Rome Reborn

This is an interesting thing I saw in a Yale Lecture on Roman Architecture regarding the digital reconstruction of Ancient Rome. Similar to Google’s attempt to bring the information from the Sanborn Fire Maps back to life, this urban-scale model of Rome features digital recreations of all the ancient buildings comprising the Seven Hills of Rome. Officially entitled “Rome Reborn,” the initiative was started at the University of Virginia in 1997 and allows users the same functionality of GoogleMaps.

The coolest thing about the project is the ability to pan back and forth through different time periods and have the buildings reconfigure themselves based upon the chosen period. The platform allows users to experience the city from its first settlement in the late Bronze Age (ca. 1000 B.C.) to its depopulation in the early Middle Ages (ca. A.D. 550).    In addition to the accuracy of the structures and their corresponding footprints, designers had to be conscious of the surrounding topography of the landscape and estimate its changes over time.

Though released under UVA, the project was a collaboration between the University’s History and Architecture departments, the UCLA Experiential Technology Center (ETC), the Reverse Engineering (INDACO) Lab at the Politecnico di Milano, the Ausonius Institute of the CNRS, the University of Bordeaux-3, and the University of Caen. According to the developers: “A secondary, but important, goal was to create the cyberinfrastructure whereby the model could be updated, corrected, and augmented. Spatialization and presentation involve two related forms of communication: (1) the knowledge we have about the city has been used to reconstruct digitally how its topography, urban infrastructure (streets, bridges, aqueducts, walls, etc.), and individual buildings and monuments might have looked; and (2) whenever possible, the sources of archaeological information or speculative reasoning behind the digital reconstructions, as well as valuable online resources for understanding the sites of ancient Rome, have been made available to users. The model is thus a representation of the state of our knowledge (and, implicitly, of our ignorance) about the urban topography of ancient Rome at various periods of time.”

The models also represent different levels of complexity. For lesser known structures, the models are level 1 with an applied texture on a simple mass. Of course, better documented structures are level two with articulation of the roof plane. The most famous landmarks (such as the Circus Maximus and the Colosseum) are rendered in level three complexity (some even level four complexity).

The project website can be found here:

http://www.romereborn.virginia.edu/

And an article and video about the project can be found here:

http://www.openculture.com/2012/03/rome_reborn_-_a_digital_model_of_ancient_rome.html

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