From 2004–2015, an interdisciplinary research project was conducted at the Institute of History of Art and Musicology (formerly the Commission for the History of Art) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, focussing on the Vienna Hofburg, the central seat of the Habsburg dynasty. The aim was to study the completed building works and the plans that were never realised together with the complex changes in use of this extensive complex of buildings from the Middle Ages to the present day. Part of this project involved a 3D reconstruction presenting the Hofburg’s architectural development from its foundation in the thirteenth century to 1835. The scholarly basis of these reconstructions was formed by the architectural-archaeological and restorational analyses and assessments of manuscript and print sources (such as files of the relevant court authorities and descriptions in historical travel writing) and around 10,000 pictorial sources such as vedute, photographs, city maps and architects’ drawings. These media were entered into a digital database which proved extremely valuable for scholarly study.
We now wish to disrupt the purpose the 3D models have served hitherto, namely the conservative, static illustration of the Hofburg project in print publications. The 3D models and the wealth of digital images and objects documenting the underlying sources will offer great potential for meaningful use in future resource projects if they are turned into interactive tools.
Some of the architects’ drawings of the Hofburg can be found online (e.g. via Albertina online), but only as two-dimensional illustrations. Research on the history of architecture, which connects questions of graphic representation with the physical object represented, is thus somewhat restricted. The aim of our project, involving cooperation between the Department of History of Art of the Institute of History of Art and Musicology (IKM) of the OeAW, the Architecture Collection of the Albertina Museum in Vienna, the Institute of Spatial Planning of the TU Wien and the Austrian Center for Digital Humanities of the OeAW, is to locate these sources by temporal classification and georeferencing in the three-dimensional space of the Hofburg and to turn the 3D model into a three-dimensional repository of archival sources offering potential for synchronic and diachronic study.
A virtual tour of the prototype for the model Hofburg enables users to “browse” historical source material (architects’ drawings, written sources, scholarly texts, in future also artefacts such as paintings, tapestries, furniture, etc.) and access linked content in pop-ups. Users will be able to examine these materials interactively, e.g. by modification, topographical relocation, annotation etc. We anticipate this new way of experiencing data to provide novel perspectives and potential for contextualisation: for instance, architectural plans can now be visualised three-dimensionally in their spatial location, as opposed to their digital representation hitherto (as abstract and two-dimensional depictions of a real situation). It is this visualisation afforded by the virtual database that will allow the future splicing of this virtual model with the real Hofburg, for instance via augmented reality.