Nestled in the village of Łapalice in Poland is the breathtaking and eerie frame of a half-built castle. While the structure may appear as a relic of ages past, construction actually began in 1983 when Piotr Kazimierczak, a local wood carver and sculptor, received a building permit for a small single-family home and studio for his sculptures.
While the permit was for a modest structure, Piotr built a 16,400 square-foot castle (5,000 square-meters). The castle has four wings connected by colonnades with mansard roofs. There are 12 towers, 52 rooms and 365 windows representing the number of months, weeks and days in a year. In the central wing, terraces, a fountain and elevator were planned, while the west wing featured a swimming pool and a large space for either a chapel or ballroom. The sweeping grounds, including a large artificial pond on the southern end, are enclosed by a concrete wall with a grand entrance through the gate building.
Construction came to a halt in the early 1990s when local officials realized that the castle was far more than the original single-family home and studio permitted. Financial problems and issues with documentation and plans have thwarted progress on the continuing build.
In 2015, a group of Harry Potter fans was interested in buying the castle, but to no avail. Last June, local officials approved a resolution to proceed with a development plan, allowing the castle to become a legal structure and complete the construction as a hotel.
We connected with Grzegorz Duda of Realwalk3D to hear the story of how he captured such a marvelous and expansive space.
Q: What inspired the 3D capture of the Polish Private Castle?
Several years ago, long before I purchased my first Matterport camera, I heard about an abandoned castle in Polish Pomerania. I had seen occasional photos and snippets about it on the radio and TV, which stimulated my imagination to search for it and learn more about it online.
I originally wanted to go there as a Google Street View photographer, but the scope of work with a 360 camera or DSLR seemed too large to cover the entire castle, and the work and time devoted to processing and stitching the photos in a 360-view for this colossus was unfathomable – it would several months.
When I got the Matterport Pro2, I knew I had the right equipment for such an expansive space. Then, when I had a client who would never visit the castle in person but wanted to tour the castle in 3D with virtual reality goggles, we decided to take on this awe-inspiring project.
Q: What are the “must-sees” you want visitors to explore and why.
Once you cross the gate and enter the cast grounds, the first thing you see is the castle sprawled out before you – it’s amazing.
At the lowest levels are the castle cellars – they are very unpleasant and dark. If you’re afraid of the dark, humidity or other strange things, this is where you’ll find them. Also, don’t forget to wear waterproof shoes if you visit in person.
In the background of this fountain, you can see the alien graffiti with its tongue like an octopus' tentacle. Also, one can only imagine what this interestingly designed fountain would look if it were finished.
The castle also features a very deep empty pool. If you fall in, you might not be able to climb back out. If you want a thrill, you can stand on the edge and close your eyes. Above the pool is a chapel with a pentagram drawn in the center.
You’ll also find a maze of stairs, rooms and spaces with twists and turns that can confuse anyone. It's easy to get lost. Don’t forget to check
out the baby graffiti. An anonymous person has talent – maybe they’ll see this model one day and reach out!
Going to the top of the turrets isn’t for the faint of heart. There’s nothing to catch you if you fall, and the seeming abyss under your feet gives you a huge rush. You want to climb higher, but the fear sets in!
Look down at the elevator shaft – it's like looking death in the eye. At the highest available level, the elevator shaft is secured and boarded up with wooden logs. However, the lower levels are not, and could easily be jumped from. Don’t look down.
Even if you have a fear of heights, the beautiful views of the castle and its surroundings are unmistakable from the highest levels of turrets.
Only the bravest – or the stupidest – will stand upon the undeveloped and unprotected ledge of an undeveloped and unfinished tower. To get here, you have to cross a completely exposed, narrow precipice. Located outside on the 7th floor, it is difficult to stand here in strong winds.
Q: What’s the one thing you want visitors to take away after exploring?
If you visit the entire castle and explore all its nooks and crannies, you will take with you strong emotions, especially fear and surprise that in our time such a place was built!
Q: Is there a special meaning behind embedding Queen’s “Who Wants to Live Forever?” in the model via Mattertag?
People visit the castle all the time, so the 3D scan involved communicating with tourists so they could hide from the camera's eye. A group of four young people, two couples, who were in love and wanted to be immortalized in the 3D scan of this extraordinary castle.
Just in case, we did the scans in such a way that we can remove lovers from the project at any time. We do believe, however, love always wins and allows such crazy deeds. The song by Queen for the film “Immortal” refers to many elements. The script of the film fits the place and the desire to remain forever in a relationship of two people with great undying love.
Q: Did you have to use any special scanning techniques for capturing such a large space?
The planning itself, based on photos and videos already available on the web, took almost 4 weeks. We had to choose optimal weather and time of day to scan to plan your sightseeing and scanning path carefully.
On the first day, we were fortunate to hit a very cloudy sky and a rainy day, which was a big advantage. It took ten hours of running around the castle starting at 4 am to capture the first levels and the paths outside the castle.
In the basement, in order not to spoil the atmosphere of darkness and fear, we used a small LED flashlight to shine light in the direction the camera was facing. Scanning turrets with spiral stairs is very time-consuming and requires a lot of running to hide from the view of the camera.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
The castle is an amazing place, it's a pity that a group of Harry Potter fans didn't manage to buy this place. It would be a really amazing place once finished and renovated! The designer's vision is truly timeless and coming to the site and seeing it with my own eyes confirmed how mysterious it truly is there.