Take a tour through a virtual Vancouver


A new art installation lets visitors take a virtual trip through the Vancouver of the past.

The work by Vancouver artist Stan Douglas takes the form of a cube. Visitors step into the cube, which is located in the atrium of the SFU Woodward’s building, and are immediately transported to a Vancouver that is both familiar and deeply strange.

The project, part of Simon Fraser University’s Cultural Programs, was co-created with the National Film Board of Canada’s Digital Studio (located in the Woodward’s building, in fact). As viewers literally walk within a small circle in the middle of the cube, their bodies “become the interface” (as is noted in the press materials). Two virtual settings, Hogan’s Alley and the Hotel Vancouver, are the subjects of the installation.

The former is a neighbourhood that was more or less demolished to make way for the Dunsmuir viaduct. Circa 1948 lets visitors walk through the alleys and through doorways into homes and speakeasies.


Now a Fairmont property, the Hotel Vancouver was used as a makeshift holding station for homeless veterans following the Second World War. Here, visitors can see what the hotel must have been like during the post-war period.


For both settings, Douglas and the Digital Studio took great pains to be as faithful to the original physical settings as possible, down to emulating the textures of wood.

Users can also approach glowing objects, and as they do so, hear pre-recorded voices tell stories and exchange dialogue from the era.

Time Magazine called Circa 1948 a “clue as to a possible future for storytelling” during its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival’s Storyscape program. Circa 1948 is also available as a 3D art app for iPad and iPhone, free from the iTunes App Store.

Circa 1948 is at SFU Woodward’s (149 W. Hastings St. until Oct. 16, Tues – Fri 1-7 p.m., Sat – Sun 1-5 p.m. Reserve your (free) spot online at whatson.sfu.ca.

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