VR application Synagogue Georgensgmuend

Journey through time into the past of the Jewish community in 1836

VR simulation of the synagogue main room in Georgensgmuend

Active Jewish life existed in the Franconian community of Georgensgmünd from the 16th to the 20th century. At times in the 17th century, the Jewish population even made up more than a third of the town’s total population. The current synagogue was built in 1734. After 1938, the synagogue was no longer actively used. Today, together with the Jewish cemetery and the washhouse for the dead (Taharahaus), it represents a completely preserved and restored ensemble that reflects former Jewish life in rural communities.

Building of the synagogue in Georgensgmünd
Building of the synagogue in Georgensgmünd

Since recently visitors to the synagogue’s former prayer room are now able to embark on a journey of discovery using virtual reality and travel back to the year 1836.
In order to enable this glimpse into the past, the surveyors from ArcTron 3D GmbH first digitally recorded the entire interior of the synagogue using a combination of 3D laser scanning and photogrammetry. A high-resolution 3D model was then generated from the measurement data, which forms the basis for further reconstruction.

Surveying with a 3D laser scanner
Surveying with a 3D laser scanner
Indoor drone flight
Photogrammetric indoor drone flight

With the help of this current geometry model as an architectural basis, as well as historical graphics, plans and images as specifications for details that no longer exist, the 3D and multimedia specialists were able to recreate the synagogue in its 1836 state realistically and in great detail. In addition to the modelling of the geometry, a strong focus was placed on the correct representation of the wall paintings (incidentally a work by the then well-known Polish itinerant painter Elieser Sussmann), the flooring and the steps to the Torah shrine. The complex wall paintings posed a particular challenge, but the final result is all the more impressive.

Synagogue - digital reconstruction of the wall paintings
Elaborate ceiling and wall paintings

In addition to the interior itself, many authentic objects from the furnishings of the time were reconstructed in great detail on the basis of old plans or comparative models. These include the Torah shrine with curtain, the bima, several lecterns, various candlesticks and the Eternal Light.

Interior of the synagogue main room
Interior of the synagogue main room

The final modelled and textured synagogue including various interiors was then transferred to a real-time environment to generate the VR application. In this virtual simulation, the viewer is in the middle of the platform of the bima and has a 360° view of the prayer room. In the room there are five correctly located and interactively controllable information points (POIs) on the topics of Torah niche, wall paintings, Bima, women’s gallery and baby kingdoms. If one of these POIs is targeted and selected by moving the head, interesting additional information on this topic is played back as audio content.