The first time Stephen Fai laid eyes on Parliament Hill, he was heading to architectural school in Ottawa. Having grown up on the Prairies, he had never seen anything quite like the tall, stately Peace Tower and the surrounding complex.
Blown away by the sight, his first reaction was to turn to his girlfriend (now his wife) and ask her how to say, “That is a beautiful building” in French.
More than 30 years later, Dr. Fai is director of Carleton University’s Immersive Media Studio. It is a digital playground where architectural dreams can be conjured up out of the ether of virtual reality – and where the Canada’s Parliament Buildings have found an extraordinary second life.
With the Centre Block due to shut down this fall for a decade-long makeover, and the House of Commons and the Senate moving to temporary digs in the West Block and the nearby convention centre, respectively, preparations are well under way for the mother of all renovation projects. But even before the contractors get to work, Dr. Fai and his team have been busy with a suite of high-tech tools capturing every detail of the building so it can be recreated as a digital model that will serve as a reference for the project.