UNESCO, in partnership with World Monuments Fund (WMF), sent a team of experts from the University of Cape Town led by Prof. Heinz Rüther to the Stone Town of Zanzibar World Heritage property from 28 January to 2 February 2021. They  are undertaking 3D data collection at the historic House of Wonders building, which partially collapsed on 25 December 2020, as part of an in-depth survey and condition assessment.

The mission team has captured metrically accurate spatial data using laser scanning, drone and terrestrial photography for photogrammetry, panorama photography and satellite images to ensure a high degree of accuracy. It is using the latest equipment to determine the presence and quantities of deformations at the House of Wonders. “All data captured will then be processed to generate 3D models, sections, plans, elevations, panoramas and panorama tours which will then be used to create site animations and interactive virtual worlds,” said Prof Rüther.

“This is the first of three technical missions planned by UNESCO as part the emergency rehabilitation efforts underway,” said Mr. Tirso Dos Santos, Head of the UNESCO Office in Dar es Salaam. For the second mission, a team of architects and structural engineers from WMF travelled to Zanzibar to carry out an on-site condition assessment of structural damage and specify emergency stabilisation.

“UNESCO will continue to work closely with the State Party of the United Republic of Tanzania and the authorities of Zanzibar, the Sultanate of Oman, and other partners to assess and document essential information of the building in view of supporting efforts to develop a comprehensive approach for the rehabilitation of the House of Wonders and the safeguarding of the Stone Town of Zanzibar World Heritage site,” said Dr Mechtild Rössler, Director of UNESCO's World Heritage Centre.

The House of Wonders is a historic landmark in Zanzibar and an emblematic edifice in East Africa. It is a central component of the Outstanding Universal Value of the Stone Town of Zanzibar which was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000 as a fine example of the Swahili coastal trading towns of East Africa. Stone Town retains its urban fabric and townscape virtually intact and contains many exceptional buildings that reflect a particular culture that has brought together and homogenised disparate elements of African, Arabic, Indian, and European traditions over more than a millennium.