Campus & Community

Visual Arts Tech Major Creates an Architectural Tour of Hoboken Using Augmented Reality

3D model of DeBaun Auditorium
3D model of DeBaun Auditorium, located on the campus of Stevens Institute ofTechnology

If these buildings could talk, what would they say?

It’s a question Julia Phillips Guignard, a senior at Stevens Institute of Technology, has often thought about whenever she walks past a building in Hoboken, or takes a stroll through one of Manhattan’s famous neighborhoods across the river. 

The desire to bring awareness to the buildings she comes across was the inspiration for Guignard’s senior design capstone project: a book of photographs that takes viewers on an architectural exploration of Hoboken using 3D modeling and augmented reality.

“The photographs are coded to register with an application that acts as a camera. Through this application, a 3D model of the building or object featured in the photograph appears on the screen; and within the augmented photograph, audio that is registered to one of the images on each page tells a story about the building that I’m 3D modeling,” Guignard explains.

For the audio portion of the book, Guignard sought the expertise of the Hoboken Historical Museum for information and historical stories related to the 3D modeled buildings.

Robert Foster, the museum's executive director, says he was happy to participate in a project that presents Hoboken history using the latest technology.

"We are always excited when a student who is probably only a resident of Hoboken for a few years connects so strongly with the community and its 19th century built environment," says Foster. "We have never seen the concept of augmented reality adapted to the local architecture of Hoboken and hope to add Julia's project to our website and also be experienced when people visit the museum."

The Lowville, New York native, an avid photographer since high school, developed a fascination with the local architecture in Hoboken and New York City while at Stevens. The university’s location at Castle Point, offering incomparable views of the Manhattan skyline, is a photographer’s dream, she says.

As a double major in visual arts technology and literature, she continued to pursue her interest in photography, taking full advantage of Stevens’ close proximity to the iconic buildings and streetscapes of New York City. 

In Hoboken, she became intimately familiar with the mile square city through her photographer’s lens, capturing snapshots of landmarks such as the Maxwell Building, the Hoboken Terminal and the city’s historic row homes.

But Guignard didn’t have to venture off campus to capture a slice of Hoboken history. The founding family of Stevens, once the principle landowner of Hoboken, erected some of the city’s most historic buildings on the Stevens campus, including DeBaun Auditorium. Designed by Civil War architect Richard Upjohn, famous for the design of Trinity Church in New York City, DeBaun is home to the university’s performing arts.

Guignard’s introduction to augmented reality capabilities came from her 3D modeling classes taught by Christopher Manzione, visual arts and technology professor at the College of Arts and Letters. She began experimenting with 3D modeling using the Manhattan skyline as her subject and evolved to representations of her favorite buildings in Hoboken.

In addition to their educational applications, Guignard, a visual display intern at the Anthropologie retail store in New York City, says augmented reality and virtual reality technologies have the potential to become compelling marketing tools.

“IKEA has an augmented reality catalog where you put in a code and place the object that you want within the room you’re looking at.”

Guignard plans to submit her application to the Apple store so that her work can be accessible to a larger audience.

In the meantime, Guigard’s book of photographs is ready to be printed, and will be publicly displayed at Stevens Innovation Expo on April 27, 2016. Afterward, her book will find a permanent home at the Hoboken Historical Museum.