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Lost rivers, augmented reality and mobile phones

Virtual Daylighting is centred on the concept of ‘daylighting’, the environmental practice of revealing and restoring lost waterways in urban and rural areas.

Virtual Daylighting (V-Daylighting) is a creative investigation and virtual presentation of the ‘lost rivers’ that once traversed the island of Montreal, waters that have been buried over time by the processes of industrialization and urbanization.

One hundred and fifty years ago, as Montreal and other cities were entering the industrial era, urban rivers were used as conduits for waste, pestilence and deadly water-borne disease. In the fight against very real epidemics, these waterways were considered dangerous and expendable. And so we buried them. Over the course of the 20th century, we built sewers and paved over the natural landscape to make way for dense urban populations and, later, the automobile. As consciousness of the ‘environment,’ ‘viability,’ and ‘bio-diversity’ came slowly to infiltrate our modern lexicon, experts have been attempting to reshape cities profoundly marked by the past in order to better respond to the needs of the future. Put simply, daylighting is the process in which the pavement is peeled back and a river that has been buried underground is returned to the surface to create new urban green spaces.

Using the augmented reality capabilities of a 4G mobile phone, we are in the process of developing an application that will give users virtual access to the trajectories of 13 river systems through their phones. The Virtual Daylighting application will not only seed these trajectories with research content, but layer information in harmony with the surrounding environment.


augmented reality, daylighting, waterways, mobile technology, iphone app, rivers, underground, city, urban, storytelling, landscape



Project Participants:

Partner: Katerina Soukup, Catbird Productions, Montreal

Kim Sawchuk, Communication Studies, Concordia University, Montreal
Andrew Emond, artist, Montreal
Jonathan Belisle, Interactive Designer, Hello Architekt, Montreal
Jonathan Grenier, Programmer, Solutions Informatiques Techniconseils, Montreal
Robert Prenovault, artist, Montreal

Research Assistants

Magdalena Olszanowski, PhD Candidate, Communication Studies, Concordia University
Sarah Ring, MA in History, Concordia University
Samuel Thulin, PhD Candidate, Communication Studies, Concordia University
Antonia Hernandez

SSHRC, Research Creation Grant, 2010-2013

Previous Research Assistants

Jaimie Robson, MA in Media Studies, Concordia University
Juliet Lammers, MA in Media Studies, Concordia University
Marie-Hélène Lemaire, PhD Candidate, Communication Studies, Concordia University
Chantal Prescott, intern, UQAM