What we do

The 4D Research Lab (4DRL) serves scholars who conduct research into the material past in the faculty of Humanities at the University of Amsterdam. It provides a wide range of computing facilities, 3D scanners, and 3D modeling programmes, as well as technical expertise to assist researchers. Besides the use of 3D visualization as research tool, the 4D Research Lab can produce 3D models for presentation of research, either in professional contexts such as academic articles, or visualization for more general purposes. The 4D lab can also assist in the development of virtual and augmented reality apps used for the interactive exploration of the material past. Whether for dissemination to the general public, or for use within academic circles, all of our work is well-documented and scientifically rigorous.

Being based in an academic institute, the 4D lab has an important educational component. We supervise student projects such as tutorials and theses, and teach 3D recording and modelling techniques.

If you are a scholar interested in hearing more about our services, or a student who wishes to be tutored, do not hesitate to contact us.


Mission statement

The 4D lab aims to:

  • Promote the use of 3D technologies in the documentation, analysis and dissemination of academic research dealing with the material past.
  • Assist in the development of methods that use 3D technologies in the process of research, rather than focusing on an end product.
  • Achieve high academic standards for the publication of 3D visualizations.
  • Underline the fact that academic researchers have a responsibility to society to supply visually accurate and academically robust models of the past.

Why is it called '4'D?

‘4D’ refers to the fourth dimension, the temporal concept of ‘the past’; a place in time that no longer exists, where the objects that we now study used to exist. This is the fourth dimension of material culture that we attempt to grasp, with the aid of 3D techniques. Our inclusion of the fourth dimension allows us to explore material biographies and the life cycles and itineraries that objects and material go through. A building may have had many phases of use phases, with corresponding physical modifications. In a similar way, an object runs through stages of practical use and cultural perception from manufacture to loss or discard. In this sense all objects are temporal manifestations of ideas, with ever changing physical shapes, locations, meanings and purposes.

What is the history behind the 4D Lab?

The 4D Research Lab was founded by dr. Patricia Lulof in 2012, eight years after her first 3D reconstruction of the Late Archaic temple of Satricum. With more than 30 years of experience in reconstructing ancient sites and buildings, dr. Lulof saw 3D modelling could be a powerful research tool that could be used not only within archaeology, but also by other disciplines in the Humanities which explore the physical, temporal, and spatial dimensions of the built environment.

Old-school VR. The temple of Satricum visualized in the CAVE in the early 21st century in Amsterdam (based on the mediocre quality of the picture one could easily be mistaken to date it to the early '90s). The CAVE was discontinued many years ago, but got ultimately replaced by virtual reality goggles, and augmented reality apps, much more mobile and accessible than CAVE