Pergamon – Panorama of the Ancient Metropolis

by James Glazebrook

Pergamon – Panorama of the Ancient Metropolis was a no-brainer for this history graduate/tech nerd/fan of the Pergamonmuseum itself. The 360º, 3D panorama of the ancient city that is recreated inside the museum is going to be Museuminsel’s hot ticket for the next year (it runs until 30th September 2012). In fact, I only made it inside on my second attempt, having turned up on a Thursday lunchtime to find a 100-long queue outside – and I don’t queue. Having booked online, I returned for the first available time slot (9-9.30am) the next day, wondering: is this going to be worth the price (€8.50 for holders of a Jahreskarte Plus; €13 full price) and the hassle?

Pergamon panorama 1

Image courtesy of Asisi.

Well, Panorama of the Ancient Metropolis (PAM??) is certainly impressive. The 25m tall structure fills most of the sizeable courtyard in front of the Pergamon, meaning that the entrance to the museum now looks like an industrial storage facility. PAM is accessed by some six flights of steel stairs (I hope they have some disabled access worked out!), which will have visitors questioning if they’ve accidentally taken the workers’ entrance, until they come out onto the platform that overlooks the 100m wraparound screen.

Upon inspection (marvelling?), the view is spectacular. Even if we were allowed to take photos they would fail to do justice to the level of detail presented by what looks like an enormous hyperreal painting, given depth by subtle 3D. Besides, the sound design is equally awesome: the cacophony of crickets during the cycle’s “nighttime”, the buzz of the metropolis during “day” – elements of which are emphasised to cleverly draw viewers’ attention to, say, the marketplace, or the choir on the steps up to the palace. This effect is only marred by the plinks and strums of ever-present “background” music.

Pergamon Panorama 2

Image courtest of Asisi.

So PAM works as spectacle – but does it teach us anything? Beyond what the city, its situation in the surrounding landscape and its inhabitants (probably) looked like… no. It left this history geek wondering: What are these people doing? What is happening at the time? In the world around them? Essentially: what am I looking at? The talented creators at Asisi would no doubt argue that that is what the Pergamon museum is for, to provide the detail that people like Zoë and myself love (see some of her macro photos here). In fact, the below preview video, half-inched from, shows this relationship well – zooming in from a section of the panorama to the fragments on display inside  the Pergamonmuseum.

So Pergamon – Panorama of the Ancient Metropolis is context. The problem is, it’s pitched – and priced – as a standalone attraction. Admission to the Panorama costs as much as to the actual Pergamon itself – more for holders of a Jahreskarte Plus, which allows free access to all Berlin State Museums and their special exhibitions, except this one. And it took me about 20 minutes to digest PAM, whereas I have lost entire days inside the Pergamonmuseum, and still have things left to see. Not to belittle the Panorama, but given that it is really an introduction to the main attraction, a simulation of the real deal, it should be priced accordingly.

Pergamon – Panorama of the Ancient Metropolis is worth checking out, but it’s worth avoiding the crowds, booking online and paying the extra €5 to get a ticket that also includes entry to the museum. Then you’ll get the broad-brush overview, and still get to explore the real delights that the Pergamonmuseum has to offer.

Pergamon – Panorama of the Ancient Metropolis – Trailer 2 from ikono tv on Vimeo.