The installation Cyber City combines a virtual model with real elements of the city of Berlin and its history after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. Cyber City combines reconstruction, future planning and video material of cavities and access points to the historic underground of the city. At Potsdamer Platz the visitor literally steps through time and space of 50 years before. The Potsdamer Platz underground station and the nazi bunker nearby were subject of the archaeological study and provided a base for the recreation of the space.
The entrance to Berlin Cyber City is given by an area shot of Berlin to form the reference level to the real city, at the same time the area shot is the interface to the digital city model. The location on the area photo is coordinated precisely to the digital city model by using an electro-magnetic field tracking system. By travelling with the finger on the map the urban view is rendered in real-time and appears as the city façade projected on a large screen. The installation is based on two main perceptual surfaces. The horizontal plane, the table with the overview plan that corresponds to the ground of the physical world and the vertical plane, the large video wall embodies the city façade. The visitor gains both overview and insight to the urban situation.
The interactive installation Cyber City is an urban interface questioning East- and West Berliners on Berlin’s future development. The goal is to examine audience participation based on interactive media in architectural and urban planning discourses.
"Cyber City", let your finger do the walking
"Berlin - Cyber City" or How do I step into the virtual city?
This study is the first of its kind to examine audience anticipation and the use of interactive systems in public spaces. The fall of the Berlin Wall provided the impetus in 1989 for us to take a closer look at our city. The reconstruction of the former capital now reinstated presents a major challenge in urban planning and one for which no-one is prepared. We are interested in making the various plans accessible to the public as a virtual reality game. But how can we convey the complexity of urban planning to a large audience? The entrance to the "Cyber City" is an aerial shot of Berlin which is secured to a table and forms the reference level of the real city. We play the "let your finger do the walking" game and use an electronic thimble (Polhemus) to move around, show and visualise. The thimble is a sensory mechanism that conveys its positional data on an ongoing basis to the position detector secured underneath the table. The real location on the aerial photograph can thus be coordinated precisely in the computer with the 3D simulation of the city architecture. The visitor gains both an overview and an insight into the situation. The wall-high projection screen behind the table allows the visitors to follow their virtual trip through the "Tiergarten", past the Congress Hall (now the House of Culture) and the Reichstag. "And this is where we ought to be able to take a stroll through the Brandenburg Gate," calls out an enthusiastic East Berliner and is amazed when he finds he really can "drive through it, turn around and can then even fly back over it". The table is a metaphor for language and encounter which actually functions. At the international radio and television exhibition in Berlin in 1991 visitors are not discussing the new VR technology but rather what had happened in 1989 when the Wall fell. The virtual table turns urban planning into a discussion of the city that incorporates both past and future. The "Cyber City" can be compared in form with a video sculpture. Set up in a public space it consists of the two elements - a table and a video wall. There are only two main perceptual surfaces: the horizontal (the table with the overview plan that corresponds to the lie of the city) and the vertical (the large video wall which embodies the city facade). The observer becomes a stroller through a virtual film set.