Sustainability in restoration, myth or reality? The exemplary case of the monumental site of the Baptistery of Florence

Oct 22, 2023 | Art-Test News, Conferences, Restoration

We are used to evaluating the results of a diagnostic campaign but we rarely dwell on the process, on all the work from the first inspection to the moment before pressing “start” and initiating data acquisition. It is a crucial time, as much as the time in which the results are acquired. Without a preparatory phase that takes into account all the variables, anticipates and resolves all the possible ones, the success of the diagnostic analysis and, consequently, the realization of the client’s expectations, including timing, and the sustainability aspect, could be compromises. Knowledge and planning make the difference.

We told all this in our speech, shared with SOING during the conference “Recovery and conservation of the historical and artistic building heritage” organized by Mapei (
Mapei’s third thematic conference, held in Florence on 5 and 6 October 2023, focused on sustainability in the field of restoration, from the analysis of materials to the actual intervention.

What is the role of diagnostics in all this? Essential!
Diagnostics allow you to calibrate interventions and the choice of materials, and find the best solution that will last over time, avoiding waste, additional costs and environmental impacts.

Contributions, such as “Architectural heritage spread across the territory and local materials. An inseparable bond” by Prof. Marco Zerbinatti and Dr. Lorenzo Appolonia highlighted how important, in restoration interventions, is the relationship with local construction materials and their historical connection.

In our intervention, as we anticipated, we literally turned the lights on everything that takes place between an inspection, the drafting of the project and its implementation. We talked about how team chemistry is first and foremost important, and this is what happened with SOING.

It was necessary to respond to the needs of the client, the Opera del Duomo of Florence, and find the best way to proceed starting from an unchangeable fact: the scaffolding and the geometries of the Baptistery dome. And we still had to think about an unconventional set up, be ready to change the known path to “bring home” the result. And this is what we did, modifying our set-ups, aligning the agendas of the acquisition days and also keeping other professionals (and sometimes visitors!) in mind, and alternating the acquisitions between hours of light and hours of darkness. Yes, because it is not possible to darken the Baptistery! We therefore used the evening hours to acquire images in UV light.

The tubes of the scaffolding became supports for the light sources, we invented a way, a “chariot” on which to slide the camera upside down, which would allow us to analyze the particularly foreshortened top floor and a system to match the shots taken during the daytime with those acquired at night. All this multiplied by 8 floors and 8 sails.
And we are sure that our work will help restorers and historians to act in a timely and more sustainable way as possible.
The impact on the environment was reduced to a minimum, but the amount of data produced was impressive, and looking now at the immense Battistero construction site we can only comment: if you can dream it, you can do it!

Emanuela Massa
Emanuela Massa