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Virtually fit for a king

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Eleven Spanish palaces and monuments in their original form are to open to the public on the net

One of the most exciting uses of visualisation techniques is the ability to see buildings as they used to be.

Three cheers then for Fundacion Telefonica and Patrimonio Nacional (the Spanish version of English Heritage) for awarding a £400,000 contract to RTZ Virtual Worlds to visualise 11 royal palaces and associated monuments. The project, which will last until 2003, will produce interactive models that will be available on the Internet to allow people around the world virtual access to the buildings. These include palaces in Madrid, Segovia and Aranjuez, and will show detail and texture of artworks and objects in all the rooms. The company, which is now owned by Superscape, has experience in these fields, including recreating the Salon De Reinos which was part of the palace of Felipe IV in Madrid and was burned in the seventeenth century, and 'restoring' the mosque at Cordoba to the way it looked in the eleventh century before the Christians messed around with it.

Graphisoft has teamed up with Integrated FM and Cymap to push the importance of the integrated building model and full 3D working.Gabor Bojar, chairman of Graphisoft, said that so far people are only seeing 3Dmodels as a way of generating consistent 2D drawings. 'Until the design finishes being on paper, the value is limited.The future is that 3D data itself represents value.' This data can be carried forward throughout the building process and into the afterlife of the building, for use by the facilities management team.

Architects, as the major generators of the data, would be creating something of real value. Whether they received any remuneration for it is of course another issue, although Bojar is optimistic. 'This creates a new opportunity for architects, ' he said. 'Architects can make money by selling the content of the digital building model.'

Back in its home country, Hungary, Graphisoft has spun off a new company, GDL Technology, to deal with the issue of describing objects in a common format so that products can be imported electronically into the building model.

While this technology is already available, take up from manufacturers, particularly in the UK, has been slow. It is an issue that the International Alliance on Interoperability is addressing.

Graphisoft and its associates are running a series of seminars, '2001: A Building Odyssey'. For details go to www.2001abuildingodyssey. com First cars, now furniture. Online retailer Europe by Net has surveyed retail prices for home furnishings and found that those in the UK are frequently 50 per cent more than in other European countries - and sometimes double.

Shopkeepers'excuses were ingenious. The cost of fitting a British plug was used to justify a mark-up of several hundred pounds on an Artemide hanging light which doesn't even have a plug. Not surprisingly, Europe by Net is undercutting these prices considerably, offering an average saving of 45 per cent on British retail prices. After all, it does not have to do all that dusting, another cost cited by a UK showroom. Having started with its sights set firmly on the consumer, Europe by Net is now paying more attention to the specifier. Its range is eclectic, the contemporary pieces mixed with those with a more retro feel. And the range is growing all the time.Take a look at www. europebynet. com

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