An immersive, online 3D experience enhances visitors’ architectural appreciation.
When people think of architects, Frank Lloyd Wright inevitably springs to mind. Today, 151 years after his birth, his legacy continues through a new project that brings the work of Wright into the digital age. Taliesin West, in Scottsdale, AZ, Wright’s winter home and studio, has always been a place of innovation and exploration. As Wright’s architectural laboratory, Taliesin West is where he returned every autumn to test the limits of architecture, design, and building. Today, the property attracts more than 110,000 tourists each year.
Recently, the property was transformed into an immersive, online 3D experience. Viewers can explore Taliesin West through detailed 3D models of the physical site that provide a virtual experience of the property, seeing the world as Wright did.
The project, led by Leica Geosystems, Norcross, GA, is part of a larger mission to preserve historical property and bring Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision to a wide audience. Other partners involved in the project include Multivista, Phoenix, and Matterport, Sunnyvale, CA. The effort goes beyond traditional 3D renderings, documentation, and virtual online tours by capturing the property from every dimension—the exterior grounds and the interior home along with architectural details including 3D views and floor plans.
Specifically, the technology that was used to transform Taliesin West into an immersive online experience includes the Leica Geosystems BLK360, Multivista construction documentation technology and services, and the Matterport 3D cloud platform.
The BLK360 imaging laser scanner was used to capture the property. It provided a 360-deg. spherical imagery that feeds the visual immersive experience. It also enabled the creation of accurate, fully detailed three-dimensional point clouds of the property, along with a high-definition virtual-reality model. This is critical to supporting the foundation’s preservation efforts because the point cloud can be loaded into CAD and BIM software for highly accurate renovations, not to mention the benefit of having point-cloud data to support careful design changes should the need arise.
Multivista, a provider of progressive construction-documentation and software services and, like Leica Geosystems, part of Hexagon Geosystems, Stockholm, Sweden (hexagon.com), provided construction documentation services to capture Taliesin West and compile the data. With the expertise of the Multivista services team, the scans were captured over a short period of time. This kept the project on track and ensured there wouldn’t be any disruptions to an onsite visitor’s experience as tourists continued to explore Taliesin West in person.
The role of Matterport in the project was in making it easy to create, modify, and navigate immersive 3D versions of real-world space. An immersive 3D media technology company, Matterport provided its Pro2 camera and cloud platform for the project. Of note, both the BLK360 and the Pro2 camera feed visual data into the Matterport cloud platform, where the Taliesin West virtual tour is experienced.
It’s important to note that no formal drawings of Taliesin West were completed in Wright’s time. The architect would direct his apprentices with his cane and quick sketches drawn on butcher paper. However, through this project, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation now has complete, accurate digital reproduction of the property and structures. It’s clear that as architects and engineers are often asked to preserve or recreate historical structures, digital technologies will play an even larger role in addressing this need for current and future projects.