exploration of Seattle history through augmented reality

what I did ui/ux design, web development
tech/tools React Contentful Firebase Google Maps API
timeframe 2018 - 2019

unARchived is an interactive experience that uses geolocation, augmented reality, media and stories to visualize the changes caused by development in Seattle

my role

As a team we collaborated with People's Geography of Seattle to research for scope targeting. I collaborated with other teammates for UI/UX design of the project. I also translated the mobile experience into a web experience and developed the website along with the project information.

background study

Seattle is the third most gentrifying U.S. city in 2019. While gentrification reflects the city's rising development, but displacement still could be a matter of concern. The cultural and historical elements of Seattle has took a toll for the city’s development caused by factors such as raise in rent and change in cultural character. There are many displaced and disappearing institutions, small businesses and architectures.

Inspired by projects like Vanishing Seattle. We are hoping to create a digital experience that bring those stories that are buried in the history out in the light.


As we have decided on creating a digital experience, our goals are:

1. Engage the audience to explore critical stories and narratives.

2. Educate the public about the loss of historical buildings and culture as the cost of development in Seattle.

In November 2019, unARchived was showcased in the Mapping (In)Justice event at Fordham University.

How might we create an interactive experience that educates the general public about the history of development, gentrification and displacement in Seattle?

initial ideation

My initial approach started with creating a public platform integrated with augmented reality that has the abilities to display the past and the possible future of the community landmarks.

For example, what did Chinatown look like in the past? What is it like now? What could it be in the future?

In order to spark conversations and create emotional connections about those changes, the main feature would be allowing the users to share their location-based stories with the public through text and audio.

initial user flow

first iteration

1. share stories -> explore stories: we decided to shift our focus on building an app where users can focus on exploring the stories. We have content developers on the team where they can write fact-based stories based on research.

2. text + photos in AR -> photos only in AR: the amount of reading required for the stories in AR view might distract the users. We want the users to have the full ability to explore historical changes through visuals not text in the AR view.

second iteration

1. tablet -> phone: initially I envisioned the app on a tablet to accommodate the augmented reality experience view, however we realized that our app is location based, having the app on the phone will maximize the mobility.

2. all neighborhoods -> Pioneer Square: with our given timeline, we won't be able to collect all the stories from all neighborhoods in Seattle, instead we focused on gathering data from Pioneer Square.

3. self locating -> location guidance: instead of giving the users just some pin points on the map, we put a location guidance service within the app to guide the user to the specific location where they can experience the AR view.

tour modes

The app provides direction guidance to each relevant location (point of interest) based on user's preference.

1. Guided mode - app gives specific direction to visit each points of interest in a given order.

2. unGuided mode - the app gives general direction to the selected area and allows user to freely explore the points of interest.

POI information

Based on their location and history, each point of interest comes with information and stories about development, displacement, community, urban culture and ecology.

AR view

When user enters the AR (augmented reality) view, a historical photograph will overlay on the real time location, showing the environmental contrast between the past and present.


The unARchived website shows the project information, team, blog entries and the web experience of exploring the point of interests translated from the mobile app.

The website was built mainly with React and Contentful. This set up allows our content developers to use Contentful as a fast and simple way to manage the site content and data.