Bunker_BunAb1.1 from Li Yao on Vimeo.



VR architectural installation

Bunker aims to create a space in which the viewer may contemplate the paradoxes of modernity. As the viewer travels through different levels, they will be presented with scenarios that refer to the rhetorical paradoxes of a certain historical era.

Bunker is the first area where the viewer is born. Several features installed in the area serve to confirm their orientation, their scale, and their virtual presence. To show the scale of the space in relation to the viewer, I created a gallery with door and windows all half-buried in the ground. If the viewer chooses to interact with the electricity box, it will ask the viewer to reconnect the broken wires in order to restore the electricity. In the process, the viewer will learn for the first time to use the controllers’ grabbing mechanism Once electricity is restored, the light on the ceiling will point to the way toward further exploration.
Bunker, displayed in VRElectricity Box interaction

As the viewer follows the light, they will enter the Tunnel. The Tunnel presents a divergence between staying on the narrow platform and moving forward or falling off the platform into the pit at the center.  The former will lead to the upper level of the Tennis Court. The latter will lead to the War Room. From this point on, the two experiences will be completely parallel.

The moment the viewer falls into the War Room, the theme choir song of Mr. Bean, Ecce Homo Qui Est Faba (Behold the man who is a bean) will starts to play. War Room is a virtual replica of the iconic conference room in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove. The viewer will land right in the center of the round conference table surrounded by chairs.
War Room in Bunker

The most prominent are the pair of Le Corbusier chairs in distinct green color, suspended in the air.
 This is another interactive feature—if the viewer choose to grab and throw it, the chairs will be flying through zero gravity the moment they leave the viewer’s grip. The room is permeated with smog and darkness. Occasionally, when the chair flies across the room and touches a wall, a corner or the ceiling, it’d reminds the viewer of the size and boundary of the room.

At the far end of the room, a white door indicates the exit. When the viewer goes through the door, they will enter the passage with rows of computer servers on both sides of the lane. Whenever a server detects the viewer’s controller in contact, it will issue an apologetic monologue: 

“ I’m sorry too, Dmitri. I’m very sorry.”

“ Alright, you’re sorrier than I am. But I am sorry as well.”

“ I am just as sorry as you are, Dmitri.”

“ Don’t say that you’re more sorry than I am, because I’m capable of being just as sorry as you are.”
Computer servers on the passage Computer servers on the passage

At the end of the passage sits a boat that will sail forward once the viewer steps onto its deck. This will bring the viewer to the final room, Tennis Court. The Tennis Court can be accessed through two ways. The tunnel route leads to the upper level; the boat leads to the lower level. The two levels are made parallel through a short but insurmountable gap.  The Tennis Court is an enlarged model based on the Salle du Jeu de Paume where the Tennis Court Oath took place.
Upper levelLower level

The moment when the viewer enters the Tennis Court, regardless of levels, the sound track of Philip Glass’ Pruitt Igoe would start to play.

Caissons of different sizes varying in the power of two, occupy the room. Staircases run between the caissons’ structure, providing a pathway to ascend from the bottom of the room to an elevation where the viewer can see the upper level of the Tennis Court. The upper level is a widened grid of old school tennis courts in blood red. If the viewer enters the room via the upper level, they will walk on that grid in order to explore the scene.

On the far end of the grid, a column reaches towards the ceiling with a guillotine sitting atop it. To the left and right of the grid are the image of Robespierre’s death mask and the sculptural model of Robespierre’s head, respectively; both are contained in wooden cabinets. The viewer on the upper level will see these elements at eye-level, whereas at the lower level, the viewer will be looking up to them as the boat sails forward and drags a trail of blood red behind its course. The red will slowly vanish in time.

At any point in the viewer’s exploration of the Tennis Court, should the viewer fall into the gaps or holes of the caissons, they will fall to their death. In Death, the viewer will slowly descend in boundless darkness, with the caisson formation above the viewer’s head serving as the sole visual cue of spatial relations. This is the final stage of the experience, and the only way for the viewer to return to the beginning of the program.

Whilst the viewer descends, they would hear part of the sound track of Prophecies by Philip Glass.


For the presentation of the project, I seek to make a physical portal that foreshadows the digital content without losing the curiosity of passersby. I do not prefer the common display method of streaming the POV directly to a monitor that can be watched outside of the headset. Viewers who have not previously experienced the medium might think that seeing it on the screen is the same as experiencing it in the headset. Much of my emphasis on avoiding ‘spoilers’ is also about introducing the medium of VR and mediating between the virtual and physical world. The VR part of the installation requires active attendance. Over several iterations, I’ve developed a performative routine to guide the viewer through the experience, which I liken to a flight attendant’s safety instructions. This routine starts before the viewer touches the headset. Upon approach, the first thing they will see is me cleaning the headset with an alcohol wipe. I will place a new eye mask onto the skin-contact area of the headset. Then I turn myself, as I’m holding the headset, to the direction that aligns with the exploratory direction of the virtual environment, so that the viewer faces towards that direction once they put on the headset. By way of introduction, I say: “I’ll help you put on the headset, then I’ll hand you the controllers.” Once the headset is worn, I will ask if the headset is sitting steadily, whether the viewer can see the text near their controllers. In all of Bunker’s installations, the viewer in the headset is the only one who can look into the virtual environment. My familiarity with the program allows me to approximately locate them by observing their behaviors. Once the viewer looks like they’re at the end of their journey, I will ask if they are done. Once affirmed, I let them know that “I’m taking over the controllers and will help you take off the headset.”

Plan 1:
  • Single-wall (15ft length x 4 ft width x 8 ft 4 tich height).
  • Custom-made pedestal to contain the PC  23 itch x 17 7/8 itch x 41 6/8 itch
  • 24 sheets of printed wireframe architectural render, US letter size, pinned on wall.
  • Vive headset cable suspended from above.

Plan 2:
  • Two walls (20.54 ft length x 13.45 ft width x 8.86 ft height).
  • Wireframe diagram projection-mapped on walls, then traced by blue and black tapes.
  • Vive headset cable suspended from ceiling.

© 2016-2023 All rights reserved