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  • Writer's pictureM. Huijgen

The Urban Tour Recipe

Updated: Feb 27, 2020

TXT Maytal Huijgen | IMGS Maytal Huijgen

[about my New Leyden fetish and Augmented Reality]

New Leyden, the Dutch edition, touring the neighbourhood on a Tuesday midday
"New Leyden", the Dutch edition, touring the neighbourhood on a Tuesday midday

"Architectural books should not just be about landmark facades, but they should also provide almost a walk-through experience plus background information on the architects as well as particular challenges, unique solutions, and materials in the building process." - Sven Ehmann, Creative Director at Gestalten Publishers

Some may say I have a slight (healthy!) obsession with the story of Nieuw Leyden. The book "New Leyden - Recipe for Urban Living", written by @annemariesour and published by @nai010, is describing the "behind the scene" of one very special neighbourhood in the city Leiden, designed by MVRDV Architects.

In a rare, complex and brave operation, Leiden's municipality together with MVRDV has transformed an unpleasant, deserted industrial area into a brand new living environment. The revolutionary planning of the neighbourhood gave residents the independence to design their own homes, within an architectural grid that allows affordable housing, in a community area free of cars. 

My fascination with the neighbourhood stems from two reasons: one would be my great interest in architecture, the second would be me living right next to it. My understanding of architectural thinking has broaden during my 2 years as the Graphic Editor of the Israeli edition of Domus, the renowned Italian Architecture Magazine. Designing architectural content demands a good understanding of each project's planning principles. Understanding them allows presenting their story in a more readable way.

One of my great joys while designing a Domus article was writing image captures. Without the capture, the image was an impressive visual, but with the capture, the image became a story-teller. Very much like reading explanations hanging next to artworks. Exposing the needs, ideas and the realisation challenges behind a beautiful house or a park magnify the way we experience them much more than by only looking at them. 

The Urban Tour Recipe

If printed images can serve as story-tellers, why can't the actual surrounding do the same? If information can be added to streets, buildings and monuments, why not to a complete neighbourhood? The content of "Nieuw Leyden" can be edited and presented on location, telling the story of this inspiring project. And while the traditional way would be to suggest printed signs or booklets, I would like to suggest a different way.

a bilingual tour-app for the Wilfrid Israel Museum
a bilingual tour-app for the Wilfrid Israel Museum / the app was designed by my studio to be used on the at-pace iPads and available for download for home view

In the past few years, more and more informational tours are being created for targeted mobile outputs. The digital tours have a few meaningful advantages: they allow the readers to experience the information in their own pace and convenience; they are always up-to-date; they allow clickable links to extra information, and they allow enriched digital content such as audios, videos and slides.

Respectively, there are several digital features that can enrich the touring experience for this specific content: having it on their mobile phones, the visitors will be able to walk through the neighbourhood at any time; they will have up-to-date images of the houses and the park; there can be links to all the architects involved in this project; the tour can have explaining audio files and layered drawings of the plans. Another very suitable option is combining Augmented Reality in the story-telling. 

web-tour for the Van Gogh Museum's collection "Van Gogh Highlights
The beautiful web-tour for the Van Gogh Museum's collection "Van Gogh Highlights - The Letters", designed by studio Fabrique / the digital catalogue of the collection is offering many enriched features such as social network sharing, co

Augmented Reality

While Virtual Reality is experienced by wearing a designated helmet creating a restricted, made-up world, Augmented Reality (AR) can be activated with a mobile phone, displaying layers of information mixing with the existing environment. The added layers can be texts, images, audios and videos, triggered by an image or code.

cover of "Augmenting Alice" by Galit Ariel
Cover of "Augmenting Alice" by @galitariel / Integrating digital layers into the real world

AR adds great value for experiencing the urban tour's content. Which content would be displayed and in what way, are decisions that should be taken during the editorial editing-process.

2020 will mark the 15ths anniversary for launching New Leyden. @mvrdv and @nai010 - are you in?

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