Design School

Research

Forbidden City Restoration

Group: Design for Digital Fabrication

Project: Using 3D printing technology to restore invaluable artefacts in China's Forbidden City and Summer Palace

2009-2016

£61,000

Ian Campbell

Sponsor(s):

Enterprise Project Group

Partners:

Palace Museum (Forbidden City), Beijing

Summer Palace Museum, Beijing

Overview

China’s Forbidden City, constructed around 600 years ago, was once a palace home to 24 emperors of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (16-44-1911) Dynasties. Now known as the Palace Museum, it welcomes 7M visitors a year and is a treasure house of Chinese cultural and historical relics. The Palace is internationally recognised as one of the most important five places in the world, and the Chinese government is spending 250M to restore it.

This project involved working with the Palace Museum and Summer Palace Museum – both in Beijing – to develop a systematic approach to using digital techniques in the restoration of invaluable artefacts.

This involved the shape of the damaged artefact being captured using laser or optical scanners. The data was then cleaned-up using reverse engineering techniques and the damage was digitally restored, which prepared a template for the 3D printing repair process.

The Summer Palace used the technology to restore and replicate many of its artefacts – for example full-sized replicas of the two 3m tall bronze lions that guard the Palace of Parting Clouds have been established at the new China Garden Museum.

The application of the research resulted in an increase in the amount and quality of restoration work undertaken by the museums – and further long-term collaborations are already planned, including the Beijing Industrial Design Centre and Central Academy of Fine Arts.