design lead  |  3D design  |  environment design  |  virtual reality  |  program management  |  3D modeling  |  texturing

LEGO Virtual New Orleans

an interactive immersive VR experience for SIGGRAPH '96

Hired to join a new international team of digital wizards at LEGO Headquarters, called Darwin, my initial assignment was to build an immersive and interactive virtual reality city made out of LEGO for a special exhibition at SIGGRAPH ‘96 in New Orleans.

the context


Before moving to Denmark from Boston, I trained for a week in San Jose, CA at Multigen on their 3D building platform OpenFlightv. I then moved to Billund Denmark at the height of summer and spent the next 6 weeks with my head in a virtual New Orleans.


Darwin was headed by Dent-di-Lion Du Midi, to whom I reported. Another 3D artist was hired from California to support me, and I had two 2D artists working for me as well.


my contributions


  • Research into the true physical layout of the city of New Orleans, including major landmarks
  • Render designs in digital 3D following absolute LEGO form - for the city and for all structures
  • Script paths through the city for animated characters to traverse




Learn a new platform and tool, research New Orleans and design an entire LEGO city like it, and then build that city…  all in only 6 weeks.

get it done


Through sheer will and long hours working mostly out of sight of the midnight sun of Scandinavia in Summer, we managed to build something impressive. As a facsimile of New Orleans, I was told more than once from a user that my LEGO model made the city finally make sense to them.


I was raised on low-poly modelling. The tools have changed drastically. We built this city of LEGO with every little stud in place (Danes call them “knobs”), but we did this with simple shapes and textures to give a convincing enough effect. I cringe when I see an artist building million-poly scenes, and feel like low-poly modelling is a lost art.



Copyright 2016 Joseph M. Knight