Experiencing Architecture through Immersive Apps

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Experiencing Architecture through Immersive Apps

The Savannah Chapter of American Institute of Architects partnered with Geotourist, a location-based travel app, to provide an audio tour of Savannah’s Historic District. Architecture enthusiasts and visitors to the city can take the self-guided walking tour to learn about the architecture of the landmark district right on their smartphones.

Savannah’s Historic District was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966, one of the largest in the country. The district is surrounded by fine examples of buildings in the Georgian, Greek Revival, Gothic and Beaux Arts styles. The tour celebrates the contribution of local architects to the Landmark District, featuring their award-winning restoration projects and contemporary residential buildings in the city’s colonial-era squares. Also included in the tour are civic projects and government buildings that introduced new architectural styles from the 1970s to 1990s.

Through the app, AIA Savannah drives awareness of the work of its member architecture firms. Architects can reach a wider range of audiences, such as students, academics, historians, architecture and design enthusiasts on their smartphones. In addition to engaging with the local community, architects can extend their reach to visitors interested in architecture and design. Visitors looking to explore the city beyond the tourist sites can discover buildings that span educational, civic and administrative buildings that would not otherwise be in their itinerary.

The location-based app also helps architects tell the stories of their projects through immersive experiences. Users are guided through the city with digital maps. The app plays the audio guide for each site automatically, triggered by the user’s GPS location. Visitors can listen to the sites’ history and architecture while viewing the buildings, similar to viewing art in a museum with an audio guide. Instead of shuffling through guidebooks or searching the web on their phones for information about the buildings, users free up their eyeballs and experience the physical without distractions, as they listen to its story on audio.

The AIA Savannah tour includes a wide range of structures. The renovation of The Brice, a Kimpton Hotel, on Washington Square by Greenline Architecture demonstrates how a former livery and Coca Cola bottling plant was transformed to a sought after destination for locals and travelers.

Another highlight is the Savannah Law School, a renovation project by Lynch Associates Architects. Transforming a hospital built in 1819, the project received a Historic Preservation Award from the Historic Savannah Foundation.

Through another award-winning project by Lominack Kolman Smith Architects, Ellis Square was redeveloped from a dreadful parking garage to a lively civic plaza that brings locals and visitors together in an active-use modern square. A case study in how to involve the local community in a bold public-private development partnership, the project provides insight into the practice of architecture beyond design.

Architecture historians will be delighted to learn about original modern structures not closely associated with traditional Savannah architecture. One of those projects is the Palmer & Cay office building, designed by the firm Gunn Meyerhoff. Built in 1979, its Modernist style introduced the city to an aesthetic that was shaping skylines in other parts of the country at the time.

More information about the app and the tour that celebrates the contribution of local architects to Savannah’s architectural heritage is available on aiasavannah.org.

— Alp Gürsoy

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