Preserving history through virtual reality

In 2018, a student project brought the historical architecture and social history of the Gordon Wilson Flats to life with a virtual reality (VR) project.

The students from the Wellington Faculty of Architecture and Design Innovation developed a VR experience that recreates the flats. The VR experience is overlaid with the social histories of tenants who lived there from the building’s opening in 1959 until tenants were permanently evacuated more than 50 years later.

Led by the Dean of the Faculty of Architecture and Design Innovation, Professor Marc Aurel Schnabel, the project is designed to explore contemporary methods of digital heritage.

The video here is a preview of what users of the technology can expect from the full VR experience developed by Jessie Rogers, David Silcock, and Hannah Rushton, who have since graduated from the University.

The full VR experience lets users view the original plans for the building, interact with a 3D model of the flats, and explore the building itself.

While inside the building, users can switch between different views, seeing how the apartments would have looked in their prime and how they looked in 2018. It is also possible to ‘fly’ around the outside of the building to fully explore the Gordon Wilson flats from all angles.

Creating this VR experience involved extensive research, site visits, interviews with former tenants and computer modelling and programming. The students started with the original plans for the Gordon Wilson Flats, importing them into computer modelling software to produce a digital version of the original layout of the building.