Using photogrammetry to capture and model existing buildings is a fantastic way to share cultural treasures with the world, and with VR features cropping up everywhere even enables us to give people virtual tours of a site of cultural significance from thousands of miles away. But beyond that, capturing a model of a building is also a great way to digitally preserve that structure at a given point in time – this technique is even being used by Harvard and Oxford to protect structures placed at risk by the ongoing wars in Syria and Iraq.
In that spirit, our friends over at Sketchfab have compiled a selection of cultural treasures that have been immortalized on their platform. Read on to see all seven models, and don’t forget that you can view all of them in virtual reality using Google Cardboard.
Constructed in the first half of the third century AD, the Roman Theater of Jableh was designed to seat around 7,000 spectators, and was a key factor in establishing Jableh, on the coast of Syria, as an important city in the late Roman Empire.
The Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome – also known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian – has a long and complex history which reflects the dramatic changes that have taken place in the city over two millennia. Originally built in 139 AD to house the remains of the Emperor Hadrian and his family, the building’s tombs were destroyed when the building was converted into a military fortress in 401 AD. Almost a millenium later, the building began to be used by the Popes of the Catholic Church as a refuge, fortress and even a prison. Now, the building is a museum.
Built in the courtyard of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria, the Qubbat al-Khazna originally held the mosque’s endowments and precious manuscripts. The small octagonal structure was completed in 789 AD, and like the mosque itself was decorated with mosaics which show hints of both earlier Syrian patterning and an early development of Islamic decoration.
The Baroncelli Chapel at the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence is notable for its many frescoes depicting biblical stories of the Virgin Mary, painted between 1328 and 1338 by Taddeo Gaddi. In the above model by Matthew Brennan, each of these frescoes are labeled with annotations to outline the stories depicted.
Constructed in the 16th century, the Church of the Gesù – or to give its full name, Chiesa del Santissimo Nome di Gesù all’Argentina – is considered by many to be the first example of Baroque architecture. Designed by Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola until his death in 1575, the construction was then taken over by Giacomo della Porta, who revised the building’s main facade and parts of its interior, seen in the model above. Giacomo della Porta’s design included more dynamic flourishes that would go on to influence the design of many later churches, especially those in the new world.
Built in the 16th century, the Segovia Cathedral is in a way remarkable for how young it is; by that time in most of the rest of Europe, its late Gothic stylings had become thoroughly unfashionable. However, the building is notable for its fine Gothic vaults, which can be seen in the model above. Interestingly, though it focuses on these vaults, the model makes use of a low-poly approximation of the rest of the church to give context to the element it wishes to highlight.
Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, Greenwich’s Painted Hall is notable for its decoration by the artist James Thornhill. Completed in simple oil paints rather than as a true fresco, these paintings were recently the subject of an extensive restoration.