The “Haus der Wildnis” or House of Wilderness, the visitor center for the Dürnstein Wilderness Area that opened in 2021, wanted to use modern technology to provide unique insights into the largest primeval forest in the Alpine arc. vrisch implemented a total of five installations for the House of Wilderness.
About the client
The Dürrenstein Wilderness Area is home to one of the largest primeval forests in Central Europe and is a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. Only about 50 people are allowed to enter the primeval forest each year. For the most part, this privilege remains with researchers.
The task of the newly built visitor center in Dürrenstein, the House of Wilderness, is to educate visitors about the value of wilderness and the importance of preserving and protecting wildlife habitat.
The client decided to use technology as a bridge between man and nature.
Dear Axel! Dear Gabs! Dear vrisch team!
WE HAVE WON! the Tourism Award Lower Austria 2022 in the category "Digitalization"!
For this we would like to thank everyone, but especially you, for the good cooperation and the great support! Without you, we would not have been able to implement our ideas and make it possible for our visitors to experience and understand the primeval forest habitat. Thank you very much! This award is a community award!
— DI Katharina Pfligl, Head of House of Wilderness, Natural Area Management, Austrian Federal Forests AG
Time Tracer is an interactive augmented reality (AR) installation that visualizes the change of the landscape around Dürrenstein in time and space.
The landscape model together with the AR installation is one of the core pieces of our exhibition. In a vivid way, it puts the wilderness area Dürrenstein-Lassingtal not only in a geographical, but also in a temporal context. Thanks to modern technology, visitors of all ages get a unique impression of how much a habitat can change slowly over thousands of years and what effects this consequently has on the communities living in it. Especially in the context of the current climate change issue, this makes it a particularly exciting project!
— Ramona Schmidt, Museum Director of the Haus der Wildnis/ Wildnisgebiet Dürrenstein. Biologist & employee of the Austrian Federal Forests.
Our task for this particular installation was to use technology to comprehensively convey the changes in the geology, landforms, flora and fauna of the area.
Using a tablet, visitors can walk around a landscape model and move through the area's natural history by sliding their fingers across a visual timeline.
The use of tablets and tablet stations makes Time Tracer an exciting experience for individual visitors as well as for groups of visitors and school classes.
Life After Death is an educational augmented reality (AR) installation that invites you to experience the beauty of decay and its importance to the life cycle of a healthy forest.
"wow, einfach, wow"
— Elisabeth Köstinger, Austrian Federal Minister for Sustainability and Tourism
This XR experience highlights the importance of the primeval forest, especially the role of decay in the forest, and helps to learn and understand how much life depends on dead trees.
Life After Death shows the importance of letting trees perish without human intervention, so that nature can take its natural course.
Life after Death begins with you standing with an iPad in your hands next to a real tree trunk and in front of three printed pictures of that very tree. As soon as the iPad is held in front of the three pictures, a digital representation of the dead tree appears. By moving the tablet further away or closer to the tree trunk, it is possible to switch back and forth between the outside of the trunk and its inside at your own pace. The creatures and vegetation inside are ready to be discovered.
This AR experience is designed to make people love, respect and appreciate the life cycle of the wild.
The installations "A Day in the Jungle" and "Flight of the Hawk Owl" were about experiencing the beauty of nature up close and being able to immerse oneself in the forest.
Nothing is more suitable for an up-close experience than a virtual reality environment.
In the installation "A Day in the Jungle", visitors experience an entire day, from sunrise to sunset, in a small, specially designed cocoon equipped with a VR headset. As soon as you put on the headset, you find yourself in the middle of the forest, in a quiet place, far away from any civilization, and you can immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the forest until late at night.
The installation "Flight of the Hawk Owl" allows visitors to slip into the role of a hawk owl flying through its territory. Once visitors extend their arms, the flight over the wildlife area begins. A fan simulates the wind of flight during the experience.
The experiences were filmed with special 360-degree cameras, stationary and by drone.
The idea of the installation is for visitors to "say goodbye" to their civilized, hectic world and invite them into the decelerated world of the forest or wilderness, as well as to convey the feeling of being close to wild animals.
The installation thus serves as an imagined gateway into the world of wilderness and also as a real physical gateway into the exhibition.
In front of the visitors, somewhat elevated, is a screen in which they see themselves as in a mirror. On the floor there are markings suggesting stones, tree trunks or water.
If the visitor steps or sits on one of the markings (e.g. on a tree trunk to rest there for a while), a prepared animation of an animal such as a bear or a hawk owl is played over the video image on the screen. On the screen, visitors and animals suddenly find themselves in the same room.
Finally, visitors reach the gate and are let into the magic of the wild, into the exhibition.
The House of the Wilderness officially opened its doors in May 2021. During the pre-opening press event, some of Austria's most renowned journalists and government representatives had the opportunity to try out the installation.
In November 2022, the House of the Wilderness won the Tourism Award Lower Austria 2022 in the category "Digitalization".
The expert jury justified the decision as follows:
The wilderness area Dürrenstein-Lassingtal and its primeval forest are only accessible to the public to a very limited extent or not at all due to the extremely high protection category. The "House of Wilderness" builds a thematic bridge between the protected area and interested visitors - without harming the sensitive flora and fauna of this unique habitat. With the help of state-of-the-art, interactive technology, the "House of Wilderness" creates unique insights into the unique habitat and thus brings understanding and awareness for its protection to the population. With the broad application of augmented reality, virtual reality technology and much more, the "House of Wilderness" is considered a lighthouse project in terms of "digital museum" and has become a visitor magnet in the region with around 35,000 visitors since its opening in May 2021.
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