Exploring History in 3D


We were approached to collaborate on a project seeking innovative methods to explore historic buildings, namely the Shah Jahan Mosque in Surrey, UK.

Built in 1889 by the orientalist Dr. Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner, the Shah Jahan Mosque was one of the first purpose-built mosques in Western Europe and was commissioned by Shah Jahan, Begum of Bhopal who was one of four female Muslim rulers of Bhopal who reigned between 1819 and 1926.

The initial concept of the project was to allow online visitors to navigate the environment in a generic web browser. This sounds easy with today’s technology but in 2009 real-time engines required high processing power and specialised hardware to run immersive environments well.

Combining our creative 3D skills with a new 3D engine, Unity3D we were able to develop an online interactive environment that ran effortlessly within a normal website.

There are many challenges working with historic buildings as they come with little or no design data and therefore require substantial photographic reference. This specific 3D model was also being streamed online so we had to make every effort to ensure the model and textures were perfectly streamlined and as economical as possible to ensure adequate performance online.

To overcome these challenges we employed many of the techniques used in common computer games to enhance quality without sacrificing performance. This resulted in a well-received immersive experience allowing visitors to digitally explore the Shah Jahan Mosque from the comfort of their own home.