value during the Middle Ages. Despite the effects of time, the villa has preserved many of the environments that make it one of the most exciting examples of twelfth-century architecture in southern Italy.

The University of Salerno collaborated with Villa Rufolo Direction to rediscover and reconstruct its true history and retrace its thousand years of existence. The intent was to make the monument reveal its history as it holds centuries of history and magnificent legends. 

Fig. 1

Incorporating Enscape into the design workflow

Anna discovered Enscape for SketchUp during a class that involved creating the Coromandel Estate Manor House in South Africa. She introduced it to Carla when they searched for a fast and efficient rendering tool.

“Having used several real-time visualization software, Enscape was intuitive and fast. The results it produced convinced us. It was also advantageous to have an educational license,” Anna explains.

Fig. 3

Enscape was used on Villa Rufolo’s most significant element, the Moorish Coister. The site was chosen because the UNISA team had been working in Ravello for several years and wanted to deepen the widespread knowledge of the architectural heritage. 

The project involved using Enscape to render the villa’s design. Carla modeled the project and needed help to improve its texture of it. Anna came up with the idea of using real-time visualization.

They had photogrammetry survey data which was of good quality and had good texture. They needed to find a way to use it as 3D information within the model for degradation and material analysis. Enscape allowed them to work with the data and go beyond the simple geometric model to create stunning renderings. 

5 benefits of using real-time visualization

1. Storytelling with new technology

The availability of new visualization and real-time rendering instruments allowed Anna and Carla to connect the different levels of information in a multidimensional view. The study and interpretation of the modeling of Villa Rufolo helped them discover events that had escaped or had never been reported. It also helped to place, with scientific rigor, circumstances that were only previously known in an approximate or incorrect way.

New technology allowed Anna and Carla to use the stones as a pen and the mortar as an ink to tell a story made up not only of construction techniques but also periods of decadence and wealth.

2. Quick installation of Enscape as a multi-platform

One of the things the researchers of UNISA enjoyed the most about Enscape is the easy integration of BIM objects to fix flaws within the project rapidly. What makes this even simpler is that Enscape is usable on every kind of personal computer, even on the ones with an average to low-quality graphics card. 

Anna adds that she enjoys having the project within one workspace in real-time, “it has another window, but you can directly see the changes. For example, when I had to fix the texture in Revit, it was easy to see the model as it was changing. It sped up the process ten times at least.” 

3. Intuitive and simple to use

Anna was capable of understanding Enscape fully within a small amount of time. So they decided to teach it to students in a two-hour class. By the end of the class, the students created good-quality renders and were impressed by the fast workaround time. 

During the project’s process, Anna and Carla introduced the project to 25 students in the university’s computer graphics course at UNISA. 

“We presented Enscape to the students of the computer graphics course in the civil engineering and architecture department. We showed how it could deal with the representation of integrated data with a BIM approach,” explains Anna.

Anna and Carla were also surprised at how easy it was to create a rendered video of the villa. They made the video using a model as the basis and building maps from the photogrammetry survey.

Fig. 6

4. Easy sharing with colleagues and collaborators 

Another benefit of working with Enscape is the easy way to share projects with various collaborators worldwide.

“The possibility to export a model as a webstandalone helped us share it with most of our stakeholders. We could grant them direct access, and they could navigate the asset without having to install any software,” shares Anna.

5. Working in their native languages

Since Enscape is available in multiple languages, it's convenient for both researchers to use Enscape in their mother tongue. Carla is originally from Argentina and uses Enscape in Spanish. Anna uses the Italian version of Enscape when working with SketchUp and the English version when working with Enscape for Revit.

Fig. 2

The project earned Anna and Carla an award at an Italian convention. Their case study won the best paper award. An Italian architecture journal about BIM published the case study, which can be read in Italian and English.

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Enscape™ is a real-time rendering and VR plugin that empowers design workflows by turning building models into immersive 3D experiences.