Robin Dowden, our beloved director of New Media, leaves the Walker today, and as she’s been cleaning house, she has also been rediscovering little gems of the past. With the initiation of our campus renovation, it seemed like an appropriate time to look back at this project that recreated the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in a virtual reality context back in the late ’90s.
Created in 1995, the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) served as a predecessor for the current web’s WebGL, which allows for 3D modeling and manipulation online. The VRML version of the Sculpture Garden allowed for a self-guided tour of the area, giving the ability the navigate wherever you wanted at your own pace, something relatively new in 1998. There were obvious limitations, such as not having the ability to recreate the actual sculptures in 3D—they are 2D image placeholders, but at the time, it was rare to surf the web as something other than the semblance of flipped pages.
You can also read more about this project in an interview between Steve Dietz, former director of New Media Initiatives, and the artists/engineers Marek Walczak and Remo Campopiano here.