Published by Landscape Architecture and Urbanism at University of Greenwich, London

Hi-tech meets the historic: 3D scans to promote Painted Hall


State-of-the-art technology is being used by a University of Greenwich academic to bring the delights of an historic building to a whole new audience.

Simon Withers, from the university’s Department of Architecture and Landscape, has carried out 3D modelling of the Painted Hall, at the Old Royal Naval College. Using laser scanning, he has captured the building’s exact size, shape and features, so that it can be viewed as a digital three-dimensional representation on phones, tablets and computers.

Designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor, the Painted Hall is recognised as the greatest piece of decorative painting in England and has been described as ‘the Sistine Chapel of the UK’.

Simon explains that too many visitors are missing out on exploring the building, and is hoping his 3D scans will persuade potential visitors to take a closer look for themselves. “It’s estimated that 95 per cent of visitors to Greenwich don’t come to the Old Royal Naval College site, but go to other attractions. Of those who do come here, only a third find their way to the Painted Hall,” he says.

“The buildings are fascinating, but it’s not always evident just from walking past. They are quite austere and formal, and so I have tried to find a way to make them vibrant and enchanting, at first glance, and to make someone want to come and explore.”

The next stage of Simon’s project is to have his scans sent to visitors’ phones, once they arrive at Greenwich, via QR codes or other hi-tech ‘tags’. “People leaving the Cutty Sark DLR station, for example, will be able to pick up a special ‘feed’ from posters, guidebooks, an app or from special markers outside the building,” he says. “It’s all about making the Painted Hall visible. Once people see a stunning 3D representation, and realise it’s only a few minutes away, then I am sure that visiting here will soon become one of the must-do’s of a day in Greenwich.”  

Simon is carrying out his work alongside Dr Shaun Murray, also from the University of Greenwich’s Department of Architecture & Landscape.

“Several hundred years ago this maritime site was a true magnet for visitors, and now in the 21st century we hope to return it to this status, and at the very least to increase visitor numbers,” Simon adds.

Their next project is to complete 3D modelling of St Alfege church, in Greenwich, which will feature its grounds, crypt, basilica and tower. The team may then move on to other buildings at the Old Royal Naval College site.

Simon’s work ties in closely with the Painted Hall Conservation Project, a £7 million scheme which aims not only to restore its famous artworks, but also to bring the history of the place to life in creative ways, and to involve a new generation in the process of conservation

“There will be an opportunity for every visitor, during and after the project, to take away a new memory, skill, a message or new understanding. It will enable us to create new educational opportunities and help develop conservation skills,” adds a spokesperson for the Old Royal Naval College.

To find out more about the Painted Hall Conservation Project:

For more on studying Architecture or Landscape Architecture see:

Picture: One of the 3D images.


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