Industrial Chic

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Even the grandest of institutions usually has a humble beginning. The ZKM (Center for Arts and Media, or Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie) in Karlsruhe, Germany, takes the time to explore its history and how it came to occupy an immense former weapons factory. The exhibition is called "Before ZKM: From Industrial Waste Land to Cultural Centre." And through the immersive power of technology and HTML5, it's possible to browse the exhibit and the museum's archives without ever leaving your chair.

Designed by the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design, the site spotlights the dramatic image of an empty factory. Navigation is a bit mysterious, but bear with it in order to get through to some terrific photography. There are two main sections, one for the actual exhibition, "Before ZKM," and one for the museum's archive. With text in both English and German, the Exhibition section presents photos in a very cool gallery interface that allows you to rearrange thumbnail images and zoom in and out on detailed enlargements.

The Archive section, which includes past museum installations, sports memorabilia, and historical photography from the area, has a very unique interface. It uses new Web technologies to effectively re-create a file system of index cards, which you can browse as if you were flipping through those cards. Each card is really an HTML5 Canvas element, whose proportions and orientation are controlled by code that runs super-fast in Internet Explorer 9. It's a clever, high-tech implementation of a very familiar, low-tech approach. And it feels very appropriate for this particular cultural center, which is a bridge between art and technology.

This story, "Industrial Chic" was originally published by BrandPost.

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