Communication of complex renovation and
Construction projects through XR technologies
Refurbishments of theatres and cultural venues bring great communicative challenges for all involved. The classic tools of digital architectural visualisation, such as drawings, models, photos, renderings and animations, are only suitable to a limited extent for the requirements of complex spatial situations such as those often encountered in theatres. In close cooperation with Fabian Schröter, the technical director of the Luisenburg, and the renovation consultant Christian Buschhoff, usage scenarios were developed for renovation planning and discussing stage productions.
- How can complex architectural transformation processes be presented in an understandable way?
- How can digital technologies such as augmented reality be used to add information to physical scale models, on drawings and in full scale?
- To what extent can planning processes be digitally supported using XR technology and how can it help to allow frictionless communication between all stakeholders?
Complex building projects, new buildings and renovation projects for theatres and cultural venues bring great communicative challenges for all involved. Not everyone is trained to read floor plans and many find it difficult to translate a plan drawing into a three-dimensional image. Tools familiar from architectural visualisation, such as rendered 3D views and animations, facilitate communication but often only show selected aspects – an understanding of the overall spatial context often does not emerge. A built model lends itself to spatial understanding, but this often does not meet the requirements for variability, mobility, scalability and expandability. There is also a great need for interactivity and flexibility.
To what extent can digital technologies such as augmented reality be used to support communication by adding digital layers to built scale models, on drawings and in real space and to present complex architectural transformation processes in a comprehensible way? digital.DTHG explored this question in a cooperation with the Luisenburg Festspiele in Wunsiedel, Upper Franconia.
Since 1890, Germany‘s oldest natural stage with its complex rocky landscape has been a spectacular backdrop for actors and spectators alike. Every year, up to 150,000 spectators visit the festival, which has been under the artistic responsibility of Birgit Simmler since 2018. Every season, musicals, plays, comedies, opera and operetta are shown for a broad and interested audience. The tradition of showing own productions is continued by Birgit Simmler. In addition, the Festspiele develops new formats and plays that are produced especially for the Felsenbühne.
The natural stage of the Luisenburg Festspiele is located in the middle of the forest and can hardly be compared to other theatre spaces. It covers an area of 4,000 square metres and is a place of animate and inanimate nature. Nature itself thus plays the stage designer here – and has done so since the beginning of the earth‘s history about 300 million years ago, when the Kösseine granite was formed as the basis of the imposing rocky landscape. The stage space is constantly changing and never looks the same on any given day.
The building structures installed by man in the last decades, such as stairs, platforms, scenery walls or lighting installations, require a fundamentally new consideration in the upcoming renovation process. The refurbishment is challenging due to weather conditions and production processes and requires a high degree of professional competence and expertise. In addition, the complex system of cavities, corridors and stairs is difficult to manage with conventional planning methods. In its form, this venue is therefore an extreme example in the theatre landscape.
„Not everyone is skilled at reading floor plans and even for us as experts, the mishmash of voids, corridors and staircases is hard to to grasp in its entirety.“, Fabian Schröter, Technical Director of the Luisenburg Festspiele
In close cooperation with Fabian Schröter, the technical director of the Luisenburg, and the redevelopment consultant Christian Buschhoff, we have developed usage scenarios for redevelopment planning and the discussion of stage productions. In addition to the digitally supported „expert discussion“ between the people directly involved in the renovation, a moderated „presentation“ with less involved actors also plays a role. These include, for example, the theatre management, political decision-makers, potential cooperation partners and financial backers. When communicating with these groups of people, it is important to give a concise and understandable overview of highly complex planning processes and building projects, so that well-founded decisions can be made without lengthy familiarisation.
The auditorium, which holds a good 1,900 spectators under a curved tent roof, was built in the 1960s according to an idea by the architect Prof. Dr. Frei Otto. Frei Otto became famous for his constructions, for example for the Munich Olympic site in 1972.
Based on the excellent existing 3D database (terrestrial laser scans, drone-based photogrammetry and CAD planning) of the present spaces, we first tested the use of available software solutions in the various scenarios. This showed that these tools can be used well for the coordination processes among experts and can be integrated into the planning process; for use with external stakeholders, however, these applications are usually too complicated to handle and can hardly be operated without an introduction.
Based on these experiences, we outlined an easy-to-use, „augmented“ presentation format: Using a tablet, smartphone or AR glasses, users can present three-dimensional content on a drawn floor plan or a physical terrain model, for example the current planning status or variants of a stage design. The physical-real objects serve as anchor points for the overlay of digital three-dimensional content. The presentations can be prepared in advance by the presenters and contain a wide range of information. Similar to the slides of a PowerPoint presentation, the presenter and viewer can then click through the different 3D models.
After we defined the required features – such as the positioning of objects, scaling and the interface – in preparatory experiments, the findings were brought together in the prototype application „XR Editor/Viewer“ as a sample solution and thus serve as a starting point for further developments. The technical basis for the application is the new WebXR standard. It enables three-dimensional content to be displayed on a wide variety of devices, whereby the type of display depends on the technical possibilities of the hardware. The resulting application consists of two related components: On the one hand, this is the WebXR editor, in which the „slides“ are compiled and prepared, and on the other hand, the WebXR viewer, which can be called up online to display the presentation. This browser-based and device-independent use allows the same content to be played out in different ways.
Both applications were designed in such a way that they are not only specific to this subject area, but can also be transferred to other areas: Thus, with this application, we were able to develop parallel adaptations for the topics „Augmented Reality in Event Technology“ and „Digital Twins of Theatre Technology History“.
„Unlike in an urban, classically built theatre architecture, there are no sufficiently precise construction plans for this theatre landscape constructed in and around the mountain and grown over the decades. Only with a spatial survey by laser scan, which we created in 2018, can we distinguish and separate animate from inanimate nature in sufficient detail in distinction to the man-made path network and the playing areas.“, Christian A. Buschhoff, Redevelopment officer and external consultant
Project team digital.DTHG
Project lead: Franziska Ritter, Pablo Dornhege
Development: Lea Schorling, Sascha Sigl
3D-Modelling/Scans: Sascha Sigl, Pablo Dornhege
Design and Interface: Maria Bürger
Partners and experts
Luisenburg-Festspiele / Naturbühne Wunsiedel
CAB Dienstleistungen Christian Buschhoff
Komische Oper Berlin
Fabian Schröter, Technical Director Luisenburg Festspiele
Christian Buschhoff, Commissioner for Renovation
News about the project
The research project “Im/material Theatre Spaces – Augmented and Virtual Reality for Theatre” has been successfully completed after 2.5 years. This publication summarises the findings of the project and provides insights into the interdisciplinary, practice-oriented research work. Download publication (pdf 8 MB)
After two intensive research years, the project leaders Franziska Ritter and Pablo Dornhege take a look behind the scenes, draw a summary and glimpse into the future. In doing so, they are asking themselves the same questions that they have posed to their partners in the current project.
Norbert Richter has been head of the workshops at the Chemnitz Theatre since 2007. For many years, he and his team have been the „digital engine“ at the theatre and are contributing their know-how to the upcoming renovation of the theatre and the move to the interim venue in the Alte Spinnerei.
“There is added value through the results that we derive from digitalisation” Interview with Christian Buschhoff and Fabian Schröter
Christian Buschhoff, who oversees the renovation efforts at Luisenburg festival, and Fabian Schröter, the technical director, talked to project leads Franziska Ritter and Pablo Dornhege about digital tools used to plan renovations and virtual construction rehearsals.
In June 2022, the 61st stage technology conference of the DTHG took place in Ulm: with an extensive program of presentations, panel discussions, round tables and lectures, the theatre landscape was finally able to celebrate its industry meeting live again. 71 companies and more than 1,100 guests were on site, got to know each other …
Complex building projects, new buildings and renovation projects for theatres and cultural venues bring great communicative challenges for all involved. Not everyone is trained to read floor plans and many find it difficult to translate a plan drawing into a three-dimensional image. To what extent can digital technologies such as augmented reality be used to …
The solutions we developed as part of the research project “Im/material Theatre Spaces” (2019-2022) serve as sustainably transferable concepts due to their prototypical model character. The gained insights and developed model solutions were published on various channels and are made available to the entire cultural landscape for free and flexible use. Licenses For this purpose, …
Digitization is making its way into almost every field and, with virtual reality, is developing a thoroughly useful tool for planning, organizing and meetings. The listed programs are starting points for spatial design work in VR and allow an easy entry into the virtual world.
WebXR – what is that actually and how does it work? We use this technology for several of our digital.DTHG prototypes – here we explain what it is.
Complex renovation projects for theaters and cultural venues pose major communication challenges for everyone involved. To what extent can XR technology be used to digitally support work processes and enable communication between all those involved?
The project managers Franziska Ritter and Pablo Dornhege present the project “Im/material Theatre Spaces” as an online session from the ditigal.DTHG lab after one year of project duration.
At the BTT – the Stage Technology Conference, the most important trade fair and further training event for the theatre and event technology sector of the Deutsche Theatertechnische Gesellschaft (DTHG), we will be giving on 28. & 29. October digital a first insight into our projects.
An interdisciplinary kick-off workshop entitled “IM/MATERIAL THEATRE SPACES” took place in spring 2019 at the TU Berlin under the direction of Franziska Ritter and Pablo Dornhege.
The central question in this subproject is to what extent Augmented Reality can be used to improve, facilitate, expand daily work and lead to an increase in safety on stage.
This sub-project is dedicated to the challenge of making theatre heritage visible and finding new virtual forms of mediation that do justice to »theatre« as an immaterial art form in its entirety.