Mónica Ortiz Cortes

Mónica Ortiz Cortes

Thursday, 20 June 2019 12:45


Hello, Welcome back to my blog!


The past four weeks have been very fun and exciting over here in Washington DC. I've been learning so much about how to do proper documentation and using programs to process different kinds of data. The truth is nobody can ruin the hype or the fun that I'm having while I'm doing my work. This week I'll talk to you about what the documentation process involves and how its conducted, as well as all the software that I'm learning to use and how my experience has been so far.


Like I mentioned in my previous publication, our site is located in Washington, DC in the Woodley Park neighborhood. The original owner, C. H. Smalls took out a building permit for ten row houses in 1922. Later, they were designed by architect George T. Santmyers, who was the most prolific designer of row houses in Washington.(footnote 1.) By September the construction was mostly done. So our house is almost 100 years old. Wow!


The House is a pretty small structure measuring approximately 20ft by 54ft including the front porch but excluding the garage and back patio. Its two stories and it includes an attic and basement. It has very interesting features since it was designed to take advantage of natural light as much as possible. Some skylights were included on the designs that you will see in a section at the end of the summer. So I can say that it's a fairly small house that is very comfortable but a little bit challenging to document.


 How does the documentation process take place? You might ask.


First, we visit our site and review the spaces and which drawings are necessary. For this project we will be drawing 2 floor plans a section (think that you are slicing a piece of cake, same thing but a building) and elevation. Each team member has a task, we each get to hand sketch a part of the floor plan. We do these sketches in grid paper with pencil and the goal is to do it as proportionally as possible. After the sketching is done we work together to hand measure with a tape-measure each part of the house. We use a methodology for this specifically for HABS drawings. We use this method so everything is uniform and if someone in 50 years looks them up they can understand what they are reading. You can find the guidelines if you click here: https://www.nps.gov/hdp/standards/habsguidelines.htm


On another visit, we arrived with a laser scanner and camera. The laser scanner literally scans its surroundings creating a digital three dimensional point cloud (Yes imagine a cloud composed of many, many points) that is the shape of what was scanned. I'm not gonna lie, this was super useful to learn how to use since it helped us produce the base geometry of the elevation drawing since we couldn’t reach the highest parts to measure them. This scanning process involves so many things, but you would take several scans of the same place but in different locations to grab as much data as possible, then in another program they are all stitched together to form one point cloud. At the same location of the scanner we also took images to create panorama photos that are later also going to be stitched to the point-cloud.


After we have all the measurement and scanning data the computer work begins. We start by using AutoCad to draw digitally the plans with the measurement we used; and HABS has guidelines for that too. Now the juicy part starts… processing the scanning data. For this part, our trusty instructor Jason taught us how to use PTGui, Cyclone and Cloudworks. It's my first experience using any of these programs, and although at first it was daunting and challenging it was very rewarding to see the results and gain this experience (something new for the resume! Thanks Jason!). With PTGui we eliminate information that we don’t want from the Panorama images, and this is where the panorama is stitched together. Also, from PTGui we cut up the panoramas into six square images that are later stitched to the point-cloud. The purpose of the images to the point cloud is to give it real color and texture to the scan, an example can be seen in the image above. Cyclone is the program that stitches the Laser scan and images together. After all of that is processed, it's uploaded and through a plug-in in Cad (Cloudworks) we open the cloud and can do slices through the cloud and draw over it.


The laser scanning can have other uses apart from a reference to do drawings, but virtual tours can be created. For examples about this you can click here:https://www.nps.gov/hdp/exhibits/amb/amb_index.htm


The past few weeks have been filled with work, but very rich in experience. It has all been fun so far and I have high hopes it will continue so. It makes it even better to have supervisors and instructors that make the job fun and entertaining (That is for Robert and Jason that are always making us laugh).


See you in two weeks,

- Mónica



More Link to explore:


HABS Guidelines https://www.nps.gov/hdp/standards/habsguidelines.htm

Heritage Documentation Program https://www.nps.gov/hdp/index.htm

Want to see more of what HDP and HABS does? Look it up in Facebook https://www.facebook.com/HeritageDocumentationPrograms/


  1. Information provided by project historian Kim Hoagland. 
Thursday, 06 June 2019 12:34

Row House Summer

Hello reader and welcome to my Blog! My name is Mónica and I was hired by the Latino Heritage Internship Program to work as a Historic American Building Survey Architect for the summer. During the next couple of weeks I will be keeping you posted about my opportunities and experiences with LHIP and HABS.

 But first let me tell you a little bit about myself.

 I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, which is also where I got my Architecture degree at the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico. During those five years I became interested in the preservation and conservation of historic buildings since the island is filled with structures that were built by the Spanish during the time of their rule. Researching, documenting and encountering historic documents inspired me to do my graduate degree in Historic Preservation, which I'm finishing next year at the University of Pennsylvania. I have always been interested in HABS and have participated in two of their competitions, which brought me to this opportunity to work with them and learn more about documentation and heritage preservation.

 What is HABS? you ask;

 The Historic American Building Survey is one of the oldest preservation programs of the country. It started in 1933 to "mitigate the negative effects upon our history and culture of rapidly vanishing architectural resources"It is one of three programs including the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) and The Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS) which are administered by the Heritage Documentation Program. All the documentation they produce can be found at the Library of Congress, behind the United States Capitol in DC. They also produce competitions and guidelines for research and documentation of historic places.

This summer I'm going to be working at the Department of Interior with a HABS Architect and a HBCUI intern, we are going to document (hand sketch, measure, laser scan and draw in CAD) row houses in the Washington, DC area. The first house is around 100 years old, it was built using brick and designed to allow for more natural light inside the space.


See you in two weeks,



Ps. Some link that may interest you

Heritage Documentation Program https://www.nps.gov/hdp/

Competitions https://www.nps.gov/hdp/competitions/index.htm

Library of Congress https://www.loc.gov/collections/historic-american-buildings-landscapes-and-engineering-records/about-this-collection/



Wednesday, 15 May 2019 14:49

Mónica Ortiz Cortes

Hi, I'm Mónica. I was born and raised on the colorful island of Puerto Rico. Growing up I was very interested in art, but it wasn't until I was fifteen that I discovered my love for architecture. I was inspired by how historic buildings were designed to last and endured time way past the designers lifetime. That's when I decided to pursue a degree in Architecture which I just finished in July 2018. During my degree, I first experienced working with historic buildings in a preservation studio where we had to document and look for the history of that special place that we were going to incorporate into our design. That experience made me decide that Historic Preservation was something I wanted to do in conjunction with my Architecture degree for my career. Now I'm a student at the University of Pennsylvania who plans to graduate with a Historic Preservation Master of Science in 2020.