Toward a New Virtual Architecture

This article at Technology Review (via reBang) highlights some very important elements that I believe lie at the core of a broader movement toward a new language of virtual architecture, building on the inherent value and opportunity of virtual worlds, and transcending physical replication.

I realize I’ve started straying from the original concentration of this blog, but I think this is an important topic that I hope will gain momentum. As the next generation of virtual architecture emerges, it will undoubtedly impact and overlap real life spaces, meaning professional architects and designers are in a unique position to provide thought leadership in discovering this new language.

I think this emergence will be organized around several key elements, which I hope to begin writing more about in future posts.

  • Dissolving perceived boundaries. I believe the new language of virtual architecture will require a significant degree of cross-disciplinary collaboration, blurring the lines between architecture, graphic design, web design, music, performance, fashion, programming, etc.
  • A strong interface between real and virtual. This is an area I expect Far Link and others will be pioneering some new and interesting ideas – another core element in the emergence of the new language.
  • User-generated content. This has already been a critical force in the fabric of Second Life, and will continue to be an important component. The traditional hierarchy of creator and end-user will continue to flatten, as people are given the tools to create their own spaces.
  • Wikitecture, co-creation and the next generation of collaboration. Building on the previous point, I think there will be value in an organized methodology and protocol – best exemplified by the experiments of Studio Wikitecture and others.
  • Reflexive, responsive, ‘smart’ (sorry Kvasir!) architecture. My thoughts on this are covered in previous posts, and exemplified by the kind of work seen in first link of this post. Going further, I think this new language will build upon trajectories established in ‘BIM’ or Building Information Model technology – only transcending physical interpretation and expanding into the virtual realm. The architecture or virtual interface will continue to become smarter and programmable. This responsiveness will be fed, in part, by:
  • Metrics and pattern observation. I think the ability to design truly reflexive architectural builds will require an in-depth knowledge of how avatars use virtual space. Distilling a kind of pattern language through careful observation will help us design spaces based on user behavior. Measured data will help us understand how avatars use spaces over a longer period of time, allowing the architecture to shift-shape and actually ‘learn’ from this data.

This emergence will be complex and multi-faceted; impossible to cover in one place. My hope is that this blog, and the in-world group can collectively keep track of new developments and emerging concepts through reader and group-member contributions. So, please feel free to send me your ideas and observations for publication and discussion here and in-world.

4 Comments so far
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I think Keystone has identified some crucial aspects to virtual design here. Each is its own multi-faceted topic and deserves a great deal of attention. It sounds as though a Virtual Manifesto is at its embryonic stage and I look forward to what we discover in the coming months.

I think our greatest contribution to this evolving document is through experimentation. It seems that each of us has our little niche we seem to favor as we become experts in our respective territories. A great example of this is Theory’s recent Wikitecture experiments. As we begin to catalog findings and discoveries through this work, patterns will emerge which would remain unseen and muddy were it not for the careful work of the individual. As is seen with the Wikitecture group, the methods of design development also evolve as limitations and opportunities are discovered in the process.

I think this careful analysis of results (in an almost scientific fashion) will give great validity and credibility to our work, and will only strengthen our understanding of the virtual architectural phenomena we study. This is a direction currently undertaken by recent architectural ventures and I think this will also help tie virtual work to current trends in the architectural community.

Comment by Far Link

[…] recently wrote about opportunities for responsive or reflexive architectural characteristics and considered […]

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[…] the longest time, I’ve been calling for a new language of virtual architecture, that transcends physical replication and finds new opportunities based on the inherent or native […]

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