Counterfactual Histories and Speculative Immersion

Kaiwen Yang


My research and studio practice led me to conduct excavations and inquiries about the injustices that occurred in the lower mainland of British Columbia across the 20th-century related to colonialism, racism and gentrification. The historical events that have been studied are mainly regarding the forced removals of Japanese and African Canadians. The research is involved in applying the critical design methodology of Alternative Histories to support communities that have been historically underrepresented.


My interim thesis project focuses on the forced removal of Japanese Canadians during WWII. By using computer-aided design and building information modelling software, I constructed this building complex (Nikkei Machi) and advanced the complex into 3d visuals by using computer-generated imagery rendering technology. Subsequently, Nikkei Machi (2020) was set to be located near downtown Vancouver to be provocative to the audience and create a visual conflict. The purpose is to make the audience wonder “why is there a Japanese building and a teahouse sitting in the heart of Vancouver?” Step by step, the story behind Nikkei Machi (2020) will be discussed among audiences and the historical wrong can be unveiled.


My final thesis project aims to make audiences reconsider the past ideals and losses of Hogan’s Alley, a historic Black community in Vancouver that has been erased due to the construction of Georgia Viaduct, a raised highway that connects East Vancouver with Downtown. The thesis contributes to the negotiation between Hogan’s Alley Society and the local government on the removal of the Georgia Viaduct and community reconstruction. My research guides the audience to take a historical detour and brings to the surface the problems of colonialism, racism, and gentrification in Vancouver to attract social attention. Through the research, I aim to ask what the capabilities of Alternative Histories are as a position to unveil historical wrongs and institutional discrimination.

I constructed the Hogan’s Alley Virtual Cultural Centre as a place for more public engagement to preserve and promote the erased neighbourhood.

Click on this image below to enter the Hogan’s Alley Virtual Cultural Centre

Kaiwen Yang

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Hello everyone - welcome to my site, my name is Kaiwen Yang. I am a graduating Master of Interaction Design student at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. I am also the founder of Skape Interactive (https://www.skapeinteractive.com), a design studio that transforms our imagination into immersive virtual reality experiences. I am passionate about creating innovative solutions for interior spaces to be more interactive. I am particularly interested in 3D modelling, texturing, lighting, and rendering to create interactive interior spaces for people to get connected while physically being apart. My methods have also been used to address historical wrongs and institutional discrimination in our society. Please contact me if you are interested to learn more! You can reach me by email at canadakaiwenyang@gmail.com, or on LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/designerkaiwenyang.
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