All cities contain within them those that preceded them. One can try to trace them through their vestiges, but it is almost always an exercise reserved for the pleasure of the imagination. That is what 29-year-old Dutch technical artist Thomas Kole was doing — walking virtually through the streets of Mexico City — when he realized that nothing he observed would ever be enough to reconstruct that other city buried under today’s: the great Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec empire. Far from abandoning his endeavor, he dedicated himself to it completely and, a year and a half later, he has presented the most faithful 3D reconstruction of the ancient metropolis known to date. Without leaving home, Kole crossed the Atlantic to the past and landed, with the help of technology, in the Americas of 1518, the culminating moment in pre-Hispanic history.
“It was totally unexplored territory for me. I don’t even know how I came across the topic, there was no catalyst. But I think once you read something about it, you’re hooked. The idea settled in my head and it was impossible to get it out,” says the artist. Despite dedicating himself to programming, history has always intrigued him, and a couple of clicks here and there led to a project that made his fascination material. “Tenochtitlan surprised me in many aspects: its size, its organization, its structure. Very beautiful things have been written about it. Its natural condition, on a lake and surrounded by volcanic mountains, really piques the imagination.”