Visualising Angkor: Part 2 - A New Reconstruction of Angkor Wat

A selection of 3D Images, animations & 360 videos of a new virtual model of Angkor Wat, from Monash University's 'Visualising Angkor Project'

By SensiLab, Monash University

Visualising Angkor Project

Visualising Angkor: a digital model of an Angkorian landscape based upon an archaeological survey (2018) by Tom Chandler and Mike YeatesSensiLab, Monash University

Visualising Angkor

For more than 10 years, 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. Since 2015, the project has focused on the completion of an immersive simulation of Angkor Wat in the 12th Century.

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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.).

Visualising Angkor: Agent Paths (2017) by Tom Chandler, Kingsley StephensSensiLab, Monash University

Only relatively recently have we begun exploring simulation as a tool for visualising the past. Our realtime simulations play out within a comprehensive reconstruction of Angkor Wat in the 12th Century and focus on tracking thousands of animated people, termed 'agents', as they enter, exit and circulate around the complex over 24 hours. This simulation can be thought of as a hypothetical machine that allows us to test how the Angkor Wat complex might have operated with 25,000 estimated inhabitants and attached workpeople.

Visualising Angkor: wireframe of seated figures and elephants at the eastern 3rd enclosure gates of Angkor Wat by Tom Chandler, Brent McKee, Mike Yeates, Chandara UngSensiLab, Monash University

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.

These 3D models make up a library that can collectively 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.

Angkor Wat 

Constructed in the 12th Century by King Suryavarman II (reigned 1113 – 1150), the temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia is the largest religious monument on earth and a world famous heritage site. Angkor Wat endures as a pre-eminent regional, spiritual and artistic symbol of mainland Southeast Asia.

A virtual reality model of the Angkor Wat complex in the 12th Century by Tom Chandler, Brent McKee and Mike Yeates (Monash University)SensiLab, Monash University

A New Reconstruction of Angkor Wat

While Angkor Wat’s well-preserved stone architecture has been the subject of extensive scholarship, the wooden settlement that once lay within the temple’s enclosure walls was only recently revealed. In 2013, an airborne laser survey (LiDAR) discovered a grid pattern of roads and small ponds, suggesting a regular layout of substantial and dispersed wooden dwellings. At its peak, the Angkor Wat complex was likely serviced by a workforce of 25,000, including around 4,500 residing within the temple enclosure.

Angkor Wat: aerial animation of a 3D model (1200/1400) by Tom Chandler, Brent McKee, Chandara Ung, Mike Yeates, Elliott Wilson (Monash University)SensiLab, Monash University

Since 2015, Monash University has been developing a virtual model to interrogate how the complex might have functioned in the 12th Century. This virtual world is made of digital reconstructions of architecture and cultural landscapes.

A complementary objective is to consider the operation of Angkor Wat through the dynamic animation of moving crowds of people. In this immersive analytic study of the complex, the paths of thousands of walking agents (animated characters with autonomous behaviours) are tracked as they enter, exit and circulate within the temple enclosure.

In contrast to archaeological studies that plot change over decades or centuries, this simulation focuses on 24 hours; a day in the life of medieval Angkor Wat.

Visualising Angkor: Xray visualisation of Angkor Wat Agent Paths by Mike YeatesSensiLab, Monash University

Agent paths at Angkor Wat

This sequence illustrates the mechanics of the simulation by subtracting ephemeral architecture and vegetation, and rendering the temple architecture in x-ray style.

The web of intersecting and branching lines sprawling over the visualisation represents the paths agents have taken as they navigate between destinations.

Visualising Angkor: Angkor Wat Causeway Agent Arrivals (2017) by Tom Chandler, Mike Yeates and Brent McKeeSensiLab, Monash University

Agents crossing the western causeway on their way into the temple complex

The principal entry to Angkor Wat is via a causeway built across the moat. By crossing the causeway visitors, pilgrims and the workforce are transported from the profane to the sacred.

The timeline at the base of the screen denotes the time of day (11am in this simulation) and a map overlay at the upper right of the screen indicates the position of the virtual camera with a yellow circle.

Visualising Angkor: Aerial camera over residences in 4th enclosure of Angkor Wat (B) (2017) by Tom Chandler, Brent McKee, Mike YeatesSensiLab, Monash University

Aerial camera over residences in Angkor Wat's 4th enclosure

This aerial view moves over the southwest corner of the Angkor Wat enclosure. As the camera glides toward the central towers of Angkor Wat, fragments of traditional music ensembles can be heard emanating from the residences.

(Music courtesy John Garzoli, 2011 field recording of traditional music ensemble in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand).

A sovereign paces the bas relief galleries of Angkor Wat (2017) by Tom Chandler, Brent McKee and Chandara UngSensiLab, Monash University

A sovereign and his minister walk past the bas-reliefs of the 3rd enclosure western galleries, their retainers following with folded parasols

The bas-reliefs of the 3rd enclosure rank among the great achievements of Angkorian sculpture covering almost 1000 square metres. The subjects range from the Brahmanic (Hindu) epic tales to royal processions.

Visualising Angkor: Procession along Angkor Wat western causeway (2018) by Tom Chandler, Brent McKee, Chandara Ung (sound courtesy of Patrick Kersale)SensiLab, Monash University

A high-ranking official being carried along the causeway of the 4th enclosure by his retainers

This scene is based upon illustrations of processions the bas-reliefs of Angkor Wat, Banteay Chmar and the Bayon. The animation features 3D scanned guardian lions in the foreground; courtesy of Scan the World/MyMiniFactory.
Sound recording courtesy of Patrick Kersalé (www.soundsofangkor.org).

A brahmin architect inspects renovations underway at the galleries of Angkor Wat's third enclosureSensiLab, Monash University

An architect inspects the ongoing work of decorative sculpture under scaffolding

After the sandstone blocks of the temple were positioned, their surfaces were decorated by carving the facade with chisels, drills, and polishing tools. Many surfaces were also painted and gilded. The simulation features multiple scaffolding frameworks at various locations in the 3rd and 4th enclosures.

Visualising Angkor: Elephants waiting outside eastern side of 3rd enclosure of Angkor WatSensiLab, Monash University

Elephants waiting outside eastern side of 3rd enclosure of Angkor Wat

Animated agents sitting in groups pass the time as elephants and parasol bearers await their superiors at the eastern entry to the 3rd enclosure. Elephants are commonly represented in the sculpture of Angkor, especially at the Terrace of the Elephants in Angkor Thom. In addition to denoting wealth and power, elephants were used in war and as pack animals.

Visualising Angkor: view along the thoroughfares of the 4th enclosure (2018) by Tom Chandler, Brent McKee, Mike Yeates, Chandara UngSensiLab, Monash University

A view along a thoroughfare of the 4th enclosure of Angkor Wat

Residents sweep the road leading to the south gate of the 4th enclosure. In 2013, an airborne laser survey (LiDAR) discovered a grid pattern of roads and small ponds, suggesting a regular layout of substantial and dispersed wooden dwellings. In this simulation residents go about their daily life in between the wooden dwellings of the 4th enclosure of Angkor Wat.

Visualising Angkor: The moat of Angkor Wat (2018) by Tom Chandler, Brent McKee, Mike YeatesSensiLab, Monash University

The moat of Angkor Wat

In this scene, residents in canoes gather up water plants from the moat of Angkor Wat. The south gate (gopura) of the 4th enclosure is in the background. Moats are a common feature of Angkorian architecture and symbolically designate the sacred area of the temple. It is likely the moat also served to supply the temple with water-grown plants like lotus.

Visualising Angkor: a view towards the setting sun in the simulationSensiLab, Monash University

Looking west towards a virtual setting sun with a silhouetted model of Angkor Wat in the foreground

Angkor Wat was orientated to the cardinal directions and also contained additional astronomical alignments. Viewed from the western causeway in the 4th enclosure, on the spring equinox of each year, the sun rises directly over the central tower of Angkor Wat.

360 camera view of the simulation situated outside the western gates of Angkor Wat (2018) by Mike Yeates, Brent McKee, Tom ChandlerSensiLab, Monash University

360 View - Outside the western gates of Angkor Wat, the main entry point for tourists visiting the temple today

The principal entry to Angkor Wat is via a causeway built across the moat. By crossing the causeway visitors, pilgrims and the workforce are transported from the profane to the sacred.

The paths and roads of the 4th closer (2018) by Mike Yeates, Brent McKee, Tom ChandlerSensiLab, Monash University

360 View - Residences in the 4th enclosure of Angkor Wat

In 2013, an airborne laser survey (LiDAR) discovered a grid pattern of roads and small ponds, suggesting a regular layout of substantial and dispersed wooden dwellings. In this simulation residents go about their daily life in between the wooden dwellings of the 4th enclosure of Angkor Wat.

Visualising Angkor: Angkor Wat 3rd enclosure western bas-relief galleries 360 (2017) by Tom Chandler, Brent McKee, Mike YeatesSensiLab, Monash University

360 View - The western bas-relief galleries of the 3rd enclosure of Angkor Wat

The late afternoon sun casts long shadows on the paved sandstone floor of the 3rd enclosure galleries of Angkor Wat. The receding figures of the sovereign and his retainers can be glimpsed walking away from the camera to the left.

The bas-reliefs of the 3rd enclosure rank among the great achievements of Angkorian sculpture covering almost 1000 square metres. The subjects range from the Brahmanic (Hindu) epic tales to royal processions.

Credits: Story

Curators: Tom Chandler & Martin Polkinghorne

Project Research & Direction: Tom Chandler

3D Modelling, Animation, Game Programming: Brent McKee, Mike Yeates, Chandara Ung, Elliott Wilson

Visualising Angkor Project Advisors: Roland Fletcher, Martin Polkinghorne, Scott Hawken

A New Reconstruction of Angkor Wat is the second of two Visualising Angkor exhibits. The first, Part 1 - Envisaging a Living City, explores scenes of daily life in the medieval metropolis of Angkor.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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