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2 minutes to read Posted on Wednesday October 4, 2023

Updated on Thursday April 18, 2024

portrait of Daniel Pletinckx

Daniel Pletinckx

Director , Visual Dimension BVBA

portrait of Lorena Aldana

Lorena Aldana

Head of External Relations and Advocacy , Europeana Foundation

The Twin it! campaign goes to G20 Summit in New Delhi, India

The G20 is the world’s leading forum for international economic cooperation and held its 18th Summit in New Delhi in September 2023. The Twin it! campaign was proud to feature in the ‘G20 Culture Corridor - Digital Museum’ as the European Union contribution.

A windmill
Virtual reconstruction of the castle domain of Leeuwergem in 1785, CC BY-NC-ND
Visual Dimension BV

The 18th G20 Summit took place in New Delhi, India, on 9 and 10 September 2023, bringing together Heads of States of 19 countries from across the globe and of the European Union. At the event, the Twin it! campaign proudly represented the European Union in the ‘G20 Culture Corridor - Digital Museum’, an international exhibition celebrating the physical and digital heritage of G20 members, with a 3D virtual restoration of an 18th-century windmill.

Read on to discover the fascinating history of the windmill of Elene, nestled near the town of Zottegem, Belgium. Its story sees it go from being an active oil and corn mill to a nearly ruined monument at the centre of a 3D digital preservation effort, and to it playing a role in the Twin it! campaign and the G20 Culture Corridor.

The unfortunate fate of the windmill of Elene

The stately home of Leeuwergem, built in 1425, still exists and is inhabited by its owner, baron Baudouin della Faille d’Huysse and his family. The stately home is located between the villages of Elene and Leeuwergem, near the city of Zottegem, Belgium. Historical studies allow us to visualise the evolution of the estate from the Early Middle Ages until today, and an interactive virtual reconstruction showing this evolution can be seen by the visitors to the stately home itself.

Virtual reconstruction of Leeuwergem in 1785
Virtual reconstruction of the estate of Leeuwergem in 1785
Visual Dimension BV
Virtual reconstruction of Leeuwergem in 1785

Back in the 15th century, almost all estates had their own windmill or watermill, and we know that this one owned a windmill before 1399. This wooden windmill was destroyed by the French troops in 1677 while conquering the south part of Flanders. A new windmill was built in 1762, this time in brick and in another location, not far from the village centre of Elene.

The windmill of Elene was operational until 1923. Due to its historical relevance and heritage value, it was registered as a monument in 1979, together with the surrounding landscape. A local citizen bought the mill in 1984 and had restoration plans made in 1985 by architect Pascal Mariman. Apart from some urgent stabilisation works in 1984, no further restoration was made.

The mill was bought by baron Baudouin della Faille d’Huysse in 2013 and new restoration works were planned. However, due to a change to the regional funding rules for monuments, the mill was not restored. To this date, no restoration has been made, besides some more urgent stabilisation works carried out in 2022. As a result, the windmill is in a severe state of disrepair, on the brink of becoming a ruin.

Current state of the windmill
Current state of the windmill
Daniel Plentinckx
Current state of the windmill

Preserving the windmill of Elene with 3D

In an effort to digitally preserve the windmill, in 2020 Visual Dimension BV (Belgium) made an animated 3D model based on the 1985 restoration plans by the architect Pascal Mariman. This work was part of a larger virtual reconstruction of the nearby stately home and its estate.

As the damage to the windmill is substantial and as precise dimensions for all its parts were available, the virtual restoration was made by 3D modelling using an open-source 3D computer graphics software called Blender. The work by 3D specialist Ander Ayala included animation of all moving parts, while photographs of the windmill in its current state were used for the material of the walls.

The 3D model was not only used in the interactive virtual reconstruction of the stately home but was also exported to Sketchfab (a 3D modelling platform) for use and access via To better illustrate how the mechanics of the mill work, a second version was made showing only the animated woodwork. The rotating top of the windmill has a unique design as it rotates on iron ball bearings. However, nearly all of the mechanics inside are currently in a dilapidated state.

The journey to Twin it! and the G20 Summit

In June 2023, the windmill of Elene became the core visual element of the Twin it! 3D for Europe's culture campaign launched by the Europeana Initiative and the European Commission to collect and showcase emblematic and high-quality samples of Europe’s cultural assets in 3D.

Windmills are iconic symbols of European landscapes and bear a profound historical, cultural and economic significance. They played a crucial role in the livelihood and development of Europe’s rural areas by harnessing the power of wind to perform essential tasks such as grinding grain and pumping water.

Throughout history, windmills have inspired art, literature and popular culture - from Van Gogh’s picturesque windmill representations to Don Quixote’s epic encounter with windmills in Miguel de Cervantes' classic novel. Today, windmills symbolise sustainability and the shift towards renewable energy sources.

Based on the Twin it! Campaign concept and imagery, the Europeana Initiative was proud to support the European Union in preparing its contribution to the cultural programme of the G20 Summit. The 3D virtual reconstruction of the windmill of Elene produced by Visual Dimension BV now features proudly as the European Union’s own digital heritage object in the ‘G20 Culture Corridor - Digital Museum’ , together with digital copies of famous paintings such as Girl with a Pearl Earring and the Mona Lisa provided by individual G20 members.

The Culture Corridor was inaugurated on 8 September by G20 Heads of State, including the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, and is now open to the public free of charge for wider access and enjoyment.

As the Twin it! campaign and the G20 Summit increase the visibility of and public attention towards the windmill of Elene, thanks to the work performed by Visual Dimension experts to digitally preserve it through advanced 3D technology, we hope for a fortunate twist of fate leading to its proper preservation for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.

Find out more

Stay tuned for more content on 3D in the dedicated Europeana Pro News series, and find out more about how Twin It! 3D for Europe’s culture is working to increase high-quality, usable and accessible 3D content in the common European data space for cultural heritage.