“Elevates the art of HTML5” — Engadget

“Takes format to new heights” — WIRED

2012 | 3D browser-based documentary | subway installation | live remote radio show

HIGHRISE: One Millionth Tower re-imagines the urban landscape, with the magic of cinema, architecture, animation, and open-source web technology to transform a dilapidated highrise neighbourhood into a vibrant resident-led community. A documentary set in a virtual storytelling landscape.

More than one billion of us live in vertical homes, most of which are falling into disrepair. Here, highrise residents, together with architects, re-envision their vertical neighbourhood, and animators and web programmers bring their sketches to life. Visitors explore how participatory urban design can transform spaces, places and minds.

One Millionth Tower is a “hyper-local” documentary grounded in a highrise on Kipling Avenue in suburban Toronto, Canada, where the Highrise team worked with residents for over two years. Yet the hallmark problems that these residents face are found in highrise communities around the globe: deteriorating buildings; physical and cultural separation from the downtown core; poor access to social services and commerce; poor public transit and long-distance commutes, resulting in a reliance on cars and long travel times; little or no community play space for children; as well as no community space and fabric between the residential buildings themselves. One Millionth Tower suggests these problems can be solved — it just takes some imagination.

One Millionth Tower was also re-imagined into a subway installation with posters and silent films, exhibited for three months throughout the metro system in Toronto.

One Millionth Tower, produced by the National Film Board of Canada with Senior Producer Gerry Flahive, was the first documentary in the world to be built with the then-new open-source technology WebGL, which allowed for the creation of 3D environments directly in the browser. The technologists also worked with Mozilla’s technology called popcorn.js, which allowed for links to be embedded directly into video. The documentary relied on direct access to Flickr for photos, Google Streetview for satellite images of highrises around the world, and on Yahoo Weather to bring in the real-time weather conditions of the site in Toronto, Canada, which were then reflected in the environment the user experienced online.

Because of shifts in technology, the documentary is no longer accessible. Below are videos that illustrate what it looked like and how it functioned.



Trailer for HIGHRISE: One Millionth Tower (1m 05s).

VIDEO cutline: A screen recording of a walkthrough of HIGHRISE: One Millionth Tower (6m 53s).

VIDEO cutline: The co-creative, community-based iterative process of collective imagination between highrise residents, architects, animators, documentarians and technologists in the making of HIGHRISE: One Millionth Tower (6m 53s).

VIDEO cutline: The open technology and 3D modeling process of HIGHRISE: One Millionth Tower (3m 12s).

VIDEO cutline: International examples of tower renewal, with HIGHRISE partner and inspiration, architect Greame Stewart, HIGHRISE: One Millionth Tower (3m 24s).

VIDEO cutline: A demonstration of how the site and documentary works for HIGHRISE: One Millionth Tower (3m 24s).