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Vintage viewfinders give a digital glimpse of the forgotten spirits of Rittenhouse Square

Night Kitchen produced two digital viewfinders for The Built/Unbuilt Square, a prototype installation created for Mural Arts’ Monument Lab (2017). Conceptualized by local artist Alexander Rosenberg, this installation presents an amalgam of notable moments, history, and stories of Rittenhouse Square through a combination of augmented and virtual reality technology.

A gay pride rally seen through the goggles.

Two binocular viewfinders at opposite ends of the Square were retrofitted to hold iPad Minis, each running a 360-degree looping video captured from that point of view. Working from archival photos and research, we animated and composited 25 fragments of the Square’s history and unbuilt plans. Visitors who gaze through the lenses can catch glimpses of Rittenhouse Square as it was and could have been.

In the North side of the Square, Philly’s first Gay Pride parade (1972) stands next to the 1928 Rittenhouse Fine Art show. Just a few paces away, protesters burn their draft cards for the war in Vietnam (1970). From an opposite view of the park’s South side, a rare albino deer scratches an antler against a tree (1880), a goat statue dances on its rear legs (as in a 1928 urban myth), and David Rittenhouse’s unbuilt observatory (planned in 1840) towers in the distance. This temporary installation ran through the Fall of 2017.