Reuse scenario

Historic Buildings and Cityscapes

Scenarios, content and tools to create 3D related applications for virtual cultural tourism, research and education

The importance of three-dimensional (3D) and multi-temporal (i.e. 4D) city modelling is gradually increasing in the heritage domain. Historical maps are often the only source of information when dealing with large historical scenarios and 4D digital representations allow multi-temporal versions for analyses, visualisation and valorisation. These 4D reconstructions can be achieved using archival maps and machine learning methods.
Working with 3D reconstruction and visualization in architectural heritage seems like the obvious choice when thinking of showcasing the development of buildings and cities over time or digitally reconstruct lost architectural treasures from the past
Within the frame of the project the partners, under the lead of partner TMO, aim to further explore the re-use possibilities of 3D data in architectural heritage, focusing on four different use case scenarios, namely:
  • Virtual educational museums on city history
  • Virtual research infrastructure for cities
  • 4D urban models created from historical maps
  • Cultural tourism

Virtual educational museums on city history

The scenario will be centered around the city of Amsterdam, making use of already existing data for 3D reconstructions of the Amsterdam Vaalkenbourg quarter from the 17th to the 19th century. The 4D Research Lab of the University of Amsterdam, as member of project partner Time Machine Organisation (TMO), will demonstrate the reuse of 3D models, originally created as part of an extensive research project, to be transferred into an educational setting. Around 200 buildings of the historic borough Vaalkenbourg will be rendered and modelled to depict this part of Amsterdam at three different moments in time in an online VR visualization, to educate students, citizens and tourists on site and in remote locations how the area evolved, and the cityscape transformed over time.

Figure 1: Photorealistic atmospheric render of the Lange Houtstraat at the crossroads with the Korte Houtstraat, looking at the Leprozengracht.

Virtual research infrastructure for cities

This scenario is meant to showcase the re-use and enrichment of 3D models originally created for a public digital platform as a virtual research environment, equipping humanities scholars and citizens scientists to explore and research the city heritage. Target audience are citizen researchers investigating specifically genealogy.
The city of Sion, the capital of the canton of Vallis in Switzerland, has a rich heritage since the Bronze age which has been researched and turned into 3D city models of the town depicting three relevant historical periods: 1630, 1770 and 1820. In 5Dculture these models will be extended to a virtual research environment that provides researchers access to images and texts and enables them to explore the historic city enriched by their content.

Figure 1: Photorealistic atmospheric render of the Lange Houtstraat at the crossroads with the Korte Houtstraat, looking at the Leprozengracht.

4D urban models from historical maps using AI methods

The University of Technology Dresden, the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena and the University of Würzburg, Germany, work together with infrastructure providers like the Thuringian State Library and SMEs to develop automated workflows for automatically creating 4D city models from imagery and making those available as browser-based applications currently at TRL6 for mobile city viewing and desktop-based information search. In 5Dculture those workflows and applications will be improved and used for the cities of Amsterdam (NL), Dresden (DE) and Trento (IT).
This use case combines the toolkits for creating large scale digitised historical 3D maps of cities, for predicting building height using AI-based methods, the automatic geo-location and orientation pipelines for historical photographs and the tools for mobile and desktop access and visualisation. This will be tested and prototyped in the cities of Trento, Amsterdam and Dresden. Applications are to provide location-based content, for tourists and a heritage information system.


One data viewer to be used within the frame of this scenario is a browser-based mobile 4D viewer 4DCity. It enables time-variant virtual 3D impressions of historic cities to a multi-device visual interface – capable of being accessed via desktop, mobile devices, via AR and VR glasses. This application is capable of providing worldwide 4D visual impressions, generated on the fly from data sources such as Europeana, Open Street Map and OpenDEM. It enables virtual city tours and past-plays as e.g. mixed-reality escape or discovery games and provide access to knowledge assets from open source platforms such as Wikipedia or tourism and booking platforms as Mapbox, Google Places or Triposo.

Figure 2: 4DCity viewer Dresden.


As a cooperation of the Technical University Dresden and the University Würzburg, a digital online research tool, called 4D-Browser, was developed. The aim was to enrich a digital 3D city model of the city of Dresden, consisting of about 120 3D models, with currently 1.500 historical photographs and to add 3D models of buildings, which were destroyed or altered in their appearance. An added timeline demonstrates the urban architectural development of the city in four dimensions. In this context, several historical buildings were reconstructed in the form of 3D models based on historical photographs, texts, sketches etc. In contrast to common online databases of photographs, the 4D-Browser offers an innovative and interactive access to historical photographs, allowing users to search the photos through space and time.

Figure 3: 4D browser with location-based photographs indicating the position of the photographers.

Within the scenario, 4D city models of Dresden, Trento and Amsterdam will be enhanced and/or created in highly automated workflows on the base of historical imagery from Europeana and presented via the two data viewers. Thereby they provide both, a location-based cultural tourism information system and a search interface for city history assets.

Cultural tourism

In this scenario, project partner ARCTUR, will demonstrate how 3D content of monuments in Slovenia can be used in the context of tourism to create an innovative 5-star touristic product. For this ARCTUR will reuse several of the 100 3D models of cultural heritage landmarks in Slovenia which were digitised in a previous national project and made available in Europeana in the context of the WEAVE project . Thus, it is envisioned to build upon these previous efforts and demonstrate how the ultra-high-quality models can be used by Destination Management Organisations.
Get some more first-hand input from Arctur’s Heritage+ project manager and 5Dculture representative Matevž Straus in this blog post.

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