Press Release: Explore Virtual Reality for Design Week Portland

March 22, 2019

Open Signal and Partners Explore Links Between Virtual Reality and Community for Design Week Portland

Democratizing VR for More Livable Cities: A Design Week Portland Festival Event
Tuesday, April 9, 5-8pm
Open Signal: Portland Community Media Center
2766 NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
Portland, OR 97212

Tickets: $15 for Design Portland Members | Sliding scale for Open Signal Members

Read event details and purchase tickets at

PORTLAND, OR. - March 22, 2019 –  On Tuesday, April 9, Open Signal presents Democratizing VR for More Livable Cities, an event showcasing bold new applications of virtual reality (VR) that engage communities in urban planning and development.

Democratizing VR invites the public to explore the city of Vanport as it’s revived through VR headsets, and to virtually “walk” through designs for Portland's Central Eastside Industrial District, in a new immersive media model on the bleeding edge of practices within the field of architecture.

This cross-sector event is part of Design Week Portland 2019. It is a collaboration between Open Signal, a nonprofit media arts center, local firms Bora Architects and ZGF Architects, memory-activist collective Vanport Mosaic, and artists Matt Henderson, Sharita Towne and Alex Chiu.

The evening will also feature a panel with representatives from ZGF, Bora, Portland State University (PSU) Center for Public Interest Design and The City Repair Project, discussing how the urban design process has historically been inaccessible to key communities, and how immersive technology can help citizens engage more fully in that process. Alex Chiu will illustrate concepts from the discussion in real time with the VR painting software Tilt Brush.

Democratizing VR was conceived by Karim Hassanein, a Bora staffer and Open Signal board member. “Designers don’t always address citizens in an equitable manner when they make decisions that impact communities,” Karim says. “This event is the first step towards enabling more people to explore how VR tools can increase civic engagement.”

At this event Open Signal will present its new immersive media facilities and programming, all of which are accessible to the public. The organization houses two state-of-the-art media production studios — one with 2,000 square feet and another with 400 square feet — both of which have been outfitted to support the production and presentation of immersive media like virtual reality.

The customization of these studios is led by Matt Henderson of Portland Immersive Media Group, with equipment donated by HTC, Native Instruments and Valve. Matt is an educator at Open Signal, where he teaches Unity, a game-engine software used to create VR environments. The class aligns with Open Signal’s mission to provide community members with unique access to media technology that is costly or otherwise difficult to obtain.

“We’re at an exciting time in history, where the uses for virtual reality technology are just beginning to reveal themselves,” Open Signal Executive Director Justen Harn says. “I feel strongly that ordinary people and neighborhoods should be front and center in the development of these technologies, and we are thrilled to help lead those discussions.”

Read event details and purchase tickets at



Yousef Hatlani, Marketing Manager
Open Signal: Portland Community Media Center
(503) 536-7622

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