In just a few weeks the historic Mercantile in Missoula will come down, but thanks to a local designer there's still a way you can journey through the building.
It's been a hard pill to swallow for many since the proposal was announced to deconstruct the Merc and build a 154-room Marriott hotel. But now its memory will live on in virtual reality for those who aren't ready to say goodbye.
Ryan Darling grew up in Missoula and remembers going to the Merc often when his grandma worked there. Darling is director of the 3D laser scanning company DWP Live. He uses laser scanning to capture exact measurements of buildings that have irregular surfaces, such as Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, and now the Missoula Mercantile.
Darling was able to capture the entire Mercantile in 3D renderings. He was originally hired only to document the pharmacy portion of the building, the only section that will be restored, but ended up documenting the whole building. The renderings will help developers restore the pharmacy section as promised, further preserving the historic building
Darling began scanning the building in full color in early September. His scanners operate a million times per second, taking 1-3 minutes per angle. Over 125 different angles later, a week of work and some very late nights, Darling had captured the entire Mercantile in virtual reality.
He says it was incredible to experience this 140-year-old building in this unique way.
"Remembering the stairs in between the first an second floors and walking up those stairs with my grandma. Going in the basement was really cool. I just thought it was neat to see, think about the history down there and how it was constructed was interesting to me," says Darling.
The data Darling collected will go to the Missoula Development Services and then eventually be available to the public. Darling didn't know exactly when that would be, but he says when it does becomes available to the public, it will operate much like Google Earth with different bubble viewers. He says his renderings will likely allow people to see even more of the Merc than they would have been able to had it stayed open.
Darlings sad to see the Merc go, but he says at least his scans will allows the Merc live on as long as technology is around.
"I'm just really happy now the data is available to Missoulians and they can use it in the future to do all kinds of neat stuff and recreate the Merc in virtual reality and experience it again even though its not there anymore," says Darling.