In this project researchers in architectonic visualization analyzed the material i.e. restauration, presentation and evaluation provided by other members of Topoi research group (C-3-1) Ctesiphon, in order to build a set of visual architectonic components, i.e. virtually photographed virtual models as the base for a filmic representation of Ctesiphon under the perspective of architecture.


Quelle: Museum für Islamische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Dominik Lengyel und Catherine Toulouse


Ctesiphon, the capital city of the Parthians and the Sasanians, with its history of over 800 years and referred to as “the cities” by Muslim geographers, is a large area of today distinct and heterogeneous building finds including official palaces like the arched hall Taq-e Kesra, private quarters, a cemetery and a church, mostly dating from different eras.

Work focussed on the further development of the previously established general method of the Visualization of Uncertainty, i. e. the visual translation of archaeological hypotheses into architectonic design proposals, towards the specific conditions of the city of Ctesiphon, i.e. its extremely vast area, the long period from the last Iranian dynasty to the early Islamic period, the heterogeneous building types and conservations states including bare foundations. The virtual model unveiled a number of spatial requirements mostly concerning the spatial assembly of mouldings but also the distribution of closed and open spaces in complex housing conditions. For several scales of architectonic elements, from ornament to whole buildings and from well preserved samples to very uncertain hypothetic attempts of completion, types of ideal forms of architecture have been developed using architectural design methods based on comparisons and formal integrity.

The close cooperation of the concerned disciplines led to a permanent exchange of intermediate results leading all research partners to a specific regard:

– The insight by the group restauration that most findings have undergone several restorations including completions of their shape led to the conviction that even more idealized forms are capable of representing the original formal design concept, as shown with the ideal Iwan in the Berlin exhibition.

– The insight by the group presentation that spatial impression is most valuable transmitted by original scale models led to a five meter tall wall picture showing an ideal Iwan as trompe-l’oeil including a number of original findings contouring the virtual visualization.

– The insight by the group evaluation that most findings do reveal their architectonic and perceptive function only in their original architectonic context, even if very uncertain led to an integration of most of the presented artifacts into the film that accompanies the actual exhibition.


Quelle: Museum für Islamische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Dominik Lengyel und Catherine Toulouse


The results show the influence of scientific visualization of object and space on their multiple identities and narratives and reflects the accredited meaning of authenticity regarding opposing approaches as objects’ authenticity versus spatial design’s authenticity. These let the visualization become a distinct layer between object and perceiver not only preserving but reinforcing the reflective distance pursued by the epistemic practice of representations in museums.

During the development of the architectonic visualization language these intermediate results were presented to other designers and scientists of the field of reconstruction, visualization and perception, e. g. “International Association of Empirical Aesthetics” (IAEA), “Arbeitsgruppe Digitale Rekonstruktionen“ of the “Digital Humanities im deutschsprachigen Raum e. V.” (DHd), “European Association for Digital Humanities” (EADH), “International Conference on Cultural Heritage and New Technologies” in Vienna, “Arbeitskreis Digitale Kunstgeschichte“ (AKDK) and others.

Scientists from the above mentioned institutions were confronted with the challenges of Ctesiphon discussing the appropriate approach concerning scientific accuracy as well as an intuitive understanding as well as the role of inevitably contemporary design as a visual representative of just as inevitably contemporary archaeological hypotheses.


Research results have also been presented to the general public in several exhibitions, e. g. 8. Deutschen Archäologiekongress in Berlin, 2014, at the Museum for Islamic Civilization in  Sharjah, 2014–2015, the National Museum in Riad, 2016, and the Museum of Islamic Art in the Pergamon Museum Berlin, 2016–2017. Public presentations have shown that the visitors reflect also on the difficulties arising on attempting to archaeologically reconstruct the past.

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