So, its happening… last week I time travelled and took a walk in turn of the century Luna Park! It was really exciting and gave me a huge boost that this project is really going to be amazing. It’s one thing to see the models of the buildings on a screen, but wearing the VR headset, you’re literally standing in the middle of the scene and have been teleported through time and space to turn of the century Coney Island. It also gave me the vision that what I am creating is actually a time machine. My hope is that as the viewer walks through and explores the virtual world, that they will be able to hit something on the controller to ‘jump’ to the next point in the timeline to see the architecture around them change.
I spent a day last week out in New Jersey visiting my friend Matt Laverty, who worked with me at Funny Garbage, and now runs his own studio Atomic Veggies, which is focused on VR. He works out of a coworking space in the old Bell Labs building, a cavernous space designed by Eero Saarinen. After spending years in disrepair and being abandoned, the whole campus is being revitalized as a 21st century tech hub.
Interior of the Bell Labs Building
I wish I could show you what it was like to really stand there in the middle of Luna Park, but it was truly magical. In the meantime, here’s some of the work on the models as it is unfolding. Matt and I are working on texturing the buildings as well, but right now the models are the main focus. Stay tuned for more soon!
It’s been hard to keep my mouth shut the last two months, but I am finally able to announce that I will be spending the next 3 months as a Resident at TED, working on a project to recreate turn of the 20th century Thompson & Dundy’s Luna Park in VR, with an accompanying TED talk in June.
This is the next step in the evolution of a project that I have been working on on and off for over 20 years, since I first went the NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program in the mid 1990’s. Back then, I created a series of Quicktime VR panoramas of Luna Park, and then a few years ago when 3D printing became widely accessible, I rekindled the project to produce a 3D printed model of the park that was exhibited in the Coney Island Museum. This upcoming phase will be focused on recreating the entirety of the park as a VR experience which will allow viewers to explore the park firsthand. It is my hope to share the models under a Creative Commons licence that encourages others to use virtual Luna Park and encourage its use as a virtual meeting place in the future.
There are several themes I am thinking about in regards to the TED talk I will be doing in June, but the general idea I am working with is about the history and legacy of technology as entertainment, specifically Luna Park’s role in defining everything we do for amusemnt today. Luna Park came out of the golden age of world fairs, a time when attractions in the 1897 World Columbian Exposition were effectively the physical manifestation of a memory palace containing all of man’s culture and knowledge. It was the real world embodiment of everything Google is for us today. The park was not only a showcase for fantastical, otherworldly architecture, it transported the melting pot of American immigrants to exotic locales around the world, even to the moon, anticipating what the future of entertainment would be like. Electricity, phonographs, motion pictures, infant incubators, simulation rides, they all began at Luna Park. I cannot wait to virtually resurrect it and share it with the world!
A screencap of the Luna Park VR prototype, with cell shaded rendering style
Its not just a Beatles song… the Helter Skelter was a slide ride at Thompson & Dundy’s Luna Park in Coney Island from about 1907-1915. Its the next part of the model I will be 3D printing to tie together the two pieces of boardwalk I have already completed. I’m starting to grapple with how much the park changed year to year and how the main court of the model will be laid out. Its also curious how many color variations existed amongst postcards that were made as the Helter Skelter is one of the most popular of all postcards of Luna Park . Theres a bit more work to do, but I can’t wait to start printing it!
Today I am setting up a display in the Manhattan Makerbot Store windows. The windows will feature some of my favorite 3D portraits and a smaller version the Luna Park Tower. The work will be there for the month of July and I will be speaking there on July 10. To attend or find out more, click the photo or visit http://www.makerbot.com/blog/2014/06/26/makerbot-innovator-session-fred-kahl-speak-nyc/
I’ve got a new art project in the works! My goal is to do 3D renderings of old Coney Island architecture and then print them with a 3D printer. I’m almost ready with my model of Luna Park’s main tower- the first of several Luna Park buildings to be created. My focus to begin with with be Luna Park as Frederic Thompson was one of my architectural idols, but then Dreamland, Elephant Hotel, Parachute Jump… who knows?
Now what 3D printer to get? I’m really rooting for the Brooklyn based Makerot, but the 5x5x5″ build area means a model like this will have to be printed in segments, which is a little bit of a bummer.