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Metropolis: Coventry’s medieval and modernist ambitions

An engineering research team at WMG (Warwick Manufacturing Group) at the University of Warwick have vividly brought to life one of Coventry’s medieval buildings using 3-D virtual reality technology in a new City of Culture exhibition.

The exhibition, exploring the story of Coventry through its buildings and architecture, has just opened upstairs in the newly revamped and renamed Metropolis restaurant (formerly Drapers' Bar) – itself an architecturally interesting modern building constructed in 1999 with a copper roof and glulam beam structure.

Run in partnership with Historic Coventry Trust and Coventry University, this free exhibition, also called Metropolis: Coventry’s medieval and modernist ambitions, forms part of the University of Warwick’s 12-month Resonate festival and features two visually-imaginative pieces from Warwick researchers.

WMG's Professor Alan Chalmers and his students have recreated a walk-through of the medieval Weaver's House in Spon Street using 3-D virtual reality technology. It shows the work of weaver John Croke and his family making cloth on a wooden loom as it would have been in 1540.

The movement and skill of operating the loom was captured using Microsoft Kinect V2 cameras against a green screen before being extracted and put onto a screen with a realistic background created.

Professor Chalmers said:

“My team and I are really pleased to be a part of this exhibition and, especially, to demonstrate our new technology that recreates on screen an authentic portrayal of the skills of medieval weaving, an industry that was so vital to the city’s makers reputation and prosperity in the 16th century.

“We were delighted to be working with charity Medieval Coventry and be funded by the Institute of Engagement's Community Partnership Fund with support and guidance in making the results of our research accessible to the public.

“There are plans to take the exhibit on a tour of local schools in 2022 and produce an extended multisensory display in the Herbert Museum's Medieval Gallery that will include other local skills such as dyeing and tanning.”

The second contribution is a film researched and curated by Film and Television Studies' PhD student Kat Pearson after months of trawling through film archives to discover the story of the city's architecture.

Kat collaborated with The Media Archive for Central England (MACE) on creating a series of short archive films drawing on gems from the MACE collection. Along with MACE archivist Philip Leach they have brought together items highlighting the relationship between Coventry's communities and its buildings in the last half of the 20th Century.

Kat said:

“This is a topic that I have a personal interest in and researching these films has been an amazing opportunity for me to look at the architecture of Coventry in a new light.

“The Metropolis exhibition allows us to showcase some wonderful archival films in a public space, and this builds on a project in 2020 to bring archival films to the Foleshill community.”

Metropolis covers Coventry’s origins as a Middle Ages settlement right up to a modern-day city. Exhibition’s curators, Sabine Coady Schäbitz and Mark Webb, weave medieval and modern stories together in five themes: movement, enterprise, culture, resilience and the future.

It celebrates Coventry’s distinct contribution to the history of the built environment in Britain, from industrial premises including workshops and factories, to major religious buildings containing some of the finest decorative art in the country.

The organisers of this valuable walk-through history hope that even if people know Coventry well, they will discover something new and if you are new to the city, the exhibition is only the beginning of discovering the city’s stories and communities.

As a principal partner supporting Coventry City of Culture 2021, the University of Warwick is hosting The Resonate Festival. This innovative programme of public events includes talks and public conversations, exhibitions, film festivals, walking tours, debates and much more. Resonate will culminate in a multi-day festival on campus in April 2022.

Metropolis: Coventry’s medieval and modernist ambitions, First Floor of Metropolis, Earl Street, Coventry CV1 5QP, 10am-6pm daily, free.

Further information on Kat Pearson's work in Foleshill can be found here.