Research in building history

Photographic images are an essential source to access research questions of architectural history, allowing historians to identify formal patterns, singularities, and discontinuities in architecture and cityscape.

Georeferencing of historic photographs

Application-oriented tools for photogrammetric analysis of historical photographs are integrated into the process of historical image analysis, to create a spatial relationship to today’s situation.

Location-based access to photos

Location-dependent augmented reality representations can be used as information base, research tool, and to communicate historical knowledge.

Research using image repositories

Our aim is to enable historians to locate, analyze, contextualize and compare meaningful and relevant photographic sources, as well as to make the objects depicted therein conceivable.

Vision and Objectives

Imagine you’re exploring the historic center of a city with its impressive town houses, churches and monuments. What if you could just use your mobile to find out about the historic buildings around you, with detailed visual information about how they were built and the story behind them, making history come alive before your eyes?


This project on four-dimensional research and communication of urban history aims to make just this sort of scenario possible. Funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, it is a cooperation project between the Technische Universität Dresden and University of Würzburg.


The aim is to investigate and develop methods and technologies to transfer extensive repositories of historical media and their contextual information into a three-dimensional spatial model, with an additional temporal component. This will make content accessible to different target groups, researchers and the public, via a 4D browser. A location-dependent augmented-reality representation can be used as an information base, research tool, and to communicate historical knowledge.


The data resources available for this research include extensive holdings of historical photographs of Dresden, which have documented the city over the decades, and digitized map collections on the Deutsche Fotothek (German photographic collection) platform. These will lay the foundation for a prototype model which will give users a virtual experience of historic parts of Dresden.

Research Topics

Architectural history issues

The architectural history issues are research and communication about interactions between urban landscape and its depiction, based on a case study of Dresden’s architectural development in the 20th century. This includes questions about the evolution and transformation of an urban landscape, photographic documentation strategies, and how these shape history.


Methodology issues

The methodology issues are meeting the research requirements for digital image and map source repositories and developing technical support options for these. This involves naming and systematizing the need for support, such as identifying, contextualizing, or visually comparing sources. Another aim is to develop different usage scenarios, for example for communicating architectural history.


Information technology issues

The information technology issues are needs-based information modelling and its technical applications, based on a case study of the Deutsche Fotothek. This involves aspects of processing and linking historical media and knowledge, including time and place, into a virtual research environment. It also includes researching and developing visualization and information access, via a 4D browser and as location-based augmented reality.