How Milan’s 18th Century Teatro Lirico is being renovated with Autodesk ReCap and BIM technology

Categories: Construction Infrastructure

At a launch event today in Milan, Mayor Giuliano Pisapia, members of the city’s counsellorships for infrastructure and culture, and representatives of Autodesk gathered to announce a renovation project for the Teatro Lirico, one of the city’s most important theaters dating from the 18th century.

The theater was inaugurated on August 21, 1779 as the Teatro alla Canobbiana with an opera buffa (comic opera) and ballet by Salieri. In the 1890s the theater was taken over by new owners and renamed the Teatro Lirico Internazionale and continued to be used for opera, ballet and plays into the 20th century.  It was again taken over by the city of Milan in 1926, and was the site of Mussolini’s final public speech and radio broadcast in 1944.  The building was badly damaged by a fire in 1938, but was repaired and resumed performances after World War II.  After several more decades of use, it was closed in 1998 when the city, facing financial difficulties, could no longer afford to operate the theater.  In 2007, after several false starts, work began to renovate and modernize the theater while keeping the original façade designed by Giuseppe Piermarini and the core horseshoe design of the interior.

Laser scan of the theater’s existing exterior.  Image courtesy of Municipality of Milan. 

Before requesting bids for the renovation project, the city of Milan wanted a clearer understanding of the actual conditions of the theater. Using a laser scanner placed at the center of the theater, a technical team was able to capture complete details of the theater’s geometry in only four days, including the darkest and hidden areas, such as fitting rooms under the stairs and cavities. The technical team created 550 point clouds with more than 10 billion points. Using a traditional scanning method, it would have been possible to detect only 1,500 points and would have left designers confronting additional challenges due to the theater’s complex structure from a different era.

The point cloud data was used to generate a 3D digital model of the theater with an unprecedented level of detail using cutting-edge software in the Autodesk Building Design Suite, Autodesk Revit and Autodesk Recap — which can incorporate laser scans, photographs, and other types of reality capture data to create 3D models so that design projects can start with accurate dimensions and photo-quality context rather than a blank screen.

2Laser scan of the theater’s existing interior.  Image courtesy of Municipality of Milan.

“Autodesk ReCap software simplified the documentation process, creating digital 3D contextual data of physical objects and enviroments with laser scans. The scan of Teatro Lirico represent a new application of the reality capture technology, where acquired data will be used for the renovation project. The model will also remain property of Comune di Milano for future maintenance and expansions,” said Tatjana Dzambazova, Senior Product Manager, Reality Capture of Autodesk. “Not only were we able to assess the status of the theater with the highest level of accuracy to simplify the renovation work, but this scanning work also allows the Comune di Milano to undergo a better evaluation process of costs and a better management of the tender notice to assign the project”.

Thanks to the 3D model of the theater and to the Autodesk Building Design Suite, which combines BIM (Building Information Modeling) software such as Autodesk Revit used to build a model based on the ReCap and Point Cloud data, the technical team executed the design, simulation, visualization and creation of the final project scope which will be sent to the contractor who ultimately wins the public contract.


3D model of theater built from laser scan data. Image courtesy of Municipality of Milan.

When it re-opens, it will be called the Teatro Lirico Giorgio Gaber in honor of the Milanese singer, songwriter, actor and playwright who had frequently performed at the Teatro Lirico from the early 1960s until its closure in 1998. The renovated theatre will also house the archives of the Fondazione Giorgio Gaber.

Video shows workflow process from laser scans to building information model. Courtesy of Municipality of Milan technical team.