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Architecture App developed by Ryerson Researchers puts Downtown Toronto at your fingertips

Innovative Technologies librarian Graham McCarthy (left) and Architectural Science professor Vincent Hui in front of Massey Hall, one of the 93 buildings included in the database of a new architecture app developed by the pair.

Downtown Toronto is filled with architectural masterpieces, designed by the likes of Calatrava, Gehry, Libeskind and Alsop. A new app developed at Ryerson University will allow tourists, Torontonians and architecture fans to delve into the design, function and history of many of downtown Toronto’s most significant buildings.

The Ryerson Architecture Mobile App, a partnership between Ryerson’s Department of Architectural Science and the Ryerson University Library and Archives, is a free interactive mobile app that uses geo-location data to help users identify and learn more about the architecture that immediately surrounds them.

Architectural science professor Vincent Hui first came up with the concept in late 2010. He wanted to take advantage of Ryerson’s urban location and highlight the impressive architecture of downtown Toronto.  Hui wanted more than a map, or a simple listing of downtown locations, he wanted an app that would geo-locate the user and help them learn more about architecture. He took his idea to Innovative Technologies Librarian Graham McCarthy who, along with his team, developed the app.  

“The project provided a unique opportunity to create a mobile application that can provide students, or anyone with an interest in architecture, with peer reviewed information about local buildings and the ability to visualize Toronto's history,” said McCarthy.  “The Ryerson Library was exceptionally interested in housing and curating such a relevant and functional database”.

The Architecture Mobile App offers the user a detailed look into the history, function, design and creation of the more than 90 buildings in its database. It will also highlight the closest buildings to the user offering a wealth of relevant information, including documents such as floor plans and hi-res images. 

“Not only do we get to see the building, by using augmented reality to geo-locate us we can also see historically what has been on that site,” said Hui.

The app’s database has been created almost entirely by Ryerson students and recent graduates. More than 60 students and recent graduates have contributed to the database, researching downtown buildings and their history on their own time. The database also includes data provided by Canadian Architect magazine archives, the entire database is vetted by Hui and his research assistants.

Available now on Android, on the Apple App store and on the mobile web, the app has been accessed by almost 800 unique users since it became available last spring. Hui and McCarthy are looking forward to future capabilities of the app, for example video and audio, not only for Toronto, but for other cities around the world as well.

“Rather than picking up a guidebook a user could, for example, look up the London, England version of this app and walk into Trafalgar Square and see the history of the space, see video, listen to audio and see and learn so much more than what is there at that physical moment in time.” 

Hui and his research team continue to improve and expand the database; they are also researching the applications that the app may have for other faculties and departments as well as beyond academia, in industries such as tourism.

Ryerson University is Canada's leader in innovative, career-oriented education and a university clearly on the move. With a mission to serve societal need, and a long-standing commitment to engaging its community, Ryerson offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programs. Distinctly urban, culturally diverse and inclusive, the university is home to 28,000 students, including 2,000 master's and PhD students, nearly 2,700 faculty and staff, and more than 130,000 alumni worldwide. Research at Ryerson is on a trajectory of success and growth: externally funded research has doubled in the past four years. The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education is Canada's leading provider of university-based adult education. For more information, visit www.ryerson.ca

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MEDIA CONTACT:
Johanna VanderMaas
Public Affairs
Ryerson University
Office: 416-979-5000 x 4630
johanna.vandermaas@ryerson.ca

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