Giving life to the lost palace of Whitehall...


Arts & Culture

Digital Placemaking


‘The Lost Palace’ is a collaboration between Historic Royal Palaces, theatre makers Uninvited Guests, interaction designers Chomko & Rosier and us, creative technologists and app developers, Calvium.

Through the use of technology, brilliant content and the wonderfully creative minds of the partners involved in this project, together we were able to build an experience of a heritage site that has never before had a visitor. Why? Because it no longer exists after burning to the ground over 300 years ago.

Using a combination of bespoke handheld devices, binaural 3D sound and haptic technology, visitors are led on an immersive adventure that allows them to hear, touch and feel the past. In mapping The Lost Palace over modern day Whitehall, visitors are navigating a located experience from another time, experiencing history in the exact locations where it happened.

Devices inside wooden casing


The decision to create an aural tour threw up a number of challenges: we had to be clever with identifying and recovering from errors, largely without user interaction due to the lack of a smart phone screen. The phones themselves were encased in a wooden object that participants carried around.

Therefore the system had to pre-emptively understand whether parts of the story had been missed, or whether something had gone wrong, and serve an appropriate fallback without the user knowing – to maintain the magic of the experience.


With such a complex project, the real value was to be involved right from the beginning, planning, testing and designing with the other collaborators from the outset. We looked at the bigger picture; how the story would work across the different areas, then analysed each interaction at a granular level, assessing how every element would meld together in real life.

And with a route which in total covered around a mile, we had to be sure that the whole experience gelled.

Each individual reaction was built first as a prototype and then tested with real people on location and then either refined or discarded if it worked or not.

There were months of testing. Calvium were great at producing prototypes of interactions that we were able to test rather than churning out something that we were then stuck with. It was a very responsive process.

Tim Powell, Digital Producer, Creative Programming and Interpretation, Historic Royal Palaces

“We were taking people on a route which required them to turn right and left at the right place, go down the right alley etc., across the road without getting knocked over and so it was quite a complex set of instructions without getting visual maps printed. But the whole event turned out better than we could have ever expected.” Said Tim.


The Lost Palace from Chomko & Rosier on Vimeo.

The project was commissioned in Winter 2015, and The Lost Palace tour launched in June 2016—an incredibly short turnaround time for such an ambitious project. Nevertheless, customer feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

“We conducted some visitor research after the event,” Tim says. “And there are three bits of feedback I’m most proud of. Firstly, we asked people to rate whether the experience was unique to other experiences they’ve had at visitor attractions, and the percentage of people who either strongly agreed or agreed was 93%.

“We asked whether the experience brought the history of this time and place to life, that was 92% strongly agree or agree. And then we asked whether the experience made them feel more connected to the past and the history, the results there were 90%.

“And personally, away from the customer feedback, the real joy was watching people on the tour. It was quite rich and quite strange, actually—the sight of 20 people clambering round an installation, touching an object to it and then being spoken to by William Shakespeare or Guy Fawkes or Elizabeth I was quite something. And the reactions of passers-by in Whitehall have been a thrill to watch because it’s been quite a spectacle. It really grabs the attention.

“It’s been a really special project; fantastic.”

The Lost Palace hasn’t only been enjoyed by the public. Professional body The Interaction Design Association shortlisted the project for the 2017 LxD Awards in the ‘engagement’ category. The Lost Palace was also the winner of the Innovation category at the Museum + Heritage awards – worthy accolades indeed!

For information on how we could help bring your cultural project to life, please get in touch

Calvium circle logo