Forbidden City: Revealed on the History Channel

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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 www.beyondspaceandtime.org.