Aalto University, Department of Media has produced a virtual reconstruction of the Finnish Pavilion at Paris World Fair in 1900. The reconstruction is a three-dimensional, digital installation presented in virtual reality environment. Wearing circular polarization glasses and using a mouse the visitor is able to access a space created using stereoscopic display. The virtual model of the pavilion can be examined both inside and outside. Spatial sounds are used to make the experience feel real, as if one were moving inside a historical building.

So far the virtual reconstruction has been publicly on display as part of the following events:

  • Pavilion, Jyväskylä, Karelian League summer fest, 16–18 June 2017
  • Design Museum, Helsinki, permanent collection, from 17 January 2017 on
  • National Archives, Helsinki, Pro Finlandia exhibition, 3 December 2014 – 18 June 2015
  • Gallen-Kallela Museum, Espoo, Akselin aarteet (Akseli’s Treasures) exhibition, 21 September 2012 – 12 May 2013
  • Lucca, Italy, Lu.Be.C. 2010 exposition and conference, 21–22 October 2010
  • Design Museum, Helsinki, studio space, summer and fall of 2010
  • Instituto Tomie Ohtake, São Paulo, Estrelas do design finlandês exhibition, March 2010
  • Design Museum, Helsinki, Fennofolk – New Nordic Oddity exhibition, 11 June – 28 September 2008

The short movie presenting the pavilion was part of the Akseli Gallen-Kallela exhibitions of Museé d’Orsay in Paris and Museum Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf in the spring of 2012.

Inside the pavilion model there are digital three-dimensional replicas of some artifacts that were exhibited in Paris. At the time they represented the best Finnish design, construction and crafting skill. The building was drawn by architects Eliel Saarinen, Herman Gesellius and Armas Lindgren.

The reconstruction process has been challenging since a great part of the artifacts shown in Paris in 1900 were destroyed after the exhibition. For example the frescos in the ceiling painted by Axel Gallén were not preserved. In the reconstruction process photos and other historical material have been used as aids to find out how the pavilion might have looked.

In addition to Aalto University, the University of Applied Sciences, Metropolia has also been involved in the project. The first part of the work was developed through HandsOn, a research project funded by TEKES Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation. In HandsOn new concepts, methods and metaphors for interaction in virtual reality environment have been developed.

In the reconstruction project new possibilities to present content in three-dimensional  virtual reality environment in a museum space were examined. We have aimed at creating an understanding of how an installation like this fits in a space with a large amount of various kinds of visitors. Furthermore it was cultural-historically important to create a model of a building that does not exist anymore and that is significant from the point of view of Finnish national identity.