Boardman Hall VR
The first in a series titled “The Osiris Project”, this VR experience uses the last few remaining photographs of Boardman Hall, a demolished 19th-century landmark once in the center of Cornell's campus, to accurately recreate the space. VR offers a unique chance to properly experience architecture as the architect intended. The viewer gains a special opportunity to feel like they are inside of the space instead of simply viewing faded photographs. This allows the viewer to understand the context of the human form in relation to the building. In a way, VR recreations like this are the closest we have to time travel!
The History of Boardman Hall
In 1892, Boardman Hall, designed by William Henry Miller, served as the home for Cornell University's Law School. The building was a response to the university's excitement around the success of Miller's neighboring building, Uris Library. Unfortunately, the building was demolished in 1959 after the university began to run out of room for its growing library collection. Miller’s iconic Richardsonian Romanesque-style buildings, now dotting all across the Cornell and Ithaca landscapes, are known for their vaulted ceilings, intricate brass work, and use of a local stone known as "Llenroc."
The Research Process
After a year of searching archives, private collections, and public records, only 5 photos of the interior space were uncovered. All of these photos were monochromatic. As a result, surviving furniture, elements of other buildings on campus, and artistic intuition served as the basis of material selection and coloration. A special thanks and appreciation to the Cornell Rare Manuscript Library, The History Center in Tompkins County, and The William Henry Miller Inn for their help with this process.
The Modeling Process
I began the task of digitally modeling the original structure, fixtures, and furniture found in the 5 remaining photos of the hall. Every element in the scene had to be made from the ground up. The sequence to the left shows an example of the process of designing a table. Using the reference photo, the table is designed as a wireframe model, rendered to ensure correct shading, and then UV mapped with images of materials likely used in the original building.