ROM uses 3D imaging tool to preview renovation

Although the ground has not been broken on the Royal Ontario Museum’s Renaissance revitalization project, three Canadian Film Centre grads promise the public a tour of the$68 million

addition within two days.

The Canadian Film Centre’s new media facility, Habitat, has developed an architectural visualization tool designed to give architects and the public a way to see how buildings will interact with their surroundings before they are constructed.

In_situ is a prototype physical computing device that uses 3D imaging and live video to render a street-level view of a future construction, explains Greg Goralski, who created In_situ together with fellow Habitat graduates Maclin Williams and Sheila Farragher.

The tool will be used for the first time on Thursday, when it will give ROM officials and its guests the first glimpse at how the proposed museum renovation — an addition dubbed The Crystal — will change the landscape surrounding it.

“”It takes a live video image of the space as it is now from a mounted camera and presents that image onto the screen,”” Goralski explains. “”A 3-D image of the planned renovation is then placed overtop the live video to give the impression that that building is right in front of you, surrounded by the live street scene.””

In_situ also features tilting and manipulation of the projected image, allowing the viewer to see the building within its environment from many different angles and viewpoints, he adds.

It seemed like a good way to introduce the public to The Crystal, says Brian Porter, director of new media resources at the Toronto-based ROM, because he says the planned structure is unlike anything Toronto has seen so far.

The Crystal, a creation of German architect Daniel Libeskind, is described by the ROM as a series of interlocking prismatic forms inspired by the museum’s mineralogy galleries. The addition will house new galleries, cafes and restaurants and is part one of the $200 million Renaissance ROM revitalization project expected to be completed in late 2006, ROM officials say.

“”We’re going to be building an extraordinary structure that we know is going to significantly change the landscape of the city and the corner we’re situated on,”” says Porter.

The unusual look of the addition was what first attracted the students to The Crystal and made them think of it as an ideal first site for the demonstration of In_situ’s capabilities.

“”It has a very different look from street level then from the high view that you get from the existing model. It is really surprising how it interacts with the sidewalk, how it overhangs part of the entrance. And it does give a very different feeling to the intersection than you would expect,”” says Goralski.

Because In_situ allows the architect the first chance to break away from the small-scale building model, says Porter, it stands to fill a previously ignored industry.

“”By using digital imaging, In_situ takes the traditional model one step further and puts it in a realistic setting. It gives people an opportunity to see something in a new way,”” he says.

Although In_situ is still in the prototype stage, Goralski says the students have already entered into preliminary talks with architects, development companies and fund-raising firms interested in purchasing it. He does not, however expect the technology to be mass-produced anytime soon.

“”We’re seeing it as a pretty custom, site-specific piece. We do have some associations with tool and dye shops that can produce these on a limited scale,”” he says.

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