With Age-Old Cities VR, don’t be a spectator; be an explorer. Slip on a VR headset and travel to the Arab world’s most precious and inaccessible cultural heritage sites and cities: Mosul, Aleppo, Leptis Magna, and Palmyra.
Created for the Institut du monde arabe’s (IMA) exhibition Age-Old Cities: A Virtual Journey from Palmyra to Mosul in Paris, the VR experience features six iconic monuments from across the Arab world: Palmyra’s Temple of Baalshamîn and Aleppo’s souk in Syria; Leptis Magna’s basilica in Libya; the Al-Nuri Mosque, the Nabi Yunus tunnels, and the Our Lady of the Hour Church in Mosul, Iraq. Ubisoft partnered with Iconem, UNESCO, and the University of Lausanne to design these immersive and lifelike reconstructions.
Since 2013, Iconem has specialised in digitising the world’s endangered cultural heritage sites in 3D. Its experts travel the globe, combining the large-scale scanning capacity of drones and the photorealistic quality of 3D to create digital replicas of monuments and sites. The models and data featured in the VR experience are the result of Iconem’s projects in Iraq for UNESCO, in Syria with the DGAM, and in Libya with the DOA and the MAFL.
Ubisoft leveraged its expertise in the creation of interactive entertainment to bring the six sites to life. Beautifully rendered sound, animation, lighting, and special effects virtually transport the user to Libya, Syria, and Iraq. Details including brilliant sunlight and birds circling overhead give the astounding sensation of actually being at the foot of the Temple of Baalshamîn or walking among the ruins of the Al-Nuri Mosque.
Age-Old Cities VR presents Aleppo’s souk, Leptis Magna’s basilica, the Al-Nuri Mosque, the Nabi Yunus tunnels, and the Our Lady of the Hour Church in their current states. Under the direction of Patrick M. Michel, researchers from the University of Lausanne collaborated with Iconem to achieve an extremely precise reproduction of the Temple of Baalshamîn based on archaeologist Paul Collart’s archives. The VR experience juxtaposes the temple’s ruins with a transparent rendering of the formerly intact monument. This allows users to discover how the temple would have appeared in 1954 and 1955 when Collart was head of the Sanctuary of Baalshamîn and after ISIS’s desecration of Palmyra.
Massive, immersive videos, produced by Iconem for Age-Old Cities: A Virtual Journey from Palmyra to Mosul, plunge museum-goers into the heart of Mosul, Aleppo, Leptis Magna, and Palmyra. They are confronted by the extensive damage these sites have suffered and the effects it has on their inhabitants. At the end of the exhibition, the VR experience takes visitors on a second digital journey to rediscover these sites. Visitors to the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn can discover the completely digital exhibition and Age-Old Cities VR starting August 29, 2019.
Ubisoft in collaboration with ICONEM
United Nations. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Institu DU Monde Arab
UNIL I Université de Lausanne