Liverpool landmarks reimagined

Liverpool landmarks reimagined

Visitors will soon be able to experience iconic Liverpool landmarks – including one that was never built – like never before thanks to pioneering new digital experiences.

The University of Liverpool’s Professor Richard Koeck and colleagues at the Centre of Architecture and the Visual Arts (CAVA), have collaborated with organisations including Culture LiverpoolDraw and CodeDimension StudioImmersive Story Lab and RIBA North on research and development of mixed reality (MR), virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) projects. 

"We wanted to find new ways to engage audiences in interactive, immersive technologies, which will allow people who are interested in the architecture of the city to audio-visually perceive the city in unprecedented ways," Professor Koeck said.

The research is part of a broad scope of work at the University which harnesses the digital revolution and also draws upon our heritage to meet the challenges of today. 

Stepping back in time at St George's Hall

A collaboration between Culture Liverpool, Draw and Code, Dimension Studios, Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts and Pete Woodbridge of Immersive Storylab has developed a ground-breaking participatory and immersive MR experience. A prototype was developed for and tested in one Liverpool’s' most iconic heritage buildings, St George’s Hall, an intrinsic part of Liverpool’s UNESCO World Heritage Site - and will premiere to the public in 2019.

This work will allow visitors to be immersed in the famous court case of Florence Maybrick who was accused of poisoning her husband, and taken on a journey back in time to experience and feel what it was like to encounter Liverpool’s late Victorian prison and justice system. The prototype combined leading-edge technology, such as high-resolution volumetric filming and Microsoft Hololens, enabling visitors to see and walk up to seemingly living holograms in the building and incorporated live performances and interactions with characters from the past.

Immersive Storylab's Pete Woodbridge said: "Through this collaboration we've brought a number of different techniques and narrative mechanisms together, from games to film, to think about the how we can design storytelling experiences for the future. Mixed reality has enormous potential for enhancing the way we can interact with our cultural heritage and its really exciting to be part of such a groundbreaking project."

Actress playing Florence Maybrick and computer generated version of the character

Using augmented reality to experience Lutyens' vision

CAVA and Liverpool immersive technology company Draw & Code are also collaborating on a new augmented reality (AR) application designed to contextualise Sir Edwin Lutyens’ 1930s design for what would have been the second-largest church in the world, with the world's largest dome. Although Lutyens’ crypt has been completed, rising costs and the Second World War prevented the gigantic Cathedral to ever be completed – until now.

Using the latest mobile technology, such as sensors and image recognition, the project digitally reconstructed the cathedral on the site on Mount Pleasant. RIBA North supported the project by providing some of Lutyens’ original sketches and Dr Nick Webb, from the School of Architecture, provided input into the history of the cathedral.

Experimental virtual reality installation

Another project led by Professor Richard Koeck and Monika Koeck, created an interactive VR installation to allow visitors situated in Liverpool and elsewhere to immerse themselves into a high-resolution, 360 degree, stereoscopically filmed settings of the city. This was inspired by a documentary film Monika made as part of RIBA North’s opening exhibition Liverpool (e): Mover, Shaker, Architectural Risk Taker.

Professor Koeck wearing virtual reality headset

This experimental installation merged archive material with film footage shot at key architectural heritage sites, blending the past and present into a single user experience. Users of the immersive installation were able to navigate virtually between landmark buildings and architectural sites, from the Anglian Cathedral to the Liver Building on the city’s waterfront. The project was showcased at the city’s International Business Festival in June 2018.

These projects were supported by the University of Liverpool’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Pump Priming Fund.

We are immensely proud of what seems to be the world’s first volumetric, holographic, mixed reality experience for a building that is part of a UNESCO world heritage site. The lessons we are learning here and the impact from this will hopefully be considerable.

Professor Richard Koeck
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CAVA

The Centre for Architecture and the Visual Arts (CAVA) is a practice-based and multi-disciplinary research centre that is situated in the School of Architecture.