Forbidden City: Revealed on the History Channel


The street level outer wall of Tribune Tower in Chicago has all kinds of masonry and architectural adornment embedded in it from famous places around the world. A bit of the Taj Mahal, a sliver of the Parthenon, a brick or two from The Alamo, a chunk of the Berlin Wall, etc. It’s historical bricolage, literally. And a little odd, too — a sidewalk cabinet of curiosities composed of loot from Tribune reporters on foreign assignments.

I get it, though. Make the foreign and faraway more accessible, touchable. A proxy for tourism.

Now get ready, dear readers, for this is where I make the jump between two seemingly unrelated topics and in doing so stun you momentarily into forgetting how ham-handed the juxtaposition is.

There’s a better way. On October 10, IBM and the Palace Museum will launch The Forbidden City: Beyond Space and Time, a multi-user, immersive, three-dimensional virtual world recreation of China’s imperial palace. It won’t give you the feel of cold rock (or the microbial film of a thousand tourist fingers), but it is very much related to the desire to reach out and encounter the exotic in an embodied way.

If you prefer old-fashioned coach potato-variety virtual tourism, consider tuning in to the History Channel this Sunday, Sept. 21* for the premiere of its documentary on the Beyond Space and Time project. The show is the parallel story of the building of the palace and its virtual re-building, the latter explicating the former. It’s an interesting lens through which to look at a place: architecture as socio-history.

Plus, I’m in it. So there’s bound to be unintentional humor, if not outright farce.

Forbidden City: Revealed
History Channel
Sunday, Sept. 21
7:00 PM ET

* This airdate is US only. History International will broadcast the show at 9:00 PM ET on Wednesday, Sept. 24. Other international airdates to follow.

UPDATE: The virtual world is live and can be found at

One response to “Forbidden City: Revealed on the History Channel”

  1. chris says :

    [Preemptive “nice sweater” comment]