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Project Proposal

By Earth and by Sky: Spherical Panoramic Architectural Photography

Project Description

Over the past ten years I have been creating spherical panoramic photographs for use in the classroom. As a result we have at Vassar what is probably the largest collection of spherical (360°) photographs of historic buildings in the world. They allow my students to immerse themselves in architectural space in a way impossible using conventional photography. An example of an interactive site produced for student use (and largely by students)

Because the site was built several years ago with Adobe Flash it will soon be obsolete and must be reworked with the latest image deployment technology such as krpano. See example.

Spherical image technology has recently made another leap forward: it is now possible to produce spherical video, something unimaginable in the last couple of years given the constraints of hardware and processing. The new system combines the best of two worlds: the ability to view in any direction, and to zoom in on details, as in the photograph above; and the ability to move. It would now be possible to create a video sequence through a building and allow the viewer of the sequence total freedom as to what is being observed. An any given moment the viewer could examine the vaults, for example, then turn to the floor or windows. A subsequent viewing of the same video would yield a new experience, as a different viewing sequence could be chosen. The potential for rich interaction with the building is extraordinary. It remains only to be tested!

Thanks to a 2015 and 2016 Fergusson grant I have been able to acquire not only an fully equipped drone but a camera rig that is able to acquire such video (please view with the Chrome browser; this will allow you to orbit the video as it advances.)

Anticipated Project Activities

Spherical Photography: Redesign outdated but highly used websites using Adobe Animate CC for buildings such as the cathedrals of Chartres, Bourges, and Paris (Notre-Dame) and, depending on time and interest, other key architectural monuments such as the Villa Savoye, Ronchamp and the monastery of La Tourette by Le Corbusier. Redesign Andrew Tallon’s professional website using WordPress to feature the new projects. 

Spherical Video: Carry out a series of tests of spherical video capture and stitching, both from the ground (as in this video) and from the sky (using the drone), to develop a protocol for use in the field (France) during the later summer of 2017.

Preferred Student Qualifications and Skills

I seek a student who is bright, motivated, passionate about architecture and unafraid of computer, camera and drone technology; a student with a strong design sense, and ideally who has some experience with applications such as Adobe Photoshop CC, Adobe Animate CC and WordPress. Some experimentation with spherical photo software and video software is a plus.

Anticipated Follow-up Teaching/Professional Activity for Student

In the fall of 2017, the Ford Scholar would give a presentation to the students in my 300-level seminar entitled Representing Architecture. Depending on the success of the rebuilt spherical photography sites, they have the potential for immediate publication on the official sites of the buildings in question (with annual visits on the order of millions); the virtual visit of Notre-Dame of Paris, for example, would be published online.

Project Location

Poughkeepsie, NY, Vassar College ARC | lab; various buildings in Poughkeepsie as test subjects

Project Duration

Eight weeks

Project Start Date

May 30, 2017

Project End Date

July 21, 2017