Goboprojection architectural mapping Vignola

On Friday 13th July, in an embrace of light, the past and the future met on the terraces of the Rocca di Vignola, a 13th century fortification located in the province of Modena. Towers and ramparts of the military artifact for a long time owned by the Contrari family, have returned to shine with the original decorations and colors no longer to affirm the lordship of a House over the territory as it once was, but that of the culture of color. The Vignola Foundation and the Apparati Epimeri visual design studio with the cultural project “SOGNO O SON DESTE” – created in collaboration with the foundations of the Cassa di Risparmio di Modena, Carife (Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara) and BPER Banca – have committed themselves to an ambitious challenge: to create a highly original proposal for the iconological promotion of some of the most important artistic treasures that enrich Emilia.

“The goal – writes Giuseppe Pesci who coordinated the project together with the scientific director Achille Lodovisi – was to enhance the Estense client, focusing on the variety and importance of the cultural interests of the dukes and the characters who gather around them , reconstructing the climate of a court among the liveliest in Europe and triggering, through the surprise effect that architectural mapping allows, new reflections that will remain etched in the memory of the user “.


The turning point was the successful initiative of Goboservice at Apparati Effimeri which, for the company mission, creates highly persuasive three-dimensional visual content. The Bolognese company that oversaw the scenic design of the projections was already involved in an initiative for the architectural enhancement of the Este residences through the video mapping technique. A first experiment had made it possible to make a partial reproduction of the decorations on some walls of the Vignola fortress and from that highly suggestive result we started to imagine a subsequent leap in quality. The 6 video projectors originally used covered part of the walls and perimeter towers with decidedly appreciable results, but digital video projection had objective limits. A prolonged projection over time, for days or weeks, was not conceivable, because this would have entailed the risk of deterioration of the machines, which in turn were not suitable for use in external contexts.

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From the meeting with Goboservice the winning intuition was born: “Why not use the technology of gobo projections for a more extended, lasting visual reproduction and why not, cheaper?” Thus began an intense research activity that united Reggio Calabria and Bologna. A continuous exchange of information has developed between the Strait of Messina and the city of the Towers, which has made it possible to define a process of integration between complementary technologies such as analogue and digital in a complex and challenging work as highlighted by Marco Grassivaro (Apparati Ephemerals) quoting the journalist Oliver Burkeman. In the team of technicians and creatives involved in the operation, there was an explicit awareness that until that moment something similar had been experienced in the field of virtual restoration. There had been reproductions of portions of internal walls but never of the entire surface of a building with that complexity of volumes to be mapped and reproduced in full and for prolonged times.

We started with the surveys carried out with special 3D laser scanners by experts such as Professor Manuela Incerti or the restorer Natalia Gurgone. The surveys generated a very accurate cloud of points from which a three-dimensional grid with a margin of error of less than one centimeter was created. This grid and the planimetric surveys made with drones were the basis of the subsequent work carried out by Goboservice and Apparati Effimeri. Three months of study and testing to arrive at the last step of laser ablation of the full color gobos, the dichroic filters on which the wonderful medieval paintings with their precious luminous details have been engraved. Special attention was paid to the calibration of the images to ensure the chromatic uniformity of the entire scenography and correspondence with the original colors of the friezes.
The experiment that left everyone with bated breath until the last moment, involved the overcoming of many difficult moments to make the images projected almost perfectly match the articulated spaces of the castle as in a gigantic mosaic of light. whose tiles had to fit together without smudging.

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“We had to take into account various distorting factors of the projections – explained Pietro Martino, head of Goboservice of the project – resulting from the positioning of the projectors in the irregular spaces of the fortification, the variation of volumes and shapes and, finally, the differences in height where the projection was placed “. Even the machines supplied by Goboservice with their power of 400, 600 and 1000 watts and the fixed optics of 56 and 115 mm, have been rethought and specially set up to best respond to the new mapping challenge. The goboporiectors were positioned at strategic points inside and outside the fortress to compose the luminous tapestry admired by the authorities, by the representatives of the foundations financing the project and by the many visitors who stopped during the opening evening to admire the castle in its new bright dress. The composition enveloped the ancient and austere walls to first act as a scenography for the poetic reading of the actor Fabio Testi and then become the absolute protagonist of Vignola’s night. The projections thus generated manifested themselves in all their evocative suggestion from miles away. And now – while the reproductions on the Este fortress can be enjoyed on Wednesdays and weekends until Sunday 23 September, European day of cultural heritage – the projectors point even further, towards the church of Sant’Agostino in Modena, Casa Romei and the inner courtyard of the castle of Ferrara, next objectives which are already being worked on. Even in these places the decorations, colors and designs that adorned the rooms, cloisters and balconies will return to shine. Another concrete example of what can be done in Italy, a “painted country” – as Pisces defined it – that is waiting to be brought to light.

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