Examining the Great Mosque of Córdoba’s mihrab mosaics, using gigapixel photography in an immersive computing environment

My interest in digital tools for Islamic art history goes back to grad school at MIT, where I had the opportunity to help get ArchNet up and running.

Later at UNC-Chapel Hill I had great fun experimenting with digital tools and processes, thanks to many wonderful students and colleagues, especially Anselmo Lastra, Liz Lastra, JJ Bauer, Carolyn Allmendinger, and Josh Hockensmith, and at Duke University, Caroline Bruzelius,

I hope to continue this experimentation at the University of Edinburgh, where there are fantastic resources for Digital Humanities, including the Edinburgh Futures Institute, Creative Informatics, and the uCreate Studio. Lately I’ve been inspired by the work of Hussein Keshani, who has written  excellent essays on the issues, including this one, ‘Encounters with Digital Art History,’ in Ars Orientalis.

Past Projects

High resolution gigapixel photography for art history

Explore my Gigapan images of:  the tenth-century mihrab, the main dome, and the marble vault at the Great Mosque of Córdoba. You might also like to have a look at the images of the ‘pumpkin’ vault of S. Salvador del Palat del Rey, in León, and Burgos Cathedral.


Students in my Art in the Age of the Great Caliphs course created the Gigapans of a medieval Islamic architectural fragment in the Ackland Museum at UNC-Chapel Hill, some of which you can see here: Side view with vegetal/geometric decoration,  oblique view (rear), oblique view (front)side view with animal figures. 

They also created 3D scans of the fragment, which they uploaded to Sketchfab and which, sadly, seem to have since disappeared. But here you can explore some other 3D models of caliphal objects and spaces. I collected these from the Sketchfab community, but I hope to get my Edinburgh students making and experimenting with 3D models as tools for art history very soon. 

I’ve also used the Google Liquid Galaxy immersive panoramic display + Google Earth in the classroom, as explained in this article .

A Medieval ‘First in Flight’:  Visualizing ‘Abbas Ibn Firnas & the Art of Early Aviation This was an interdisciplinary creative, artistic exploration of an aeronautics milestone, in collaboration with my amazing colleagues Jan Chambers and Laura Miller. Read about it in a Carolina Arts & Sciences Magazine article here.

Gaming software to creatively visualize a Cordoban munya

The Digital Munya Project An experiment in using gaming software to visualize a munya (aristocratic villas/estates) of early Islamic Spain, in collaboration with my wonderful colleague Anselmo Lastra. The tech is quite dated now, but if you’d like to experiment with the Unity files of the model yourself, you can download those here.

I developed the early visualizations using SketchUp, in a Duke University Wired! summer lab, co-founded by Caroline Bruzelius. I’ve shared this work with various audiences, including at MIT, Duke University, UVA and SCAD. There’s a nice blog post with student responses to the SCAD lecture here.