Group Work: architectural reconstruction of the Palazzo Grimani over time

Group 2: Kayoko Ichikawa, Sami Arpa, Fouad Slimane, Cyril Bornet and Radu Leon


Our group project focuses on the architectural scale of Palazzo Grimani considering its different historical phases starting from the present-day palace as museum and looking back to the time of Giovanni Grimani’s project and the earlier structure of the medieval palace.  The goal of our project is to make a model of the architecture of the palace that visualises this evolution over time.

There are various sources for the reconstruction of the palace at different key phases in its history that allow us to trace some physical changes to the architecture.

Today in 2014, we are able to visit the current building of the palace to make observations, measurements, records and visual notes using photographs, videos or sketches.  The major source for our model is the architectural plan based on physical observations and measurements of the palace provided by most recent research.

Going back to the time of Giovanni Grimani’s project that started after 1558, thanks to the historical research based on documents, drawings, paintings, and physical observations (special thanks to Cristiano Guarneri and Jan Rössler for providing us with valuable information), we know that Giovanni’s project to enlarge his palace began from the bottom left corner after 1558 and concluded at the top right corner around 1568 creating an inner courtyard and forming a new Roman-style palace.  By 1582, the tribuna was completed on the first floor as witnessed by Federico Zuccari’s drawing which he must have made on his second visit to Venice.

Before Giovanni’s project, there was a medieval structure of the palace that is recorded on Jacopo de Barbari’s woodcut of 1500 in Museo Correr.  Where we can today see the columns that form a classical-style loggia, there used to be a medieval wall structure that the Grimani decided to demolish in the 1530s, a date we can extract from Giovanni da Udine’s fresco decoration upstairs that must have started right after the demolition of the wall and the consolidation of the floor.

So how do we make an architectural model showing its evolution over time as I have just briefly covered?  Let’s move on to the presentation of our technical solution.

Interactive and virtual reality

We want to design a virtual or augmented reality that both gives an accurate representation of reality and that is convenient to be used by visitors of Palazzo Grimani. In order to do this, we first need an accurate 3D model of the Palazzo. We designed two mockups using the free software SketchUp, that can be seen here:

The first representation shows the current state of the building, based on original plans and pictures. The second one is a reconstruction of the original state of the building (AD 1550), based on historical documents. Aside of an overview of the building, both can be used for first person visits:

We can now propose two strategies for the end user to be able to visit Palazzo Grimani of the past:

  • Virtual reality, where the visitor is completely immersed in the virtual representation, using for instance VR glasses.
  • Augmented reality, which allows to display virtual representations at various dates at the place where they belong, by looking at the screen of a smartphone or tablet.


Not only for scholars and a connoisseur public to whom establishing some margins for possible models and their evolution in time could prove a useful tool, but also for a general audience, making a visit in situ simultaneously a valid teaching experience and an enjoyable ride in the ‘Venice Time Machine’.

Short example: a watercolour by Giovanni da Udine depicting a parrot (currently in Stockholm, and coming from the collection of count Tessin (exhibited in the ‘Painters of Reality’ at the Metropoloian Museum of Art)  might have served as a visual source for a similar depiction in the Apollo room at Palazzo Grimani (Radu Leon for DHVFS).


2 thoughts on “Group Work: architectural reconstruction of the Palazzo Grimani over time

  1. A thorough historical introduction prepared by Kayoko Ichikawa, a compelling technical presentation given by Sami Arpa and Fouad Slimane, and the effective 3D modelling coming from Cyril Bornet resulted in my part being a lot easier! Thank you! We spoke in the presentation we gave about attracting young audiences, and having Giovanni da Udine’s green parrot fly around the chambers to lead the way and introduce key words to the youngsters enjoying a virtual\augmented tour of Palazzo Grimani could prove a winning idea!

    • I came to linking the two visuals of the ‘green parrot’ by directly observing Giovanni da Udine’s frescoes
      in Apollo’s room at Palazzo Grimani and comparing the detail with the parrot on the ceiling, to the drawing from The Nationalmuseum Stockholm (NM384), published in the catalogue of the exhibition
      ‘Painters of Reality. The Legacy of Leonardo and Caravaggio in Lombardy’ held in 2004 at Museo Civico
      ‘Alla Ponzone’ di Cremona and at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
      I am thankful for the contribution of Linda Wolk-Simon, who puts in relation the drawing in question
      to Giovanni da Udine’s frescoes in the Vatican and suggests that the sheet was part of
      Giovanni’s ‘libro di uccelli di tutte le sorti’, which was highly praised in Vasari’s ‘Vite’.
      I think the connection to the Palazzo Grimani fresco brings further proof to the artist’s practice of extracting useful visuals from his already proven successful repertoire book.

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