A Visit to Royal Roads

Luke | articles, visualizations
4 Jun 2010
I must say, I really am surprised how the province of British Columbia is able to offer up amazing experiences in the most surprising and unexpected places. One such occasion took place on May 19th, when Josh, Fouad and I travelled to Vancouver Island to present our work to the faculty and staff of Royal Roads University (RRU).
We had been working on the “Bateman Centre Interactive Visualization Project” since January: A project that is both a promotional piece for RRU’s fund raising campaign for the Bateman Centre, and also our final project as students of the MDM program. Since planning for this project began in November 2009, the three of us knew we wanted to start a business and that this project was going to give us an amazing portfolio piece to help us on our way. Of course, it would also provide RRU with a one-of-a-kind promotional piece for their project. As the rest of this story will attest, the project has indeed turned out to be a win-win for all involved.
Our day started at 4:30 in the morning when I reluctantly RRU1 (4)crawled out of bed. As difficult as it is waking up at such an ungodly hour, I knew it was going to be an interesting day. It would be our second visit to the RRU campus, and our first trip was memorable, to say the least. It was a day-long adventure of the stuff legends are made of: ferry rides through hazy, storming seas at twilight; grand mountains; century-old castles tucked away in the forest; and of course, elaborate gardens populated by strange beasts from far away lands.
Of course, all legends are subject to some degree of creative enhancement…but with a location as truly unique and interesting as RRU, it’s easy to let one’s fancy get a little carried away. But that being said, this description is not far from reality. I would never have expected to find a place like RRU so close to a city – so isolated and peaceful – completely open to the public at no charge (other than parking, of course). If you ever find yourself on Vancouver Island, it’s a must-see destination.
Arriving an hour early, and having lots of time set aside for setting up for the presentation, we found ourselves with lots of time to explore the castle which is, at least in my opinion, the crowning glory of the campus. That is – it was – until I saw more of the campus.
The presentation itself began at 1:00, and we RRU2_012were the guests of honor for the Royal Roads Open House Event attended by 100 of the University’s faculty, staff and other guests who were gathered for an update on the developments for the Bateman Centre Foundation’s fund-raising efforts. We’d worked hard over the last four months to create a product that we knew we could be proud of, but we weren’t prepared for the overwhelming praise that the project fostered from all corners. Even before we presented, we were invited to the office of Allan Cahoon, President of Royal Roads University. He thanked us for providing RRU with this gift, and wished us luck in our future careers with CatStatic Interactive.
Everyone who came to speak with us afterward commented on the effectiveness of the experience we had carefully crafted for this project as a presentation piece and fund raising tool – how it offered so much more information than just simple text or video, but yet was truly fun and easy to use. It was an enormously successful presentation and we came away from the experience inspired with not a little zeal for continuing to push the envelope of what virtual experiences can be.
After all the other guests had gone their RRU2_018separate ways, we were left with a buffet table of goodies we weren’t about to let go to waste. We were in the midst of relieving the cleanup crew of some of their duties when one of the staff of the University came by to chat, and gave us an interesting perspective on the castle. As with any turn-of-the-century castle worth its salt, Hatley Castle is not without its fair share of ghosts. Leading us into the kitchens, our impromptu tour guide pointed to a far corner near the roof where it’s said that one night while working alone late into the night, a ghostly portrait was seen by a woman after her being affected by a sudden chill. This is but one of the many ghost stories that go along with the rest of the castle’s rich, interesting history and unique ambiance.
Spectral aspects of the castle aside, I knew RRU was RRU2_074an impressive site from our first trip in November. It was in the time following our presentation when we had more time to explore the grounds on a beautiful, sunny day in May, though, that we really discovered how amazing this place is.  Not content with a simple Baroque Castle for a home, the original builder also outfitted his estate with elaborate Italian and Japanese gardens as well. And these are not just quaint little gardens. The Japanese gardens especially, are really quite amazing. We were lucky enough to have an entire afternoon to bask in the sun on the extensive lawns, explore the gardens and some of the walking trails close by. Even then, though, we experienced only a small piece of what this place has to offer. We’re very much looking forward to our next visit, when we’ll have the honor of presenting our work during Robert Bateman’s 80th birthday bash.
Working with RRU has been a great experience so far, and we’re looking forward to working more with RRU’s creative director, Gary McCartie. Phase II of the Bateman Centre project is in the works, which will feature much more content as the entire experience is developed into a more complete picture of the campus as a whole. Stay tuned for updates!