Virtual Pilgrimage

This exhibit by students Martín Mazzeo and Xi Wang uses an Oculus Rift headset to offer visitors a virtual experience of the Old North staircase as a self-contained world. The proportions and measurements of the virtual model reflect the physical dimensions of the building. But the virtual world is not the same as the one outside.

Inspired by the surrealistic drawings of M.C. Escher, where stairs loop back on each other in never-ending spirals, the virtual staircase invites you on a pilgrimage to worlds beyond. The installation relates to Old North’s architectural structure, as the ornaments of the staircase are considered one of the main features of interest in the building, along with the Mosler paintings. Visitors use the headset and a gaming controller to navigate the stairs starting on the ground floor and moving up to the 2nd floor, experiencing the space and the paintings in a different way.

The discussion becomes one of how to tweak the principles of architecture using the illusions that the artistic medium provides. The artistic media used for this exhibit are the 3D modeling software “Blender,” to generate the stairs structure and textures, and “Unity,” to create a first person character that can walk and jump within the model.