Carleton University creates virtual tour of the Senate foyer, antechamber and chamber

Carleton University’s Stephen Fai, associate professor in the Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism and director of the Carleton Immersive Media Studio (CIMS), is using cutting-edge digital technologies to help the federal government document, rehabilitate and showcase the historic Parliament Buildings through a series of collaborative projects that add another layer to Canada’s 150th birthday festivities.

A virtual tour of the Senate foyer, antechamber and chamber — the first public component of the CIMS work — was launched at an event for politicians and the press near Parliament Hill on March 1. “Canada’s 150th anniversary is not just a time to reflect on the past — it is a chance to look to the future,” said Senator Leo Housakos, chair of the upper house’s Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration and chair of the Sub-Committee on Communications. “The Senate’s virtual tour combines both by using technology to open up our institution to the public. Now all Canadians can thoroughly explore the Senate, delve into its history and appreciate the vital work the institution has been doing since Confederation.” 

“This is a monumental achievement and we’re so happy to have worked with Carleton University to make it happen,” said Senator Jane Cordy, deputy chair of the Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration and deputy chair of the Sub-Committee on Communications. “There’s a lot of technical know-how behind this project, and Carleton students and their faculty supervisors had to put in considerable sweat equity as well. A lot of hard work, long hours and persistence went into developing this tour and we are grateful for their dedication.”

When major renovations begin at Centre Block next year and senators move into a temporary home in Ottawa’s former downtown train station, anybody with Internet access will be able to experience their iconic Red Chamber thanks to the CIMS tour. Visitors can enter the virtual building and watch 360-degree 3D animations that bring to life the chamber’s artworks and architectural flourishes, from paintings, sculptures and the speaker’s chair to the four demonic “grotesques” perched over the main door. They can click on hotspots to read or listen to stories about the provenance of these features. And they can view a building information model that reveals that physical substructure above the ceiling.

 This virtual tour, which the CIMS team created using 360-degree photographs, laser scans and photogrammetry of the exterior and interior of the building painstakingly captured during repeated visits over several months, offers a snapshot of the Carleton studio’s capabilities. And it hints at what else will be unveiled over the months and years ahead.

The virtual tour can be accessed here.