KING Toronto Virtual Reality Case Study
KING Toronto is a high-profile mixed-use urban redevelopment project, located at 533 King Street West, in an emerging area of Toronto’s city center.
This project is the realization of the combined visions of three leading companies in their respective fields - Vancouver-based luxury real estate developer Westbank, Toronto-based urban workspace developer Allied Properties REIT, and world-renowned architecture firm, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG).
A project of this scale and complexity demands the best tools for every step of the development process. This brief overview investigates the challenges of visualizing and understanding this unique property and how Outer Realm’s Virtual Reality (VR) product successfully addressed the need.
About the Project
KING Toronto is an ambitious project in scale, design and impact.
This is a big project in terms of sheer size. A large courtyard building, that engulfs 4 existing heritage buildings at lower levels, the building includes about 50,000 sq. ft. of retail space on the ground floor and 514 homes within the upper floors. It takes up nearly 600 feet of frontage along King Street.
Four building forms resemble mountain range peaks, with the forms offering the appearance of stacked cubes. The complex’s core is hollowed out to create a ‘valley’ within the topography – a large open public courtyard lined with retail.
There is even a major heritage component to this project: Along the King Street facade of the complex, several heritage structures will be retained and incorporated into the contemporary design.
All units uniquely have direct access to an exterior space, with the topography of the building providing private terraces for some of the larger units, while all of the other units have balconies.
There will also be ample greenery growing on the sides of the building, and terracings featuring trees and vegetation.
KING Toronto strives to be an example of how to use architecture to solve the challenges of urbanization. BIG’s design is suggestive of a Mediterranean mountain town. It is a reimagining of the community-building potential of Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67and an update on the glass-and-light innovations first exemplified in the Maison de Verre, in Paris. It integrates a completely redone residential community with pre-existing commercial properties on the site, and provides a new North-South pedestrian connectivity through this high-traffic area.
KING Toronto has the design and development ambition of becoming the very medium through which a sense of community can emerge.
The Communication Challenge
The project is not only architecturally intricate and unique, it also has to wow potential buyers as well as win the hearts and minds of the stakeholders who will be co-inhabitants of the urban space where it is located.
In order to communicate the beauty and effectiveness of the property’s unique design, the client created a public exhibition to showcase the project. However, the challenge was - how to actually showcase KING Toronto’s intricate, complex design in a way that anyone could not only understand but also connect with emotionally.
The developer had a lot of great renderings of KING Toronto’s interior spaces. But they were having a hard time capturing the extent and flow of the courtyard to lobbies and atrium spaces, views up to the vegetated, glass block facades, and relationships to the city context and existing heritage buildings. Single image views simply couldn’t communicate the full story and vision, and abstract diagrams left too much to the imagination.
There is only one solution that gets one as close to reality as possible without actually being built - Virtual Reality (VR).
Westbank partnered with Outer Realm to create a VR experience, so that stakeholders could be completely immersed in the proposed reality of KING Toronto.
Our team worked hand-in-hand with the architectural design team at BIG to create a compelling representation of their vision within our VR system. We created a true-scale VR world, so the size and designs of the courtyard space, grandeur of the atrium, integration of the heritage building, extensive vegetation, and other impressive design features could be experienced just as they will be in real life.
To further enhance the immersiveness of the experience, we integrated 3D ambient sounds like street car noises, human chatter, birds, plants blowing in the wind, and soothing piano music in the building lobby. Water features and an experiential fog installation were simulated within the courtyard to activate the space.
The KING Toronto VR experience was showcased at a week long-launch exhibition in Toronto, at 134 Peter St in Toronto (http://kingtoronto.com/exploring).
The showcase included a VR headset, a dedicated safe area for moving around in as well as a large HDTV next to it that showed onlookers what the viewer wearing the headset was seeing. Viewers were able to walk freely in the dedicated space in the real world and thus move around in the VR world too. They could point and aim to teleport to further destinations, or take a preset guided tour with points of interest controlled by a host outside of the headset.
The showcase was a massive success. The buzz grew loud and fast. Word got around that “You simply have to try the VR walkthrough”. Long lines quickly formed for people wanting to try to experience it themselves. It became a highlight of the exhibition.
Having seen the power and impact of VR in engaging stakeholders emotionally, Westbank immediately engaged Outer Realm on their other developments in progress. We look forward to helping developers everywhere showcase their visions of the future to the world.
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