Parliament: The Virtual Experience
A co-production by the Library of Parliament and the National Film Board of Canada.
Creative team: Émilie F. Grenier, David Drury, Dpt. and Stéphane Poirier
| 15 min
About the Virtual Experience
Parliament is the heart of Canada’s federal democracy. For more than 100 years, its seat was Centre Block, best recognized by the iconic Peace Tower. Home to the Senate and the House of Commons, the building was the site of debates and decisions that shaped our country. Each year, it welcomed thousands of visitors to discover the significance of the work, people and architecture of the space.
This historic building has now closed its doors for long-term renovations; however, the public can still experience it through innovative immersive technologies. Step inside the doors of Parliament online, in virtual reality or in your classroom, and discover how the work of Canada’s national legislature affects you.
Parliament: The Virtual Experience will transport you through Centre Block’s most iconic spaces: the Senate, House of Commons, Library of Parliament and Peace Tower. Each one offers a new perspective on Parliament—its history, its art and its role in the lives of Canadians, today and in the future.
Parliament: The Virtual Experience is a co-production by the Library of Parliament and the National Film Board of Canada.
Trailer – The Virtual Experience (60s)
Trailer – The Virtual Experience (20s)
Trailer – The Virtual Reality Experience
Parliament: The Virtual Reality Experience (360º video version)
The Virtual Reality Experience
This immersive journey takes you deep into the heart of Parliament, where historic spaces spring to life with magic realism. This groundbreaking VR experience combines photorealism with vivid sound, colour and light.
Also available in 360° video on Oculus, YouTube and Vimeo for mobile-based headsets.
The Online Experience
Democracy is at your fingertips in this richly illustrated experience. Scroll through Parliament and watch as the building emerges around you, its walls filled with voices from Canada’s past. Accessible from any mobile or desktop device.
The Classroom Experience (coming September 2020)
Register for a Virtual Reality Classroom Kit and bring Parliament to your school. With VR gear for students and tools for teachers, this is a one-of-a-kind learning opportunity for Canadian students.
The Library of Parliament and the NFB had a distinct vision for Parliament: The Virtual Experience. Working with creative director Émilie F. Grenier, they chose to use VR as their main platform since it offered the best showcase of the building’s iconic architecture. “The team did a great job making their vision realistic within the existing technology,” says Martin Viau, the project’s technology director.
All the visuals and audio assets for the VR version were managed with the Unity game engine, a real-time platform that allows you to create and develop games, cinematic experiences and VR projects. The original “blueprints” for the project came from the Carleton Immersive Media Studio (CIMS), which had captured the complete architecture of Centre Block—save the Peace Tower—through a combination of photogrammetry and 360-degree photography. CIMS used these files to build the models for the VR spaces.
The project team then called Montreal’s Dpt onboard. “They bring strong expertise in VR UX and non-linear web experiences,” Viau says. “And they instinctively understand what makes a good documentary-based narrative.”
Due to the length of Centre Block’s planned renovations, the project had to be viable for many years. “We kept the best quality of all our assets but downgraded some so the experience would run on today’s devices,” Viau explains. “For example, the original scans captured by CIMS were too detailed for our needs, so we created a simplified mesh based on the data to build the Parliament scenes and architecture. But we have all the backups, so if we ever need to upgrade, we can. It’s the same for the sound assets.”
The web version is a responsive experience created in HTML. Grenier had wanted a completely different, stand-alone experience for online users. Inspired by the pop-up books of her youth, the team created an illustrated version of Centre Block.
Centre Block’s iconic spaces
When you strap on VR goggles and begin your journey through Parliament: The Virtual Reality Experience, it’s almost surreal. You are in Parliament’s Centre Block.
The experience takes you through the main areas of the historic Centre Block: the House, the Senate, the Library of Parliament, and the Peace Tower. The project team gave careful thought to the possibilities of the platform. As VR is growing and evolving quickly, they needed to ensure that the project would be relevant throughout the years of the building’s closure.
“My reflex was to choreograph the gaze of the user, to provide an elaborately guided tour of this architectural masterpiece,” creative director Émilie F. Grenier says. The experience lives up to the promise. As you move through the space, sometimes at ground level, sometimes higher up, you feel transported within Centre Block. Using nothing but your eyes, you simply explore your surroundings. It’s blissfully intuitive.
The soundtrack (music, soundscape, narration) is integral to guiding the experience, but it was also important to take some weight off the narrator. “We needed to develop elements to guide the eye,” Grenier says. “That’s where the magical realism comes in. The light serves as a visual guide and adds a layer of poetry to the story.”
The online web version of Parliament: The Virtual Experience is different. Grenier drew inspiration from classic pop-up books and developed the first illustrated version of Centre Block. It’s just as intuitive. As you scroll your way through the story, the walls of Parliament appear around you and magical elements are revealed.
Confederation Hall is a rotunda that serves as the ceremonial entrance to Centre Block. It is richly decorated with symbols of Canada’s provinces and territories. The Virtual Experience begins here, as the walls come alive with animals and plants from across Canada.
House of Commons
The House of Commons is the elected law-making chamber of Parliament. Most bills begin in the House, and Members of Parliament spend much of their time debating and voting. In the Virtual Experience, a group of journalists jostles outside the House to ask parliamentarians questions. Inside the chamber, a chorus of voices rises in debate, highlighting the work of MPs in representing people across the country.
Library of Parliament
Built in the 1870s, the Library is known for its beautiful wooden interior. Today, it supports the work of Parliament with modern and innovative services. In the Virtual Experience, wood carvings of flowers and animals swirl around the Library, emphasizing the art and architecture of Centre Block’s oldest space. Viewers will learn about the fire of 1916, which destroyed the original building, and the resilience of Parliament in its aftermath.
The Senate is Parliament’s independent Upper Chamber. Senators represent the regions of Canada and minority groups, investigate important issues, and draft and scrutinize legislation. The Virtual Experience brings viewers into the Senate Foyer, where they are surrounded by portraits of Canada’s queens and kings. Inside the chamber, a mural builds around them, illustrating the role of senators in giving voice to Canadian communities.
The Peace Tower is a familiar symbol of Canada’s Parliament and a monument to the cause of peace. The Virtual Experience concludes with an illustrated journey through the bells of the tower. Viewers are invited to reflect on the people who work together for Canadian democracy—and what their own role will be.
The Virtual Reality Experience
The Online Experience (mobile & desktop)
Executive Producer (Library of Parliament)
Kit Frost is a Chief in Public Education Programs at the Library of Parliament. Originally trained in public history and museology, she has dedicated the past 15 years to projects that connect Canadians to Parliament on a variety of platforms. A specialist in interpretation and content creation, Kit has worked on interactive websites, print, video and public programming—all driven by the goal of helping Canadians to understand and engage with federal democracy and its role in the lives of people across the country.
Marie-Pier Gauthier is a producer at the NFB’s Montreal Interactive Studio and has been contributing to this rich narrative laboratory for the past eight years. Whether it’s digital creation on mobile phones or on the web, interactive installations or virtual or augmented reality projects, she supervises the execution of projects by innovative creators working at the crossroads of different disciplines. She produces projects using a range of storytelling tools, including social networks, code, design, artificial intelligence, and conversational robots. With degrees in journalism and interactive production, Marie-Pier has collaborated on more than 100 interactive works (including The Enemy, Do Not Track, and Way to Go) which have received more than 100 awards in Canada and abroad. Marie-Pier is the first woman to occupy the role of producer at the Interactive Studio.
Executive Producer (NFB)
As an Executive Producer, Louis-Richard works at the converging point between documentary and technology and is involved in projects where interactivity helps to explain phenomena that affect individuals and societies. Trained in political science, he veered into radio and architecture before collaborating on the multi-platform media Bandeapart.fm and the creation of digital journalism units at Radio-Canada. His recent productions explore mobile experiences and immersive environments in virtual reality.
Executive Producer (NFB)
Photo : Karim Ben Khelifa
After several years of contorting both words and ideas through the study of philosophy, literature and death metal, Hugues Sweeney became interested in stories and the opportunities that technology offers to tell them. He first worked in new media at Radio-Canada, then as head of Bande à part and Espace musique, before joining the National Film Board of Canada in 2009 as executive producer dedicated to interactive works. Whether experimenting with the grammar of interaction, with sound creation or generative art, NFB Interactive Studio projects have received numerous international awards, including honours from SXSW and the Japan Media Arts festival, a Boomerang, and a FIPA d’or, as well as Digital Emmy, IDFA, and Gémeaux nominations.
Émilie F. Grenier
Émilie F. Grenier
Emilie F. Grenier is a narrative designer dedicated to the creation of remarkable objects and experiences. Her awarded portfolio spans across various platforms such as objects, spaces, cities and digital. Her work stems from deep research into materials and the significance of stories as cultural conduits. She perceives her role as a bridge between craft, user and experience, and designs with an interest for the social forces that drive us. She holds an MA in Material Futures from London Central Saint Martins, and her final project on the future of resources in the context of the 2013 economical crisis was selected by British design icon Tom Dixon to open at the Milan MOST Salone – and was further acquired by the Musée National des beaux-arts du Québec for their permanent collection. She strives for uniqueness and emotion. After Alfred Premium and Airplane Mode, this is her third collaboration with the NFB.
Music and Sound Design
Photo : Varial Cédric Houin
Born and raised in Montreal, David Drury has worked in music and sound art since the late nineties. He has produced an impressive catalogue of sound design and worked with a wide array of collaborators, including Moment Factory, DailyTous les Jours, Dpt., and the National Film Board of Canada. David has scored films, television shows, dance, and theatre. His own installation works have been featured at the International Computer Music Conference, Nuit Blanche, Mutek and Son & Vision, among others. David holds both a degree in electroacoustic music at Concordia University and a master’s in Sound Arts at SARC, Queens University, Belfast.
Conception, Design and Programming
Dpt. is an immersive experience studio at the intersection of film and gaming, art and code, design and research.
Photo : Shany Bélanger
Stéphane Poirier is an illustrator who lives and works in Montreal. The luscious documentary picture books he constantly read as a child exerted a lasting fascination on him. He thought his passion for understanding things would lead to a career in the sciences, but he ended up becoming an illustrator. In his work, which combines graphic design with traditional illustration, he takes a project-based approach, adapting his style to the idea at hand. Stéphane has worked across a multitude of disciplines on a variety of editorial assignments, publishing projects, permanent installations in museums, animations and interactive installations.
A production by
Library of Parliament
National Film Board of Canada
Émilie F. Grenier
An experience built by
Music and Sound Design
3D Modelling (VR)
Carleton Immersive Media Studio
Anouk Pennel and Leon Lo (Feed)
Nicolas S. Roy
Technology Direction (VR)
3D Artists (VR)
Carleton Immersive Media Studio (VR)
Storyboards and Concept Art (VR)
Set Director (Narration Recording)
Maxime Giroux Casting Inc.
Choirmaster and Arranger
Library of Parliament
Heather Lank, Parliamentary Librarian
The National Film Board of Canada
Executive Director, Institutional Program
Senior Production Coordinator
Senior Administrative Coordinator
Technical Coordinator (Post Production)
Narration Recording and Premix
Social Media Strategist
Emilie Nguyen Ngoc
Head, Media Relations
The Honourable George J. Furey, Q.C., Speaker of the Senate
The Honourable Anthony Rota, P.C., M.P., Speaker of the House of Commons
The Honourable Geoff Regan, P.C., M.P., Speaker of the House of Commons
Archival audio presented courtesy of
Senate of Canada
House of Commons of Canada
© 2020 Library of Parliament and National Film Board of Canada
About the NFB
The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is one of the world’s leading digital content hubs, creating groundbreaking interactive documentaries and animation, mobile content, installations and participatory experiences. NFB interactive productions and digital platforms have won 100 awards, including 21 Webbys. To access this award-winning content and discover the work of NFB creators, visit NFB.ca, download its apps for mobile devices or visit NFB Pause.
About Library of Parliament
The Library of Parliament is the Parliament of Canada’s knowledge centre. It is a non-partisan and reliable source of information, providing news, reference and analysis services to the parliamentary community. The Library also manages and preserves access to its resources and collections, and compiles and disseminates historical information about Parliament and parliamentarians. In addition, the Library oversees the Parliamentary Poet Laureate program and, through its public education programs, helps Canadians learn about their Parliament.