Instead of simply giving a chronological history lesson, the City of Milpitas wanted to present the house as the narrator of its own story. A key challenge of this project was constructing a fluent, cohesive, and engaging tale that would intertwine three distinct themes—the people who lived and worked on this land, how the Alviso Adobe House was constructed and remodeled over time, and the bigger picture of sweeping changes in the Bay Area and California.
The target audience for the project was identified as school groups of students aged 8-12 learning about California’s history. As such, the characters within the narrative had to be relatable, rather than distant figures of a bygone era. Their work, leisure activities, family life, clothing, and even pets—all through their respective successes and hardships—had to be understood in order to be effectively conveyed. This ultimately provides a more nuanced representation of these individuals and their personalities, brought to life with a touch of humor.
"The Alviso Adobe House project at a room scale, the massive architecture-scale projections for the 50th birthday celebration of the Sydney Opera House, and the upcoming Melbourne Holocaust Museum interactives on a museum scale—these all firmly establish the skill and scalability of Art Processors' projection-mapping capabilities, and hopefully points us in the direction of similarly interesting work in the future."
– Ray Chi,
Senior Designer, Art Processors
In depicting the Alviso Adobe House as both a memory box and its own storyteller, we were guided by an overarching concept of “If these walls could talk.” To reconstruct the events connected to the house, we conducted extensive research in collaboration with the Muwekma Ohlone tribe to understand life on the land prior to Spanish arrival. Ensuring the presence and accuracy of indigenous voices was a crucial first step in telling the complete story of just how much the Bay Area has changed.
The Milpitas Historical Society provided a wealth of photographs, maps, documents, and other information chronicling changes to the region throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Christine Murray, our Content Director, also tracked down descendants of the Cuciz family, who were able to provide personal photographs, artifacts, and first-hand accounts of three generations of their family’s life in the Alviso Adobe House.
To further emphasize the importance of place in this project, our rich and nuanced sound design included recordings of local bird life and other ambient sounds to draw the visitor into the natural environment of Milpitas throughout the various eras of the story. We consulted the Muwekma Ohlone tribe on the use of their music and language in the soundtrack to ensure this was implemented in an appropriate, accurate, and respectful manner.
Art Processors’ Content Director and Super Sleuth Christine Murray was able to personally obtain a range of family mementos and documents from Dennis Cuciz, the grandson of Lucia and Giuseppe Cuciz, who were the second owners of the Alviso Adobe House. His generosity and enthusiasm for the project enabled us to substantially expand the Cuciz segment of the story, providing first-hand memories of life in the orchards over three generations. These memories have been included in the narration and images, helping to construct a more vibrant picture of the Cuciz family life. A projected illustration of Dennis driving a tractor is based on an actual photo of the once-thriving orchards, with the tractor itself being an spot-on depiction of the farming machinery used in that era.
Upon walking into the old living room, the original heart of the building, visitors are soon enveloped in the projections spreading seamlessly across three walls together with the accompanying soundtrack. The program begins with a spoken welcome by a member of the Muwekma Ohlone tribe, gradually progressing into depictions of indigenous life. Characters move in spotlight from one wall to another, guiding the viewer’s attention from one wall to the next. The projection then expands into a multi-wall landscape of original hand-drawn animations, taking visitors on a journey through time that continues in the adjoining north and south bedrooms.
The blend of highlighted vignettes and wrap-around images interact with architectural features of the physical space, bringing life back into the house once again through our capabilities in projection mapping. The experience transcends facts and events; it conveys the accomplishments, challenges, celebrations, misfortunes, and whimsies of the very people who made the Bay Area what it is today.
It is designed to immerse but never overwhelm, and imparts upon the visitor a sense of time beyond that of a human lifespan, weaving them into a thread as old as the land itself.