Old Post Office Becomes Digital Library and Projection-Mapping Canvas

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The Old Post Office, constructed between 1884 and 1887, is one of the most recognizable buildings in the City of Cambridge. The Mayor and Council Office of the City of Cambridge commissioned Toronto’s Westbury National to develop a multimedia show that would be projected onto the building’s one-of-a-kind façade with the goal of driving residents and tourists into the library and downtown.

Nominating Company: Westbury National, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Venue: City of Cambridge – Digital Library, Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
Project: City of Cambridge – Digital Library
Category: Venues & Public Spaces

BACKGROUND
The Old Post Office is one of the most recognizable buildings in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. Constructed between 1884 and 1887, the elegant two-and-a-half-storey stone structure was officially designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in
1983.

The building was a popular destination with local residents and visitors throughout the summer of 2018, though that arguably had more to do with modernity than history. The culmination of a seven-year, $14.9-million renovation, the Old Post Office reopened in July 2018 as the latest Idea Exchange location – a “digital library” and collaborative hub featuring creative studios, a reading room, discovery center, makerspace, and more.

To celebrate that highly anticipated event, the Mayor and Council Office of the City of Cambridge commissioned Toronto’s Westbury National to develop a permanently installed multimedia show that would be projected onto the building’s one-of-a-kind façade with the goal of driving residents and tourists into the library and downtown core.

CHALLENGES
The location for the projectors was the major problem with the project. The land had to be acquired, a structure had to be designed to withstand weather elements, theft, vandalism and of course the weight of the enter projection system. Electrical and Internet requirements had to be brought into the location of the structure that did not exist.

For the content side of the project, creating a “map” was difficult. Construction scaffolding blocked the front façade of the building and did not allow for a clear picture to be taken. Research online to find something as current as possible had to be done, which was not an easy task. In the end, the content team was able to create their map by “stitching” images they found and aligned the images with CAD drawings of the facade.

SOLUTIONS
Westbury technicians spatially mapped the building in the virtual environment, at which point the video content could be manipulated to match the architectural features of its façade down to the pixel. That high degree of precision is what enables the show to veer from a simple two-dimensional show to optical illusions, 3D effects, and unique senses of movement where the video interacts with the architectural features of the surface.

Westbury National City of Cambridge picRESULTS
The final 20-minute experience takes viewers on a trip through time, exploring the history and legacy of the building, the city, and the country using state-of-the-art technology – including Christie Twist image manipulation software – to interact with the building’s unique façade to create spectacular 3D and immersive effects. Some examples include the building becoming a digital volume meter that moves in perfect synchronization with the soundtrack, or a library scene where the spines of the books on a shelf become digitized in commemoration of the new digital library.

The show welcomed large crowds throughout the summer of 2018, and now, the city is considering where they can take the experience next in order to further highlight the historic building and its unique architecture while also enticing visitors to explore the new digital library that calls it home.

PROJECT PARTNERS
City of Cambridge

City of Cambridge – Digital Library won a DSE 2019 APEX Award in the Public Spaces category.

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