The Crystal Palace

Victoria Szabo

This project seeks to consider the Great Exhibition of 1851 as a place constructed in a highly determined space located in the physical and metaphorical heart of British colonial power. Famous both for the building itself, Paxton’s Crystal Palace, and the diverse objects and people from around the world that it contained, the Exhibition is nonetheless difficult to study as a spatial phenomenon due to its sheer complexity and scope. The diverse array of artworks, artifacts, machines, inventions, craft objects and human tableaux that were shown are richly documented in planning documents, photos, paintings, catalogs, engravings, new stories, travel narratives, and imaginative literature; the building itself is a favorite of architectural historians and engineers, who have reconstructed it in 3D numerous times.

This project attempts to brings together those approaches through an annotated virtual reconstruction of the Crystal Palace, to be populated by both the objects it contained, and the “users” who traversed it, in order to ask questions about the rhetoric of the place itself as a site of cultural self-representation and experience. Because no one technology adequately addresses this goal, our approaches brings together GIS and Google Earth assisted thematic maps and views of the content, contributor networks, and visitors to the Exhibition, as well as populated 3D immersive models to be experienced through the DiVE, virtual worlds and game environments. Underlying all of these will be a common database substrate of annotation and documentation, ideally accessible from any “view” – whether a website, 3D model, map, or immersive game-space.


Raquel Salvatella de Prada

The Visualization Technology Group

The Virtual Realities FOCUS

Death, Burial, and Commemoration in Athens from antiquity to the late 19th century.

Sheila Dillon

This research project is a multi-faceted, diachronic study of cemeteries and sculpted funerary monuments in the city of Athens, which explores the shifting locations of burial in the city and the changing ways in which graves were marked from antiquity to the late 19th century CE. The visualization of change over time through mapping and 3-D modeling and the construction of an interactive database are major aims of this project. The first phase will focus on the Kerameikos, the principle burial ground of ancient Athens, and the First Cemetery of Athens, established in the early years of the modern Greek state. The thousands of sculpted funerary monuments preserved from ancient Athens provide a rich source of material that, while well published, have yet to be analyzed, re-contextualized and visualized using digital tools. In addition, a study of the sculptors (mostly from the island of Tinos) who made the Neoclassical monuments in the First Cemetery will serve as a point of departure for exploring the history of sculptors and funerary sculptural production over this long period of time.


Caroline Bruzelius, Andrea Giordano, Cosimo Monteleone

2013 - 2015

The Church of the Eremitani in Padua was almost entirely destroyed in the Second World War.  Prior to this terrible event, the church was an important center for the spiritual life of Padua, and contained many important works of art, including a chapel decorated with monumental frescoes by Mantegna.  Although the building is reconstructed, the restorers themselves made a series of strategic decisions about what and how to repair the monument. Only isolated fragments of Mantegna’s majestic cycle survive, applied to large-scale photographic images of the frescoes prior to their demolition.

This project consists of a complete laser scan and a reconstruction of the church in relation to successive phases of modifications and additions since the early fourteenth century.  The project engages with the long history of the Eremitani church as the aggregate of human interventions that added, removed, changed and reconceptualized different parts of the monument over time.


Watch brief video presentations of the project:

Jacobs University, Bremen, Germany Collaboration

Timothy Senior, Victoria SzaboFlorian Wiencek


Duke has established a close relationship with members of the Jacobs University community in Bremen, Germany. In 2012-13 several Jacobs graduate students came to campus as exchange students. We taught our Digital Cities course, which was coupled virtually with a course at Jacobs. Both courses met at the same time and videoconferences discussion and workshop sessions with one another, as well as sharing project crits.

This project was presented at the Digital Heritage International Congress 2013 and subsequently published:

Digital Cities: A collaborative engagement with urban heritage


Digital Cities: Representing the Past and Inventing the Future

Mapping and Modeling Religious Communities in Medieval Europe

Caroline Bruzelius


We have been modeling building process and change in a number of mendicant convents in Europe (Oxford, Naples, Millan, and Folloni). A project for the Franciscan community near Naples, undertaken with the excavation team at the convent, engineers at the Centro Nazionale di Ricerca in Potenza, and scholars at the University of Naples, has resulted in an online video.

The project has been translated into Italian and is displayed in the convent’s museum. We are engaged in creating other digital models of Franciscan churches of Southern Italy, as a potential component of a 3-year NEH-funded Collaborative Research Grant for a database on the medieval Kingdom of Sicily.


Michal Koszycki (Trinity ’09)

Rebecca Wood (Trinity ’09)


The Mendicant Revolution

Old Stones and New Technologies

Caroline Bruzelius, Carlo Tomasi


Professor Caroline Bruzelius (Art, Art History & Visual Studies) led a team of Duke undergraduate students on a research trip to Naples over Spring break 2013. They used the opportunity to test a new data capture system for use with medieval masonry, working primarily in the church of San Lorenzo, a Franciscan basilica in the heart of medieval Naples. The students are experimenting with an analytic system for the study of historic buildings through pattern recognition, data mining, and texture analysis. Their research works with computational analytics to examine the surface textures left by masons on building stones in order to extract information on the technology of stonecutting, possibly identify individual masons (tool marks are like signatures), and eventually provide educated estimates on the size of the labor force. This project is part of a multi-year research and teaching initiative that will result in independent research and senior distinction theses for undergraduates. The student team works closely with Professor Bruzelius and Professor Carlo Tomasi (Computer Science) to collect data, develop and eventually test the new analytic systems with the intention of creating a systematic protocol for the study of walls, carved surfaces (flat and curved) and masonry construction in historic buildings and eventually sculpture. Duke students involved in this project may be in a position to provide an original contribution to scholarship of on-going utility that might have broader implications for fields of study in restoration of historic monuments as well as Ancient and Medieval Sculpture, Archaeology, and Architectural and Urban History.


Old Stones and New Technologies: Computer Vision and Medieval Stone Carving

Stone Carving Images

Water and Food in Venice. Stories of the Lagoon and the City

Kristin Lanzoni

Spring-Summer 2015

Project Website

Venice was created as a series of transitions from mainland to lagoon, from lagoon to the Mediterranean, and eventually to a network of ports and islands that became part of an empire of commerce. The original settlement, built on low tidal islands, was created in a precarious balance between the land and water, the community permeated by canals in a continuous, complex and skillfully leveraged relationship. The contrast between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ has always been a distinctive feature of the city, an emblem of Venetians’ inventiveness and tenacity as well as of nature’s destructive and transformative force.

The lagoon therefore conditions the city: they exist in a contrapuntal dialogue, the voice of each essential to the whole. This profound connectedness between Venice and the lagoon is expressed in historic maps, which show the city in the center, defended by a cordon of beaches that separate and protect it from the open sea: a lagoon full of islands of fields, churches and clock towers. The co-existence of fishing, hunting, and agriculture (the cultivation of all kinds of fruits and vegetables, vineyards and herbs) in the lagoon habitat both permitted and promoted Venice’s development. Religious communities were vital nodes in a system of food production and trade: starting in the earliest centuries after the founding of Venice, a series of island monasteries supported a stable galaxy of farms, saltworks, mills, and fish producers.

Historic images of Venice show another unique feature of Venice: a city without enclosing walls. The lagoon, with its strategically located forts, religious establishments, hospitals and quarantine stations, was the real ‘wall’ of the city. Venice redesigned the natural landscape, and sometimes with majestic architecture, to protect itself from human enemies and disease.

Our exhibition, Water and Food in Venice. Stories of the Lagoon and the City, opening September 26, 2015 at the Ducal Palace, is the result of a long-term research initiative developed by an international team of young historians of art, architecture and cities. The group includes experts in mapping, modeling and multimedia from Iuav (Venice), Padua and Duke Universities: Water and Food in Venice is the first public-facing presentation of the multifaceted collaboration that began in 2010 as “Visualizing Venice,” the joint inspiration of Caroline Bruzelius (Duke University) and Donatella Calabi (University IUAV of Venice).

A key feature of the exhibition is to model how the support systems for the Republic of Venice addressed questions that are critical on a global scale to us today: supplying densely-inhabited communities with fresh food and water. The exhibition offers the opportunity to consider historical models for large-scale environmental management in a setting unique in its challenges and diversity. The exhibition forms part of larger initiatives connected with the 2015 International Exposition in Milan, “Feeding the Planet.”

Venice Virtual World

Kristin Huffman, Nicola Lercari

Fall 2013 - December 2014

This project has recreated the life of Venice—its buildings, bridges, boats, gardens, and inhabitants—in a 3-D virtual environment. The focus is on the now completely transformed zone of the city around the train station. Using old maps, plans, and costume books, students have reconstructed Venice as it appeared in 1740. The outcome, to be completed in December 2014, will be a navigable virtual world with digital storytelling.


Meng’En Huang

Bobby Liu

Sherry Liu

Ting Lu

Jimmy Zhang


Visualizing Venice

Venice Interactive Visual Atlas (VIVA)