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New perspectives to save cultural heritage
Altan, M. Orhan

G. Papagiannakis 3 , A. Foni a , N. Magnenat-Thalmann 3
a MIRALab, University of Geneva, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland - (papagiannakis, foni, thalmann)@miralab.unige.ch
KEY WORDS: Archaeological Heritage Conservation, Architectural Heritage Conservation, Cultural Heritage, Virtual Reality,
Modelling, Simulation, Animation, Real-time VR character simulation
This paper presents the case study of a real-time interactive digital narrative and real-time visualisation of the Namaz Pray of a
simulated Ottoman Imam in the 16 th century virtually restored mosque of Cucuk Hagia Sophia (previous St. Sergius and Bacchus
church) as well as in the Hagia Sophia mosque (previous cathedral of Hagia Sophia), in Istanbul, Turkey. Inspired by a
hermeneutical approach, this case study illustrates that the abandonment of traditional concepts of static cultural artefacts with
interactive, augmented historical character-based narrative representations, can propel virtual reconstructions of cultural heritage
sites to an exciting new edutainment medium. Furthermore, as the cultural tradition is conceived as a reservoir of living forces that
can be experienced only if it is freed from the petrifaction exerted during the centuries, a reconstruction and real-time immersive
visualisation is presented that captures such ‘living forces’ by simulating these edifices both as churches (original form) and as
mosques, fully respecting the archaeological, historical and architectural premises. Instrumental to that approach is the rapid real
time immersive 3D application prototyping, that it is feasible only due to the adoption a component-based real-time framework for
VR character simulation.
1.1 Character-based virtual cultural heritage
Virtual Reality and its concept of cyber-real space invoke
such interactive digital narratives that promote new
patterns of understanding. The word "narrative” refers to
a set of events happening during a certain period of time
and providing aesthetic, dramaturgical and emotional
elements, objects and attitudes [Nandi et al]. Mixing such
aesthetic ambiences with virtual augmentations and
adding dramatic tension, can develop these narrative
patterns into an exciting new edutainment medium. The
abandonment of traditional concepts of static cultural
artefacts with interactive, augmented historical
character-based event representation is an important
component of this redefinition. For digital narratives
realized with Virtual Reality, the conditioned notion of
artefact gives away to a far more liberated notion; as
suspended in virtual reality space, the visitor leaves the
prison of petrified cultural heritage and emerges in a
contextualized world of informative intangible sensation.
In such a world, “the dream of perfect FORMS becomes
the dream of information” [Coyne]. Such a transition is
attempted with the real-time ceremonial visualisation in
two world acclaimed cultural heritage sites, such as the
S.S. Sergius & Bacchus and the Hagia Sophia edifices. In
the following sections the Cultural Heritage
Hermeneutical motivation is presented following by the
previous related work in the virtual heritage field. The
real-time character simulation section presents the virtual
character simulation technologies, the architectural
evolution of the edifices and the real-time VR architecture
framework need. Finally, the immersive real-time VR
application is described followed by the concluding
1.2 Virtual cultural heritage hermeneutics
What consequences flow from the premises at the level of such
‘Intangible cultural heritage’ such as a Namaz Pray of an
Ottoman Imam? Hermeneutics teaches us that all meaning is
context-dependent and therefore unstable. The resulting
conception of culture is thus poetic and creative rather than
ethical or epistemological. Thus, such Heideggerian [Heideger]
notions invite us to transform and to appropriate creatively the
contents of cultural traditions towards a conception of culture as
a realm of unstable and indeterminate possibilities waiting for
further exploration and new interpretative horizons. We may
actually say that cultural ideal consists basically in an endless
process of active and creative interpretations of past
productions. The cultural tradition is conceived as a reservoir of
living forces that can be experienced only if we free them from
the petrifaction exerted during the centuries. Such living forces
are the characters of ancient ceremonies, the associated time-
context and specific function of an edifice etc.
Such ‘interactive contextualized narratives’ and ‘hermeneutic
experiences’ are in fact stirring the fleeting notion of history
and time-travel, based on the new emerging cultural fabric of
the 21st century. That results in intriguing possibilities for new
digital narratives that will pervade the information age raising
new issues on cultural heritage representation, space, time,
interpretation, interaction, identity and the real.
1.3 Previous Work
The most related character-based VR and virtual cultural
heritage applications are summarised in the previous work of
Papagiannakis et al as well as Foni et al. The historical and
non-real time design & 3D modelling methodologies for both