Envisaging a Living City

Evidence-based 3D modelling and animation of the past.

For more than a decade, the Visualising Angkor Project has explored the visualisation of diverse 3D reconstructions of greater Angkor – from ecological visualisation of hamlets on the periphery to the animation of 13th Century eyewitness accounts of life at the capital. 

The Visualising Angkor Project began as an exercise in evidence-based 3D modelling and animation of the past. These models constitute the essential pieces from which a virtual world is made. They are numerous and diverse, and include stone and ephemeral architecture, objects of art, ritual and everyday life, plants and animals, and the people of Angkor.

In the field of ‘virtual heritage’ and in this research, the term ‘virtual’ refers to computer-generated visualisations having three or more dimensions, regardless of the method used to produce them (e.g. modelling, photogrammetry, scanning, 3D printing, virtual/augmented reality, etc.).

The evidence-based 3D models of medieval Angkor depicted in the following scenes draw upon data from a wide array of sources, including archaeological and architectural surveys, historical accounts, photographic archives, botany and textile studies.

Collectively, the 3D models make up a library that can be patterned to visualise hypothetical reconstructions of the past. These visualisations generate an iterative dialogue between 3D animators, archaeologists and historians to test how assumptions about Angkor can be made more precise.

An oxcart convoy en route to the capital
A captain riding an elephant leads his troops out on campaign
A visualisation of settlement along the canals of Angkor

Development Team – Tom Chandler, Mike Yeates, Brent McKee, Elliott Wilson & Chandara Ung

Collaborations – Martin Polkinghorne, Flinders University College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences; Damian Evans, École française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO); Roland Fletcher Department of Archaeology, University of Sydney

Links and publications

Google Arts and Culture Exhibition : Visualising Angkor: Part 1 – Envisaging a Living City 

Images from the research displayed at the Asian Civilisations Museum Singapore in Angkor: Exploring Cambodia’s Sacred City, 8 April – 29 July 2018. The museum catalogue is available online.

3D Animations of Angkor, National Geographic 2009 (online exhibition). This link is no longer accessible, but a review of the project exists here; copies of the original videos are here

Chandler, T, Polkinghorne M. (2012) Through the visualisation lens: temple models and simulated context in a virtual Angkor in Haendal, A (ed) Old Myths and New Approaches – Advances in the Interpretation of Religious Sites in Ancient Southeast Asia, Monash University Press, Monash University

Chandler, T. & Polkinghorne, M, (2016) “A Review of Sources for Visualising the 13th Century Royal Palace in Angkor Thom, Cambodia” in Hoppe, S and Breitling, S (Eds) Virtual Palaces II. Lost Palaces and Their Afterlife. Virtual Reconstruction Between Science and Media, Palatium, Munich

Cummins, N., & Chandler, T. (2014). Teaching Angkor and the Khmer Empire with 3D technologies. Agora49(4), 59.

Chandler, T., & McKee, B. D. (2013). Journey to medieval Angkor: Animated accounts of a 13th century visit to Cambodia. Part 1.

Chandler, T., & McKee, B. D. (2013). Journey to medieval Angkor: Animated accounts of a 13th century visit to Cambodia. Part 1