Metaverse … is the architectural future virtual?

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Over the past ten years, architectural firms have begun to familiarize themselves with virtual models and BIM. But now comes the meta-verse … Can the temptation of virtual architecture allow us to rediscover a space of creative freedom?

What is the meta-verse? * It is presented to us as the ultimate achievement of the Internet, the development of a universe parallel to the real world, where everyone can move around, acquire goods, live daily experiences … ‘hears. Equipped with a virtual reality headset, once you have crossed the metaverse barrier, you will be able to create your own life.

So you can choose the fate of a multibillionaire with a luxurious property, staff available, from the back of the sofa in your 35 m² large HLM … When you take off your helmet, the shock can be quite violent!

If all the flaws in this new universe are obvious at first glance, with the attacks on users’ psychological integrity that will result from this larch mirror, it is a fact that this new three-dimensional space is an architectural space and as such, architects should not take this topic up?

I have always believed that the emergence of BIM for architects was the beginning of the disappearance of the idea that ” each building is a prototype », Famous maxim appropriate to justify all malfunctions and poor workmanship in a building during delivery. BIM is a derivative of tools developed by the industry to reduce prototype costs before they go into production. Manufacturers who were used to making prototypes of their creations to reduce the risk of poor craftsmanship during mass production quickly understood the interest in making a virtual prototype that is much cheaper and faster to use than an actual prototype.

To date, it must be recognized that after reaching the level of complexity of our buildings, it is the rare case where integrated prototyping proves to be profitable before construction because the building does not reflect the total cost. However, the production time for a virtual prototype is very close to the construction time that the building will require.

So the interest is not as for the industrialist upstream, but downstream, in the utilization of the building, whose operator has to undergo for many years more or less embarrassing dysfunctions. But lately, customers have postponed starting construction of their new projects until the last minute: they tighten survey deadlines, construction deadlines, etc. As they are mostly not the future operators, if the rooms are not perfectly adapted to the use …

Our digital models have not yet revealed their full potential: Here, too, it is very rare for future users to see the building virtually. In theory, however, it would be quite simple to pour the model into the meta-verse, giving its address to users who, wearing their virtual reality helmets, could walk through the corridors and spaces of their future universe.

An architect can, of course, imagine the worst with the risk of the developer or company interfering in every detail of the project. But this tool could also make it possible to ” sales ‘Architectural devices that may seem obscure on a plan: a triple atrium is easier to sell once inhabited than the sign on a plan! It is also possible to imagine that the metaverse could make it possible to test these devices and analyze the way in which they are perceived by users. A kind of place for research and experiments, where architects would model spaces to have them tested by everyone and thus collect the emotions of a large population. Thus, it could be easier to propose, for example, habitats closer to what the population expects and undoubtedly more intelligent than the simple normative use made of them today.

It is also allowed to imagine places for sensory experiments in connection with research, especially medical, which makes it possible to analyze how architectural spaces affect our mental state, and thus be able to subsequently implement them in physical buildings.

The purpose of the architecture will remain to create real and concrete spaces and, despite the ever-increasing pressure of constraints on the construction process – justification of the smallest gram of material used, its environmental impact, its CO2 footprint, the energy balance of each must produced, the absolute control of the light contributions not in relation to a quality of space, but in relation to an average standard, the inclusive will that tends to produce a smooth architecture without roughness, etc. – The temptation of virtuality can finally make it possible to find a space with creative freedom! Plus, no financial limit!

It would then be possible to imagine poetic and lyrical places without the risk of being sanctioned by a budget cut or some normative dogma.

So is the future of architecture in the metaverse? In any case, architects will have to figure it out, maybe starting with architecture schools! If this parallel universe is to be created by computer scientists, it is not certain that it will not quickly become a hell. But maybe this is its last call?

Stephane Vedrenne
Urban architect

Find all Stéphane Védrennes Chronicles

* Also read our Hell or Paradise? In the meta-verse, there is nothing genuine except clones of FL Wright

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