UAR : The (Architecture) museum without walls

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperAcademic


On December 1st, 2009, the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi) announced the launch of UAR, or Urban Augmented Reality, a smartphone application providing information on architecture through a combination of different layers of information (text, images, video, and archival material) and three-dimensional architectural models based on a user’s location in the real world (through the use of GPS). The NAi was nothing if not ambitious, as it intended “to make the Netherlands the first country in the world to have its entire architecture viewable on smartphones thanks to augmented reality.”

But if the aggregation of archival information (from multiple sources) through physical location already indicated a complete restructuring of the architectural archive, the app’s most remarkable feature was the creation of clear composite views of digital 3D models of demolished and unrealized buildings superimposed on a user’s view of the real world. Effectively, this “normalized” view populated by past and unrealized buildings translated architectural history into spatial experience, so as to bridge the distance between archival material and architectural experience, a distance often unsurmountable to an uninitiated wide audience. Therefore, UAR not only made architecture history more available by placing the (Dutch) architectural archive in every smartphone user’s pocket, but also more engaging by translating that archive into easily understandable views.

In order to broaden the audience for architectural history and architectural knowledge, UAR had to challenge their normative conventions and communicative limitations. It proposed a new discursive territory and provided an example of how the proliferation of digital tools is already allowing architecture museums to transcend their physical limitations and engage with an increasingly removed audience. Perhaps by necessity, more than ambition (as the NAi prepared for an extensive renovation to its galleries), by engaging an ever-expanding audience, the Dutch institute created an architecture museum without walls.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Event71st Annual International Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians - Saint Paul, United States
Duration: 18 Apr 201822 Jun 2018


Conference71st Annual International Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians
CountryUnited States
CitySaint Paul

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