LIVING IMAGES: VIRTUAL REALITY & ARCHITECTURE

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The intersections of design and technology are manifold. In recent years, major tech locales have seen the launch of numerous startups dedicated to exploring the productive relationship between tech products and the arts. Take, for example, NBBJ, a global architecture and design firm that has recently partnered up with startup Visual Vocal to bring Virtual Reality to the domain of architectural design.

Together, NBBJ and Visual Vocal are developing a VR productivity platform that will change the way that architectural firms engage with their clients, by allowing clients to directly interact with 3D models through VR. Such a technology would dramatically shape both communication between designers and their clients, as well as overall productivity.

IrisVR, a New York company that builds VR products for the architecture, engineering, and construction industry is engaged in a similar pursuit to that of NBBJ. The professional software IrisVR produces is geared to allow users to preview, edit, and share 3D models in VR.

IrisVR’s products create a new design dynamic and restructure the conventional relationship between designer and client, optimizing realtime VR and 3D demos. For example, “Prospect”, IrisVR’s desktop software allows designers to share their work and explore design options from the comfort of their desk.

The applications of VR in the building industry are certainly not limited to the domain of architectural models and design decisions. Toronto-based startup, The Third Fate is a design studio that, as their website states, “Leverages emerging technologies to preserve and activate the built environment, creating immersive experiences and stories” (http://www.thethirdfate.com/).

Thomas Hirschmann and Anthony Murray are The Third Fate and their work seeks to activate and animate spaces and places so that they can be experienced retroactively, and in some cases, removed from the actual site being explored through the use of VR. In essence, they have found a way to merge the static image with the lived experience of space.

Hirschmann and Murray are also invested in using technologies such as 360 video capture to preserve structures in urban fabrics that are in ruinous shape, to document the erection of new buildings, to record museum exhibitions, and to bear witness to structures facing demolition or renovation.

Take for example a 2001 project at The National Building Museum in Washington, DC. BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group collaborated with the museum to build a large-scale maze, titled the BIG Maze for the central atrium space in the museum. The Third Fate used a camera rig to record in 360 the temporary exhibition. Using a VR headset, visitors to the museum can stand in the space where the BIG Maze once stood, and experience the exhibition as if it was still installed. 

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