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New perspectives to save cultural heritage
Altan, M. Orhan

Jana Niederoest
Institute of Geodesy and Photogrammetry, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich,
ETH - Honggerberg, CH-8093 Zurich, Switzerland - jana@geod.baug.ethz.ch
KEY WORDS: cultural heritage, history of cartography, 3D reconstruction, accuracy analysis, geometric transformations, DTM
The relief of Franz Ludwig Pfyffer, constructed between 1762 and 1786, is considered the world’s oldest large landscape model and
a pioneering work of Swiss cartography. Based on Pfyffer’s own measurements, the 6.6 x 3.9 m 2 big masterpiece represents a
fascinating bird’s eye view of the Alps. The relief is not only an extraordinary topographic but also a cultural achievement: It has
once been an attraction for numerous representatives of European social and scientific life. This paper reports about the procedures
for the digital recording and quantitative evaluation of the Pfyffer’s relief, which are part of a broad interdisciplinary research. For
the first time, the results of the photogrammetric 3D reconstruction and accuracy analysis of the whole object are presented. The
DTM, the orthoimage and the complete vector data set were archived for the documentation of the cultural heritage. For the reason of
project publicity, the derivation of high quality visualization products such as flyovers and interactive models was an important issue,
too. In the second part the paper describes methods for the comparison of the virtual historical model with current map information.
The procedures are based on a 9-parameter transformation of identical points between two three-dimensional datasets. In particular, a
new procedure for the transformation of historical height and image data has been developed and evaluated. Furthermore, a novel
method for analysis of the lake contours accuracy in the old relief or in the old map respectively is suggested. The procedures enable
visualization of relief distortions (including a distortion grid), overlays with current vector data as well as direct comparison of the
digital terrain models. The results of the analysis bring new surprising information concerning geometric accuracy, metric parameters
and building strategy of the Pfyffer’s relief.
Old maps, charts and 3D models have traditionally been a
subject of study by the historians. These masterpieces
combining art and a great knowledge of surveying and
cartography currently receive deserved attention of scientists as
well. In particular, photogrammetry and digital image
processing are used to extract metrical and semantic
characteristics of historical maps (for example see Fuse, 1998;
Shimizu, 1999; Baletti, 2000). This paper addresses the three-
dimensional aspect of historical cartography and focuses on the
image-based reconstruction and geometrical evaluation of one
of the most remarkable landscape models in history - the relief
of Franz Ludwig Pfyffer.
Historical reliefs can be considered a direct ancestor of present
virtual models. At the end of the 18 th century, the bird-eye view
at a landscape in the form of a relief was a special, unique
experience comparable with our today’s enthusiasm for virtual
reality. The fascination of exploring and analysing the third
dimension of the mountainous area of Switzerland - once surely
stimulation for the construction of Pfyffer’s relief - has
motivated this research.
Lieutenant general Franz Ludwig Pfyffer von Wyher (1716-
1802) devoted 20 years of his life to the construction of a relief
of Central Switzerland (Figure 1). The result of his surveying
and cartographic work is a 6.7 x 3.9 m 2 big model of Lake
Lucerne and neighbouring cantons with a maximal elevation
range of about 30 cm. It displays as much as 1/10 of the
country in a scale of about 1:11 '500. Finished in 1786, Pfyffer’s
relief attracted numerous visitors from all over Europe to
Lucerne: “One of the most impressive sights is to be seen in the
general Pfyffer’s flat; namely, a topographic representation of
a big part of the federation, highly admired by experts. It is up
to the last detail correct and contains all the mountains, lakes,
rivers and villages, as well as each cottage, bridge and road;
even every cross is accurately and clearly depicted.“ (Leu, H.
J., 1788). This masterpiece is a significant improvement of
existing maps at that time and as such it served as a basis for
several printed works issued at the end of 18 ,h century. A
detailed study of Pfyffer’s relief probably played an important
role in the victorious battle of French troops against the
Russian field marshal Alexander Suvorov in the mountainous
St. Gotthard region in 1799. As a strategic cartographic object,
the French commander Napoleon Bonaparte planned to buy the
relief in 1805 (Imhof, 1981). Fortunately, at that time better
map information was already available and the model stayed
Swiss property. Today it is on display in the Gletschergarten
Museum in Lucerne as the world’s probably oldest and very
detailed large landscape model.
Figure 1. A view on the 26 m 2 large Pfyffer’s relief