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.

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