In recent times we are witnessing a steep increase in the availability of data coming from real–life environments. Nowadays, virtually everyone connected to the Internet may have instant access to a tremendous amount of data coming from satellite elevation maps, airborne time-of-flight scanners and digital cameras, street–level photographs and even cadastral maps. As for other, more traditional types of media such as pictures and videos, users of digital exploration softwares expect commodity hardware to exhibit good performance for interactive purposes, regardless of the dataset size. In this thesis we propose novel solutions to the problem of rendering large terrain and urban models on commodity platforms, both for local and remote exploration. Our solutions build on the concept of multiresolution representation, where alternative representations of the same data with different accuracy are used to selectively distribute the computational power, and consequently the visual accuracy, where it is more needed on the base of the user’s point of view. In particular, we will introduce an efficient multiresolution data compression technique for planar and spherical surfaces applied to terrain datasets which is able to handle huge amount of information at a planetary scale. We will also describe a novel data structure for compact storage and rendering of urban entities such as buildings to allow real–time exploration of cityscapes from a remote online repository. Moreover, we will show how recent technologies can be exploited to transparently integrate virtual exploration and general computer graphics techniques with web applications.