Metaverse… is the architectural future virtual?


Over the past ten years, architectural firms have become familiar with virtual models and BIM. But now comes the metaverse… Can the seduction of virtual architecture allow us to rediscover a space of creative freedom?

What is the metaverse?* 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, experience everyday experiences…’ should be. Equipped with a virtual reality headset, once you pass the barrier of the metaverse, you can create your own life.

So you can choose the fate of a multi-billionaire with a luxury property, available staff, from the back of the couch in your 35sqm HLM… If you take off your helmet, the shock can be quite severe!

If at first glance all the shortcomings of this new universe are apparent, with the attacks on the psychological integrity of users that will result from this lion’s mirror, the fact remains that this new three-dimensional space is an architectural space and as such, architects should not take up this subject?

I always thought that the arrival of BIM for architects was the beginning of the disappearance of the idea that ” every building is a prototype », famous maxim that is suitable for justifying all breakdowns and poor finishing of a building during delivery. BIM is a derivative of tools developed by the industry to reduce the cost of prototypes before they go into production. Manufacturers, accustomed to prototype their creations to reduce the risk of poor workmanship during mass production, quickly understood the importance of creating a virtual prototype, which is much cheaper and faster to use than a real prototype.

To date, it must be recognized that after we have reached the level of complexity of our buildings, it is rare that integral prototyping before construction proves to be profitable, as the building does not reflect the total cost. However, the production time of a virtual prototype is very close to the construction time required by the building.

So the interest is not like the industrial upstream, but downstream, in the exploitation of the building, the operator of which has to undergo more or less embarrassing dysfunctions for many years. But lately, customers have postponed the start of construction of their new projects until the last moment: they tighten study deadlines, construction deadlines, etc. Because they are usually not not the future operators, if the spaces are not perfectly adapted to the use. ..

Our digital models have not yet revealed their full potential: here too, it is rare for future users to virtually inspect the building. In theory, however, it would be quite easy to cast the model into the metaverse, giving its address to users who, wearing their virtual reality helmets, could walk through the corridors and rooms of their future universe.

An architect can of course imagine the worst, with the risk that the client or the company interferes with all the details of the project. But this tool could also make it possible to “ to sell » architectural devices that may seem obscure on a floor plan: A three-height atrium is easier to sell if it’s occupied than if it’s drawn on a floor plan! It is also conceivable that the metaverse could make it possible to test these devices and analyze how they are perceived by users. A kind of place of research and experiment where architects would model spaces to be tested by everyone and thus collect the feelings of a large population. So it could be easier to propose, for example, habitats closer to the expectations of the population and undoubtedly more intelligent than the simple normative application made of them today.

It is also allowed to propose places of sensory experiments related to research, in particular medical, making it possible to analyze how architectural spaces influence our psychological state, and thus be able to implement them subsequently in physical buildings. †

The aim of architecture will remain to create real and concrete spaces and, despite the constantly increasing pressure of restrictions on building – justification of the slightest gram of material used, its environmental impact, its ecological footprint, the energy balance of each m² produced, the absolute control of the light contributions not in relation to a quality of the space but in relation to an average standard, the inclusive will tending towards the production of a smooth architecture without roughness, etc. . – the seduction of virtuality can finally make it possible to find a space of creative freedom! Plus, no financial limit!

One could then imagine poetic and lyrical places without the risk of being sanctioned by austerity or any normative dogma.

So, is the future of architecture in the metaverse? Architects will at least have to work with it, perhaps starting with architecture schools! If this parallel universe is to be created by computer scientists, there’s no guarantee it won’t turn into hell soon enough. But maybe this is his last calling?

Stephane Vedrenne
urban architect

Find all Chronicles of Stéphane Védrenne

*Read also our Hell or Paradise? In the metaverse, nothing real, except clones of FL Wright

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