Through a specially commissioned virtual reality reconstruction, visitors to Corning Museum of Glass can step into the dazzling world of the 1st Duke and Duchess of Northumberland in a sparkling recreation of the glass drawing room at Northumberland House, London. Visitors can explore every corner of this now-lost interior and see the mirrored glass panels come alive in candlelight and in natural daylight.
The Glass Drawing Room virtual reality reconstruction was designed as an in-gallery experience as part of the exhibition In Sparkling Company: Glass and the Costs of Social Life in Britain During the 1700s on view May 2021-January 2022. Initially planned to be installed as an Oculus Go experience in front of three of the surviving glass panels from the room, it was later replaced by a touchscreen version due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also can be seen now as an Oculus Quest experience and for Oculus Rift. The virtual reality experience is designed to be purely experiential, a visual and audio experience leaving the interpretation to the rest of the physical exhibition.
Designed for Hugh Percy, 1st Duke of Northumberland (1714-1786), by celebrated architect Robert Adam (1728-1792), the glass drawing room was subsequently altered and finally dismantled in 1874, before the house was demolished. It has not been seen in its original form for 200 years, until now.
The virtual space was developed using surviving glass panels and furniture from the V&A Museum and the collection of the Duke of Northumberland, as well as objects in the collection of the National Trust, The Corning Museum of Glass, and the architect’s original design drawings from Sir John Soane’s Museum.
Noho partnered with our friends MakeBelieve in Athens to create a virtual reality experience for the Corning team. After research trips to the V&A and other sites in London and Bath with all three teams, we began the production by connecting together on video calls to discuss progress and issues. Hara from the Athens team modelled details of cornice, pilasters, decoration and the main structure of the building. She then shared this material with the Dublin team, and both teams added furniture and chandeliers into the room.
There were many challenges to overcome in creating the experience. Nearly everything in the room is reflective, which is a challenge for the computer, which has to figure out mirrors reflecting mirrors, reflecting glass panels reflecting chandeliers etc. This all had to happen in a space that is lit during the day by daylight and by night by candlelight. John on the Noho team had to create several versions of the model to perform under different platforms and conditions. We looked to a multitude of sources for lighting references, materials and textures to create the room and even had to model the exterior so that the reflections and light within the room were as authentic as possible.
Through in-depth research, creative collaboration and a well-balanced mix of technical skill and creative know-how, we created a captivating experience that we are all very proud of.