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Take a 3D tour of LA's hidden Batchelder chocolate shop

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The tile designer's most significant local work has been out of view for years

The exquisite 1914 Batchelder tile installation that covers the walls of the Dutch Chocolate Shop in Downtown Los Angeles is still not open to the public (read more about that here), but now anyone can virtually tour the LA Historic-Cultural Monument thanks to a 3D scan of the entire space created and posted online by Los Angeles photographer Craig Sauer.

As a 3D photographer, Sauer mainly works with real estate agents to scan residential interiors for listings, allowing prospective buyers to virtually walk through properties, but he’s been turning his attention to historic sites and significant interior architecture.

At the Chocolate Shop, nearly every square inch of the walls and pillars are covered in handmade, custom tiles from Ernest Batchelder’s famous workshop; it’s Batchelder’s largest commission, and many consider it his most significant.

Unfortunately, the landmark’s proprietor, Charles Aslan, has not been successful in his attempts to secure a certificate of occupancy for a restaurant he envisions. (The Department of Building and Safety requires a secondary exit; one solution would be to reopen a passageway to the Spring Arcade, but the owners of the two adjacent buildings have not been able to reach an agreement.) The space remains closed.

Sauer used a Matterport 3D camera and tripod to capture data in 360 degrees at about 50 locations throughout the space, which are marked by a circle on the floor (similar to the Xs in Google Maps Street View). The software stitches the data together in a 3D model.

Sauer made sure to take shots in front of each of the Chocolate Shop’s 21 murals depicting scenes of daily life in Holland. "I wanted to make sure there was a standing point where people could stop and look at them," he says. Some of the larger murals are roughly six-foot by five-foot and are made up of four-inch tiles.

It’s quite a comprehensive tour. Some of the only details missing from the sensory experience are the depth perceptions of bas-relief in person, the mysterious feeling of deep enclosure in a windowless space, and the stagnant air of a locked-up treasure, but if rumors are true, that might be changing soon.

You can also tour Sauer’s 3D scans of JK’s Tunnel near the LA River, the Angels Flight funicular, and the basement and lobby of the Barclay Hotel, among others.

You can visit the Dutch Chocolate Shop on August 20 with Esotouric.