- This summer while I was visiting Cadiz, Spain I went to Torre Tavira, the tallest point in Cadiz. It’s a tourist attraction for the views from the top of the tower and for the camera obscura guided exhibit that costs 5 euros.The 20 minute visit with the camera obscura show was entertaining and a great way to get one’s bearings.
http://www.torretavira.com/en/camaraobscura.php The youtube video gives a sense of what you’re looking at. They limit the tour to 18 people at a time and run it several times a day.
Basically, using mirrors and lenses and a concave viewing area in a darkened room, we were able to see what was going on at street level and rooftop level 360 degrees around. Our guide could swivel the camera and zoom in and out and we had an amazingly clear view of the entire city. He pointed out architecture, historic spots, natural features, and people walking on the street that moment. It really had a magical feel to it. Our guide conducted the tour in several languages, which was entertaining as well. We saw a lot for just standing still.
Here in RVA, City Hall has the viewing platform already but it is woefully inadequate as a tourist site as is. With the addition of the camera obscura, a guide could tell the whole story–the then and the now of Richmond. The rapids and rocks, Native American history, Christopher Newport, colonization, Patrick Henry, Gabriel, liberty and slavery, TJ’s Capitol, Civil War, Elizabeth Van Lew, Jackson Ward, Maggie Walker, VCU, Monumental Church, CenterStage, on and on, all the way to RIR . Zoom in on former tobacco warehouses now with pools on top, zoom in on Hollywood Cemetery. The juxtapositions could be dizzying.
Since DaVinci was one of the major forces behind the development of the camera obscura and given that VCU has a DaVinci program that brings together their engineering and art schools, I think there might be a way to get some funding from them. It could be a good way for VCU to show its creative and technical sides in a new way downtown.
It’s a remarkably simple concept–see what’s going on all around you in one place–but with the right guide and tour, there was quite a wow factor. Leading food tours walking around Richmond, I see how hungry people are for cool things to do in town. People want to learn more, want it to be easy to see what the city has to offer, and don’t want to have to figure everything out on their own. This could be one-stop gawking. I don’t know what height building suits a camera obscura, the cost, or if there would be a better choice than City Hall, but I think it’s something Richmond ought to look into it, so to speak. We’ll see if the Mayor’s Tourism Commission, of which I’m a member, has any interest….