Abeona – Group 4

by Tobias Haefele

A building that has Italy inside

Our challenge subject is to create an immersive experience that is like travel but in a constrained / nearby place. For this, we imagined a (remote) location, similar to a hotel, with different rooms, that re-creates rotating specific locations, such as Italy.

We aim to inspire through a number of features and design concepts.

First, architecture. What makes places inspiring through awe? Vastness, and shapes that are “unusual” for buildings, like high ceilings, rounded corners that mirror the horizon and domes. We took inspiration from buildings such as Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the Tate Modern in London, the Holocaust Museum in Israel, the Zensation Electrofestival in Amsterdam as well as the Boston Aquarium. All of them convey a sense of awe due to an effective way of relaying space, similar to the way some natural locations such as the grand canyon do.

Thinking about how we can translate these into our concept, we were thinking of 19th century panorama paintings, such as The Hague Panorama Painting. They effectively combine the concepts described above, with technology (!) and optical illusions to create an immersive experience. Similarly, the Venetian casino in Las Vegas is following a similar approach, by having water, canals, gondolas as well as lighting inside that replicates natural daylight and different weather conditions.

Second, sensory input. We thought about what it is that inspires in travel. A key component to this is the new in the ordinary, i.e. different light, different smells, different sounds and observing other people doing things that are “normal” to them, but “foreign”, “new”, and stimulating /inspiring to the traveller. While the people side is difficult to re-create, we aim to work with smells, light, humidity, temperature and sounds to create an immersive experience that is modelled after the location we are working to allow our customers to emerge. Another key part of this is taste. We aim to provide food and drink that resembles the local culture, to do not have any distracting “reminders” of (American) life but engage all senses, providing something new and stimulating.

Third, the journey. A grounding part of every journey is having to wait for it, by physically bridging distance – be it via plane, train, car or even cycling or walking. We aim to re-create this by making our customers wait, and take the time to prepare for the journey they are about to embark in. While this might sound counter-intuitive, we aim to model a travel experience that requires them to be still for a short while of time before entering, so that they physically and emotionally “step out” of the ordinary life that they are normally part of.

Fourth, our experience aims to be new and unexpected. Through a limited online presence, we do not give away what exactly to expect. Similar to travel, a key part that makes travel inspiring is exploring, seeing and understanding new things, perhaps without explicitly looking for them or seeking them out. Therefore, we aim to re-create that sense of curiosity, exploration and excitement by keeping our rooms rotating often and adding twists that provide travellers with the unexpected.

Finally, we aim to inspire through the “sacrifice” overdelivery element. Since travel is a luxury that many cannot afford and is increasingly understood to be damaging to the environment ,we want to create an experience that resembles this, but is also distinct in ways “Real” travel isn’t (e.g. no booking / stress / worries about getting stranded etc.). Therefore, we want to inspire by bringing “travel back home” and encouraging clients to see the new in the familiar, and learning to re-discover their own understandings and assumptions of travel, the new but also the familiar.

At the same time, during these times in which travel is restricted due to coronavirus, a solution like ours is more salient than ever.

Link to milanote: https://app.milanote.com/1Jc37i15q3vi5B
Link to our slides: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/14bx_tJjU7RiQkm7Ly-sFYoKgIi3b_67VFlcG-2sfEz8/edit?usp=sharing

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Wanxi Yang March 25, 2020 - 9:47 pm

I love the idea. I think this is definitely a trend that people are attempting to do. Simulating a traveling experience is also very relevant now. If you can fully mimic the experience, it would be so helpful for many people who do not have the ability to travel far. I think you can definitely expand the idea. Why not travel to space that is non-available previously also? Maybe a tour of the Moon or something? Maybe consider using VR or AR? I’m not sure the current technology can achieve what you described fully, but it would be cool to see in the future.

Adam Moqrane March 25, 2020 - 11:38 pm

I think the idea is wonderful. As someone who is extremely productive to “chill background coffee shop noise” videos when I work, the simulation of different environments has many benefits which I think you could touch on more. Perhaps if some are for tourism/escape such as the national park or Italian inspired rooms, what kind of other benefits could you imitate so that it doesn’t end up being a knock off Las Vegas with various monuments around the world reformatted into a desensitised collection. I was surprised to see the section had allocated the same amount of size for all the different simulations, I think to make the project stronger, it might be work thinking through different experiences more carefully or offering a range so that you don’t just get out of an elevator and see the same size room with different decor, but maybe the backdrops themselves warrant different sizes to prove a bit more immerse/realistic. I would however love to see something like this in Cambridge!

Kongyun He March 26, 2020 - 4:16 am

I love the creativity of this project and I like the idea of combining architecture with sensory input associated with travel, which is certainly awe-inspiring. I wonder if the indoor projections and designs inspired by places around the world could be more abstract and take forms in art, lighting, or sculptures that inspire imagination instead of simulating the actual experience of being in that place, which could end up like Little Venice in Las Vegas.

Nynika Jhaveri March 26, 2020 - 8:07 am

I really appreciate the idea of travel without actually travelling which is especially relevant during the strange times we are currently living in. I wonder if the product could operate at different scales? Since the idea of a building is quite ambitious (albeit radical) – perhaps current technologies like AR/VR could be used to make the product more accessible to other people? Check out the apps YouVisit (geared for travel) and NASA’s Exoplanet Excursions (geared to planetary experiences)!

Emily Koch March 26, 2020 - 6:15 pm

I think this is a really great idea but I would love to see it expanded into the VR and AI world. I think this concept is really exciting and works on current existing institutions like amusement parks and cultural areas of big cities (i.e. Chinatown, little italy). In that regard would Virtual Reality be more exciting and innovative? Something to think about.

Vivian Zhou March 26, 2020 - 9:01 pm

I really liked this solution and think it’s a really creative way to bring awe-inspiring experiences to many users within a building or room! It can definitely serve a very wide population, from people who may not be able to afford much travel to those who can maybe afford it but do not have the time to spend in transit or aren’t healthy enough to travel. As you guys said, there’s also a very interesting current event application for this type of product. Obviously, and as addressed by you guys, one main obstacle that faces this product is the limitations of being confined to one building or room. This product relies heavily on visuals, whereas a lot of travel is interactive and experience-based, depending a lot on environment, context, and people. You guys have a great start to addressing this with your ideas for temperature/climate control, incorporation of scents, and more, but I wonder what other strategies there are for making this a truly immersive and genuine experience. I think it could be interesting to do some research on travel/booking platforms, identify what attractions and activities are most popular or recommended, and implement those as offerings on rotation.

Danielle Green March 27, 2020 - 3:19 am

I absolutely love this concept! With the current difficulties of travel exacerbated by not only coronavirus, but questions around overtourism, preservation, and general affordability, I believe there exists a need for more sustainable methods of exploration. I like the idea of an immersive experience replete with visual, musical, and olfactory sensations. I’m quite intrigued. I also like how you situated the exhibition inside of a skyscraper to allow for ease and facility of transitions.

I also really like the name and the deity it brings to mind as you stated in your video: the Roman god of “outward journeys and safe passage.” I’m a sucker for a catchy name with a meaningful backstory.

Do you think in the future, you could also bring VR into this space? I think you should entertain the idea as I can also envision this experience being easily replicated at home.

I don’t know whether you’re familiar with it, but there exists a ride at Epcot at the Disney World in Orlando, Florida with a similar concept. The ride is called Soarin’, and it’s an immersive experience that takes passengers on an overhead journey around the world. However, it’s a little bit different from yours as it’s more like a typical ride with motions, gyrations, and whatnot.

Ultimately, I feel very inspired by your work in every sense of the word.

Anthony DeNitto March 27, 2020 - 3:47 am

I think this is the perfect thing for a place like New York city, like someone said in class after I said that people would have to travel to this, too. I take it back. For the number of people in New York, it would serve a huge community of people who may not have the means to travel to a far away place. Having everything contained in one building is very practical, especially being able to control the climate. It reminds me of Eataly in a way, except more immersive.

Kate Travis March 30, 2020 - 9:37 pm

As someone who always wants to travel, but never really gets around to it, I think this would be a really cool thing to visit! I second a lot of the comments that say the more immersive you can make this experience, the better. There’s actually a really cool place in Montreal called the biodome, where you walk to each room and each room has a different ecosystem, with real animals and plants. Maybe finding a way to incorporate life into this (e.g. real flower bushes, and not just scents) could add to the immersive experience. I think you could also make this experience more high-end feeling by allowing people to book rooms in the building for a small group for certain periods of time. One of the worst parts about travel is the crazy crowds, so if you only have small groups come in, people can feel like they are experiencing the “best of” Italy.

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