Skip to content

Ghost Village History Comes Alive – Warjakka3D for TaikaBox and Playsign

Ghost Village History Comes Alive – Warjakka3D for TaikaBox and Playsign


The Challenge

TaikaBox and Playsign were in the process of creating a remarkable Augmented Reality (AR) experience about Varjakka in northern Finland. The story of Varjakka is a unique and fascinating one, as well as an important reminder of the country’s industrial history. TaikaBox and Playsign approached LudoCraft to help bring the long-abandoned houses and stories of Varjakka to life.

Physical Meets Virtual with AR

TaikaBox and Playsign needed historically accurate 3D modelling for their AR product. LudoCraft were more than happy to team up for Warjakka3D. It was clear from the get-go that this project needed a lot of care and attention-to-detail. Because historical accuracy was at the core of our modelling work, we got to delve deep into the history of the area and understand the context of the houses we were re-creating.

Discovering Varjakka’s History

Our task was to fit the 3D houses precisely atop the stone foundations, seamlessly combining the physical and virtual. We focused our efforts to the houses that used to rise on the sides of Varjakka’s roads. Nowadays only the stone foundations remain. The result of our development work was two historically accurate houses that look authentic both inside and out.

History Awakened

The final version of Warjakka3D was made available for free download, featuring the two houses we re-created for the app. Visitors can explore the past and envision a bustling community from a century ago, all through a phone or tablet. Our collaboration with TaikaBox and Playsign led to a new product that offers a new and immersive way to experience history.

A Unique Part of the Past

Firstly, to understand why the Warjakka3D project is remarkable, we need to do a tiny little history lesson. Although it’s not directly relevant to our production work, it is significant in understanding why this project is important. The story of Varjakka is a significant part of Northern Finnish history.

A hundred years ago Varjakka was a busy industrial center with a sawmill that was one of the biggest in Europe at that time. The sawmill was located on the Varjakka island, attracting 700 workers from all over Finland, Sweden and Russia. In 1929 the impacts of the Wall Street crash were felt even in this small Finnish village and the mill was run down. Gradually the island became abandoned with ripple effects on the mainland parts of Varjakka, too. People abandoned their dwellings, leaving Varjakka frozen in time to be reclaimed by nature.

TaikaBox has taken on the mission of unearthing the historical layers Varjakka holds. They do this by combining different media formats and art along with digital technology. Playsign‘s platform is one of the key digital tools TaikaBox uses in reinvigorating the area’s past. The next step for both organisations was to create an AR app that would bring Varjakka’s past to life.

LudoCraft were asked to help provide 3D modelling for this new product. Working as a bridge between art and technology is a task that we approach with great care and attention. With that in mind, our focus was on re-creating the houses that used to exist by the sides of the road in Varjakka with AR technology.


Immersive Stories Lead to Meticulous Modelling

To make sure we understand the context of the AR experience we were creating, we took field trips to the place where the houses used to stand. A historian from the local university accompanied us on our trails to help us make sure we were on the right path with our fact-findings. Naturally, we took exact measurements of the stone foundations to make sure our 3D models are in keeping architecturally. Additionally, we used the historical studies of people who used to live in the area as basis to envisage what it was like to live there.

By using this method it was possible to gain further understanding into Varjakka area’s spirit. It might seem like an unorthodox method but understanding the stories of the people who used to live in the area was an important part of the process. It helped us make sure the digital models of the houses we were producing have a heart and soul. Such an intangible thing is hugely important when you want the 3D model of the house to feel like you are visiting someone’s home.

Using these methods gave us a different pair of lenses when modelling the houses. Whilst not clinical, it was work where every detail counted. Therefore, we paid attention to things like wallpaper that is in keeping with the images we found in our research. There are also weatherboards that look exactly like they did on the houses that used to physically stand on the side of the road. And not to mention the stoves and fireplaces.

For users, accessing and using the Warjakka3D app is simple. They just have to scan in an QR code, which are designed to look like house signs of the time, using your phone or tablet. From there, the app will use AR to place the digitally-rendered houses on your screen. As you explore the site, you can also see what it looked like many decades ago with every footstep.

Re-Tracing Our Steps Through Varjakka

Digging into the Past

Lots of care and attention was placed into creating a realistic version of the old Varjakka houses. That’s why LudoCraft undertook several field trips and compiled masses of archival information and photos to help us on our way.

Exploring Old Worlds with AR

As visitors explore Varjakka, they can use AR to immerse themselves in its history. By downloading the Warjakka3D app to their phone or tablet, they can see how resident’s houses would have looked like a century ago.

Accessing Varjakka from Home

Warjakka3D is an app that is accessible to all. An Armchair Mode allows users to view a 3D model of the old Finninkatu 102, regardless of their location. This means everyone can learn about Northern Finnish history, regardless of their location.

LudoCraft Way of Working

Learn more about our collaboration on Warjakka3D by checking out our video with Toni Alatalo (CTO, Playsign), Tanja Råman (Dancer/Choreographer, Taikabox), and John Collinswood (Digital Artist/Designer, Taikabox).

Journeying to the Past

Following meticulous testing to ensure that the digital houses were accurate and working seamlessly within the app, it was time to invite visitors to take a journey to the past. The Warjakka3D app was made available for free download for phones and tablets. This forms a part of Warjakka’s cultural and creative activities for all visitors.

As well as the true authentic reality experience, there is also an Armchair Mode. This allows users to access the 3D model of the old Finninkatu 102 building wherever they are in the world. Additionally, there’s a Gallery Mode that swaps the house interiors for a virtual gallery space, which focuses on artwork created in the area. More houses are planned to be featured in future versions of the app.

Of course, the final product isn’t just about bringing back the old houses through 3D modelling. We also wanted to bring the soul of the houses back to be experienced and sensed today through the lens of AR. The digital reconstruction of these buildings enable visitors to see past the ruins of Varjakka and envision a bustling community from a century ago. It’s a completely new and tangible way of looking at the island’s fascinating and important history, making for a uniquely immersive experience.

That’s why Warjakka3D was such a satisfying project for us to work on – the ability to connect the past to the present day. Our collaboration with TaikaBox and Playsign gave us a deeper understanding of Varjakka. Through our field trips and archival research, we felt so much more connected to the island and its history. 

Take a Trip Through Oulu History with Warjakka3D

Want to uncover the history of Varjakka? Take a look around the historical houses of Varjakka with the Warjakka 3D app now! Remember that you can explore Varjakka from the comfort of your own home using Armchair Mode, too.

Download on the App Store badge    Get it on Google Play badge

Want your own game solution? Get in contact!

Marja Kuipers