Adolphe Appia at Hellerau: Virtual Reconstructions and performances

Using both photographs of historic settings and original designs, virtual reality models were created of Appia's "rhythmic spaces", and their lighting and other properties. Mixed reality performance technology was used to integrate both video footage and live action into these virtual settings. In addition, a highly detailed VR model of the Hellerau Festspielhaus, where some of Appia's designs were realised for innovative performance, was created. Then, using historic photographs, sets recorded in archive photos were placed into the great hall at Hellerau, and lit under various conditions. In addition, a number of Appia's designs which were never actually realised at Hellerau, were also modelled and placed virtually into the spaces, to see how they would have made use of the spatial and other technical conditions at Hellerau. Very close analysis of the several types of modular units used at Hellerau was undertaken, to enable accurate reconstructions to be created. In addition, a virtual lighting rig was constructed able to replicate the original lighting conditions employed at Hellerau, 1912-1913. A complete archive of all the relevant Appia designs and other images used in the project was deposited with the AHDS.

Principal investigator
Professor Richard Beacham
Principal project staff
Dr Hugh Denard; Professor Richard C Beacham; Ms Cat Fergusson; Mr Martin Blazeby; Mr Drew Baker
Start date
Tuesday, October 1, 2002
Completion date
Tuesday, June 1, 2004
Source material
Primary sources were Appia's own rhythmic space designs, from the period ca. 1909-1913. These are for the most part preserved at the Swiss Theatre Collection, Bern, and at the Museum of Fine Arts, Geneva. In addition, the project drew upon a great many historic photographs (now out of copyright), gathered from a variety of sources including previous publications. These were variously of architecture, stage settings, and performances. The sources of all designs and photos are detailed in the materials submited for deposit with the AHDS. To model the Hellerau Festpielhaus, the project used historic photos, architectural designs, and supplemented these with extensive on-site work at Hellerau in its current state, today. Arising from a Getty Conservation Grant which Prof. Beacham and others were given a few years back physically to restore large portions of the building, very extensive architectural plans and drawings, and photos were available to the project. The sources were turned into various digital resources, ranging from simple scans to complex 3D computer models, and interactive VR sites.