Friday, February 22, 2008

The Virtual White City and visualizing absence in the built environment

Today I stumbled upon this article in the Chicago Tribune about a new virtual reality exhibit at the Museum of Science & Industry featuring the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 which has come to commonly be known as the "White City" due to its massive classically styled buildings executed in white plaster (that ultimately led to the style of the 1904 Worlds Fair that we here in the Lou so love to worship).

The virtual reality presentation was created by Lisa Snyder of UCLA's urban simulation team using photographs, plans and maps of the exposition. One sentence in the article jumped out at me, and that is: "the technology normally is used to record buildings, streets and infrastructure as they exist now, giving planners a way to visualize tearing down or restructuring the areas".

I thought to myself - wow wouldn't it be nice next time someone proposes to demolish the next landmark building to have this technology at arms reach to present to the powers that be what an awful idea it is to allow this to occur? I would think that in many cases this could be a very powerful tool.

You can check out some of the virtual reality of the Chicago exhibit here.


Anonymous said...

In what context would the argument against demolition be able to be made? It seems that the relationship of a landmark building to some (presumably desired context by preservationists and urbanists) would be the true value, and not simply a detailed digital model of a landmark building unto itself. Something on the order of what Google Sketchup does with Google Earth would certainly allow a visual and interactive catalog of threatened areas and artifacts. Interesting.

Tony Barsanti said...

Mr. Hohmann,

I find your blog very interesting and was hoping to get in touch with you for an interview. I am a student at Webster University and am doing a documentary focusing on the re-development and re-population of the city—I am trying to include as many perspectives as I can and as an architect you could bring something very useful to the table. If you are at all interested in helping me with this project you can e-mail me at Please do so however as soon as you can, since I am trying to get releases signed as early as possible.


Anonymous said...

I'd love to see your finished documentary Tony. It's something more people should be doing.

Anonymous said...


A documentary like this could be shown at an upcoming Drinks & Mortar or similar event, and a link could be made available from select blogs. This could be a good thing.