The Town of Bamberg – 3D model for heritage presentation and town planning

General information

Domain: World heritage towns
Title: 3D-Stadtmodell Bamberg (3D city model of Bamberg)
Launch: 2006
Country: Germany

Project focus

Bamberg is a medium-size town in Bavaria with a well-preserved medieval centre, which was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1993. The core heritage area comprises three town districts which cover 142 hectares. The surrounding buffer zone, which has restrictions placed on its use, amounts to 444 hectares. Beside tourism highlights like the Cathedral and the Old Town Hall, there are over 1000 protected monuments in the old town and some 2500 historic houses in the wider area.

The 3D model of Bamberg has been developed to allow users to explore and learn about development stages and different aspects of the old town. It has also become a useful tool for town planning and participation of citizens through visualizing the impact of intended development projects in areas around the old town. Started in 2004, the project has involved town planners, heritage managers and educators, archivists, and students in computer-aided design, architecture and history. Furthermore, the 3D model has been used to raise the interest and engagement of school classes in cultural heritage.



The idea of creating a 3D model of the historic city centre of Bamberg was generated in 2003 between representatives of the Town of Bamberg and the Kaiserslautern University of Technology. In a collaboration of the university’s Department for Computer Aided Design in Urban Planning and Architecture with the Town Planning Office, students working on theses prepared data and developed first versions of the 3D model. A major question in the first phase was (and still is), how to produce high-quality 3D town models at affordable costs from existing and often difficult to acquire new data.

In 2006, an already highly elaborated model was presented to the public, which included data derived from the cadastral map of 1822. In 2008, the Town Planning Office started a collaboration with the Bavarian State Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments to include data from the first cartographic depiction of Bamberg in 1602. In 2010, this collaboration was extended by a research group at the University of Bamberg to produce a representation of Bamberg around the year 1300. A partner along the way has always been the Centre for World Heritage Bamberg. In the three-year project “Beam me up!”, started in 2010, the Centre also involved many school classes to use the 3D model for learning about the historic town.

Financing / funding

The creation of the increasingly detailed 3D model has been mainly funded by the municipality and carried out by a small group of highly motivated staff of the Town Planning Office. The involved university-based research groups received funding from various sources, for example, the research for Bamberg around the year 1300 by Städtebauförderung and Oberfrankenstiftung. The “Beam me up!” project has been sponsored by the Deutsche Bank Foundation.

Content & IPR / licensing

In the case of 3D models, content basically means data captured and processes with various instruments. For the 3D model of Bamberg, for example, this includes digital cadastral maps, aerial photographs and laser scanning data, terrestrial photogrammetry data, photographs of façades and roofs, etc., and data derived from historic maps and drawings (e.g. the land register map of 1822 and Petrus Zweidler von Teuschnitz’ “Gründtlicher abriß der Statt Bamberg”, 1602), and other archival content.

The project leader of the Town Planning Office, Karl-Heinz Schramm, describes the work of producing the detailed 3D model as follows: “Initially, implementation of the enormous amount of data which accumulated, was a problem. In fact it was equally difficult to gather the necessary data at all. For each house you need hundreds of measurement data, not only the height, width and depth of the building, but also the pitch of its roof, decoration, projections, windows etc, etc. Using them, you first have to build a skeleton of the building on which you then mount the photos of its external appearance. Then you have to create a model of the topographical location and to insert the virtually built houses into it. Particularly in Bamberg, with its seven hills, buildings do not stand on an even level, but the altitude of their site varies considerably. All that takes a lot of time and so it is expensive, too.” (Dengler-Schreiber & Schramm 2008)

The licensing of all the data used and of the model (or parts of it) based on the regulations or contracts of the official and other providers and producers. Access to the online version of the model however is offered freely for anybody.

Technologies used / innovative features

For accessing the online 3D model of Bamberg users must just have the freely available Google Earth programme installed on their computer and download a file (Bamberg-KMZ) from the website of the Town Planning Office. The programme allows for exploring the town, for example, the buildings, streets and squares of the World Heritage area, including the 1822 and 1602 maps. Thereby users are able to better understand the historical development of the town, noticing what has been added, lost or preserved over time.

Target users

The 3D model is relevant for various users and purposes, for example, residents and tourists interested in development of the town or students working on history projects. In the three-year project “Beam me up!”, managed by the Centre for World Heritage Bamberg, it was used to raise the interest and engagement of many school classes in cultural heritage; the project also included guided tours and students working on own 3D modelling.
Most evident however is the usefulness of the model in matters of town development, which in Bamberg are directly related to the protection of the World Heritage. The model and further elaborated parts are often used to visualize changes to buildings, areas and the urban landscape overall that would result from intended development projects in the buffer zone and other areas.

For example, it allowed visualizing that the proportions of a new hotel building were oversized for the town. Another example is the planning of an area rehabilitation project, and currently there is a debate about an intended extension of the railway lines through Bamberg. In such cases, detailed virtual representations are included in the 3D model to inform and involve the citizens.

Lessons learned

Cooperation: The creation and use of the 3D model of Bamberg has been led by the Town Planning Office involving public and other providers of data, archivists, heritage managers and educators, students in computer-aided design and architecture, and school classes. A particularly important usage of the model is to inform citizens about matters of town planning. The 3D model also promoted cooperation with university-based historical projects (e.g. Bamberg around 1300).

Content: 3D models of historic towns require a lot of data from different sources and a tremendous amount of creative work, especially if the goal is a highly detailed model. The possibility to derive data from archival resources (e.g. maps and drawings) enables the inclusion of layers of historic development.

Technologies used / innovative features: To enable the use of 3D models for cultural heritage purposes, various technologies are required at all stages, from the acquisition of data through to the production and visualization. Google Earth provides an easy way to allow citizens accessing and exploring a 3D model.

Sources and links