Using tools like terrestrial laser scanners and drones, a team of Texas A&M architecture students, working with the College of Architecture’s Center for Heritage Conservation developed detailed images and 3-D models of Temple Freda, the oldest religious building in Bryan, Texas.
The images and models will aid city efforts to restore the 106-year-old Greek Revival-style synagogue.
“Community service projects like this have always been an important part of the mission of the CHC and the College of Architecture, and we are happy to contribute when we can, especially when we can combine service with teaching and research,” said Kevin Glowacki, interim CHC director and associate professor of architecture.
Temple Freda is architecturally and culturally unique. The only temple in the country to be named after a woman, it was built mostly with materials donated by local citizens.
The tan brick façade has as distinct masonry pattern fronted by a portico with two wooden Corinthian columns and a pressed metal ceiling with classical details. Inside, the temple’s original ark, pews, light fixtures, and fans remain. Its bimah furnishings, menorahs, and majestic stained-glass windows have been stored for protection.
As part of the CHC project, faculty and students used a laser scanner to document one wall, generating a detailed and realistic digital model to illuminate the building’s deterioration and measure the effectiveness of potential restoration treatments, said Glowacki.
This portion of the CHC effort was funded by a grant from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, which supports projects modeling deteriorating historic masonry structures.
While on-site, Ph.D. architecture students Andrew Billingsley, Benjamin Baaske, Mingqian Liu, and Manogna Kavuru, scanned the entire structure and used a drone to photograph the roof and other details. They were led by Glowacki, Robert Warden, interim head of the Department of Architecture, and Brent Fortenberry, assistant professor of architecture.
Temple Freda has a long relationship with the CHC and its precursor, the Historic Resources Imaging Laboratory.
In the early 1980s, preservation students and faculty completed hand-measured, detailed architectural drawings of the structure, which were submitted to the Library of Congress's Historic American Building Survey collection. That effort also included the inscription of the temple in the National Register of Historic Places.
In 2009, the CHC returned to re-document the synagogue and develop a maintenance plan. The data collected was supplemented by hand-drawn documentation from the 1980s and packaged as a comprehensive digital model for the City of Bryan to use in structural analyses, restoration and to aid future funding endeavors.
In 2017, the City of Bryan received a $40,000 matching grant from the Texas Historical Commission to begin revitalizing Temple Freda’s infrastructure and pay for the first year of the restoration effort.
The Center for Heritage Conservation trains students, professionals and others in the use and application of imaging processes relative to historic and cultural resources. Students learn to develop new techniques for documentation, analysis, visualization and interpretation, and to apply imaging techniques to the study of historic resources.
CHC also oversees the College of Architecture’s Certificate in Historic Preservation, a program of courses integrated within a wide range of professional disciplines. The certificate, which has gained wide acclaim and serves as a model for other programs.