While GSD students, faculty, and staff have learned and worked virtually for over a year, the GSD’s Fabrication Lab has brought Gund Hall to the 3D virtual world, with Virtual Gund Hall. Digital Fabrication Analyst Christopher Hansen and a team of students designed the immersive GSD campus experience, which enables viewers to visit and engage with Gund Hall and the GSD’s surrounding campus and buildings. For new students who have not yet experienced the GSD in person as well as community members who are feeling nostalgic for campus, the team hopes “that this project serves as both a gift and a resource for the GSD community, wherever you may be in the world.” Since its launch, the site has gained an international following of prospective students and Gund Hall aficionados.

Enter Gund Hall through the Quincy Street entrance

Enter Gund Hall through the Quincy Street entrance

Virtual Gund Hall provides a chance for alumni to explore a collection of spaces and things that help make the GSD unique, relive their days in the now-vacant trays, and view an exhibit on Sert in the Druker Design Gallery. Guests can experience Piper Auditorium with its gold curtain, glowing audience, and sparkly Sarah M. Whiting, GSD Dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture. 3D scanning of Dean Whiting was not possible with social distancing guidelines in place, so she was resourcefully modeled after publicly available images. With her glittery persona, the creators’ added a layer of abstractness that aligns with their interpretation of the Gund Hall scene. Also, visitors can look out for the glowing orange cat that represents Remy, the Humanities Cat, who is known for roaming around the Harvard campus and his popular visits to the GSD.

Virtual Gund Hall was created using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, a real-time 3D creation platform for immersive experiences. Hansen received a grant from the Epic Games MegaGrants, which funded the initial phase of the project. According to Hansen, “Unreal Engine is like a big sandbox, as it is able to accept content from various platforms. We imported 3D models, animations, images, audio recordings, and 3d scans into the platform to create this virtual scene.” The development was easier than anticipated, with the whole project taking about three months. Four students work with Hansen: Mira Xu MDes ’22, Angela Sniezynski MArch ’21, Jon Gregurick March ’21, and Emily Majors MArch ’23, with additional support for content coming from the Loeb Library, the GSD’s Innovation Task Force, Student Services, Kirkland Gallery and other GSD researchers, faculty, and students.

 

The GSD Community has embraced Virtual Gund Hall both inside and outside the classroom. The virtual scene was part of the GSD’s Spring 2021 Virtual Open House to give prospective students a chance to “walk the halls” of Gund, since the campus was closed for in-person visits. In the virtual classroom, Stubbins was converted into a gallery for the final project in the course “Materials,” taught by Jonathan Grinham’s DDes ’17, Lecturer in Architecture. According to Grinham, “The high level of detail of the environments in Gund Hall made it a valuable tool to experience the students’ designs and also for guests to participate in the final review.” The final assignment provided students with a glimpse into the critical societal issues around building materials. Instead of building physical stools as in past years, the students designed chairs with the furniture company Steelcase. After students explored the amount of carbon emitted from making a chair, the source of the materials, and the social impact of these materials, they were tasked with redesigning the Steelcase chair to reflect new environmental design concepts. Virtual Gund Hall provided opportunities for designers from Steelcase to experience Gund Hall and join for the final review.

 

With further investment in the project, Hansen would like to implement more functionality, including enabling multiple users, incorporating the live streaming of videos/audio, and featuring a higher level of interactivity. You can visit Virtual Gund Hall at this link.