Unbuilt Hurva

Many of architect Louis Kahn’s most significant designs were for buildings that were never built. Unbuilt Hurva is a 5-minute pilot visualization that presents the unrealized design of the Hurva Synagogue as a virtual photo-realistic building, complete with a live-action host who conducts a tour. Dan Bailey and the IRC worked with Kent Larson, an architect and research professor at MIT, to create this pilot video.

Unbuilt Hurva was included in The Learning Channel’s series, The Secret World of Megastructures, as well as in the 2003 documentary film on Louis Kahn, The Architect.


Through the use of computer modeling, meticulous texture mapping, radiosity light rendering, and digital compositing, the synagogue is presented as if the camera and narrator were walking through the powerful forms of this yet-to-be-built national synagogue of Israel. David Yager, Distinguished Professor at UMBC and Founding Director of the IRC, hosts this tour. He was recorded against a blue-screen background and composited into the animation.

Unbuilt Hurva from ircumbc on Vimeo.

Many of the sequences were created with a time-lapse effect to show Louis Kahn’s dramatic use of natural light and shadow on architectural forms. To create this effect, 130 radiosity solutions, each requiring 12 hours to compute, had to be calculated. From this data, individual frames were rendered out to give the appearance of the sun moving across the building.

Production Notes

Project Director: Kent Larson, Architect and Research Professor, MIT
Animation, Digital Cinematography and Compositing: Dan Bailey
Live Action Host: David Yager
IRC Graduate Research Assistant: Martine Barnaby Sawyer
Software donation: LIGHTSCAPE Corporation

Imaging Research Center, UMBC © 2024