Aerial Photography and Visualisation for Built Heritage - PhD Portfolio by Kieran Baxter
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Saturday, 30 June 2012

Skara Brae: Masive to Macro

As part of a collaborative effort to visualise Skara Brae I captured a series of kite aerial photographs as a starting point for a 3D reconstruction. Ultimately I aim to create an animated sequence showing an aerial approach to Skara Brae. This will be combined with live action footage, reconstruction and interpretations by both Aaron Watson and Alice Watterson to form a short film which aims to show the multi faceted nature of the site.

Skara Brae is set in a striking location, poised above the sweeping Bay of Skaill. Erosion from the sea here has contributed to both the sites discovery and partial collapse. From above the modern paving becomes particularly obvious, a necessity caused by swelling visitor numbers. One of the modern additions which aim to protect the site is the roofing on house 7, first constructed in glass, and then the turf which is visible here. The need for protection against the erosion caused by visitor numbers at Skara Brae means that many areas are out of access to the public, one of the issues which our visualisation hopes to address.

The house in the foreground here is quite different to the others architecturally (although each of the houses are distinct in some way) and is set aside form the rest of the village leading to speculation that it was used differently, perhaps as a workshop. It's symmetry and strong outline makes it particularly attractive from the air.

As well as the low altitude aerial photography I also spent some time photographing the detailed scratch art which adorns many stones in the houses and passageways. Perhaps the strongest example is this "bed" slab in house 7 which I focused on capturing with a 3D interpretation in mind.

Both these inaccessible details and aerial perspectives represent different kinds of privileged views, normally out of reach from the visitor. The outcome of our visualisation work has the potential not only to give an experiential glimpse of these vantage points but also to contextualise these distinct aspects of the site within each other. I hope to be able to present some more work from this exciting project soon!


  1. These photos are wonderful!! Good Luck on your project. Can't wait to see the results. Am hoping to visit here some time in my life.

    Thank you for sharing your photos of this wonderfully unique place.

  2. Magnificent... great post...