2014 saw the UK, amongst many other nationalities, in contemplation of the anniversary of the outbreak of WWI in Europe. Our Games Design students at the Hull School of Art & Design have, as part of the discussions and remembrances taking place locally, attempted to recreate the City’s Paragon Station and the immediate surrounding spaces and architecture as it might have appeared in that year.
The heritage reconstruction above was developed for exhibition as an immersive 3D environment through which the public could manoeuvre (using the Oculus Rift VR/Virtual Reality head set) by our Final Year Games Design students as part of their Client Related Practice module.
The project was an extension of their Year 2 Interactive Environments & Level Design project which seeks to show how the technology used for games can be transferred into other markets such as heritage.
This valuable second year group project provides the students with opportunities, not only for further development of transferable 3D design skills, but extends and develops their research and communication skills and their ability to develop projects for real world spaces.
Previous projects have seen students work showcased as part of the Cultural Olympiad in Westminster, in Ferens Art Gallery, and last year’s recreation of Holy Trinity Church showcased in Trinity Church itself in the form of a “digital altar piece” during the city’s popular beer festival held within this great venue. … This years students are currently in discussion over a venue, the images and video in this post showing the project at the half way point in its development. Students build all the visible assets within the interactive environment from scratch, creating models in 3D digital software, and enhancing these creations with custom textures and lighting. By the end of the first semester the students had produced this video of the work so far… All techniques and processes as used in the Games industry toward which our students are aimed. Other elements explored include the creation of believable props and objects to populate the spaces… …and animated assets and interactive opportunities within the environments, …such as the train (above) that arrives at the platform in the video. Or the ability to climb on top of, push and pull elements of the environment (here allowing players to climb up scaffolding, collect tickets from a ticket machine – above – or shin up a drain pipe – below), By the time the students had done their first install of the project it looked like this: Students also showed the project later in the year (Sept/Oct 2014) at a heritage venue and introduced the project to the public in a more “immersive” format using their Oculus Rift technology… Also >HERE<
The reasons for running “live” heritage based projects with technology-oriented arts students.
The difficulty with engaging students in deeper research in an age of ease-of-access information, fingertip technology and the acceptance of new practices and new phrasing such as “Google-imaging” is less to do with any actual availability of information, and more to do with a simple will-to-engage beyond the third or forth page of a digital search engine’s results. Plus, the increasingly perceptible cultural shift away from library research and deeper reading, even away from print-based media, particularly with students who are often mislabeled as “digital natives” (i.e. those on courses serving technology oriented industries (web, games, graphics and 3D design etc).
The addition over the last few years of a heritage-oriented project into the year two curriculum of our Games Design course, one which sees the students creating reconstructions of local city spaces and connected historical environments using Games development technology, has begun to facilitate an attempt to counter this problem.
The non-digital research necessary for the development of a historical reconstruction of this type forces students to engage with the more traditional investigative processes (on which most information technology is modelled) such as library and museum archives, field trips and observational recording.
This marriage of traditional and technology based research activity mirrors the balance we try to achieve in the students studio practice.
These labour intensive heritage projects are run across two modules, with the first module looking at the students ability to juggle their understanding of what make an interesting digital environment (with regard to their own subject specialism), the second looking at the preparation for installation of the work (and subsequent “soft skills” acquisition) in a public space. All hopefully allowing the students to develop an awareness of the transferable skills they are developing as part of what they might see as a very focused specialism.
To date the projects have included recreations of:
- the city’s docks, including the area around Queens Gardens as it would have looked when still used as a dock at the birth of the 20th Century (shown as part of Hull Museum’s Connect/Create exhibition at the Ferens Gallery);
- the journey of an Iron Age sword from a Celtic Forge, via a Victorian antiquities collector’s study, to the “stacks” behind the East Riding museum (also shown as part of the following years Connect/Create exhibition);
- the journey of a Roman oil lamp from Mediterranean potter’s wheel to the ship that brought it to Britain (and selected to be shown in Westminster as part of the national Precious Cargo exhibition, and the Cultural Olympiad);
- Holy Trinity Church as it might have looked during its expansion in the medieval period (shown inside Trinity as a digital altar piece during their celebrated beer festival);
- an interpretation of the area surrounding Hull’s Paragon Station as it might have looked in the summer of 1914. This project brief has been chosen not only to reflect the national commemoration of the outbreak of WWI, but as part of the wider City of Culture engagement currently highlighted in the city. The students have shown their work in progress work to the public in a shopping centre in the city and developed it further throughout the summer ready to use the Oculus Rift virtual experience software to allow the public to fully immerse themselves in this heritage oriented digital environment.
- this years Year 2 project has seen our students develop a walk-through environment looking at Whitefriargate, Hull as it appeared in the 1960’s, this has been showcased to the public in St. Stephens shopping centre with a final version hopefully being exhibited during the Heritage open days at the beginning of their third and final year of study.
See also: The Trinity Project / Previous Heritage Projects
For more information, or if you have a venue that might wish to showcase our students projects, or a project in which you might wish us to collaborate, contact the New Media Dept at the Hull School of Art & Design, Hull. …