Cyberspace and the idea of virtual architecture

By Karan Karayi

Even before the pandemic struck the world, some of the fundamental notions of architecture were being re-examined as the human experience evolved. Digital advances have not left the world of architecture untouched, adding nuances and complexity in the education and practice of architecture.

Speaking at The Times of India DesigNXT, Patrik Schumacher, Principal Architect, Zaha Hadid Architects, spoke of how the digital era will force a re-evaluation of the architect’s role, saying, “The essential task for all designers is all about form and content. More importantly, designers need to be trained in communication and interaction. There is an infinite capacity for innovation possible.”

New-age architects need to stay abreast of technological advances in order to make the fully leverage the capabilities of new design tools at their disposal. Currently many architects see visual computation of architecture as a simple representation and they ignore its potential. They need to see beyond this notion and start seeing it as the architecture itself, as Schumacher explained. “I think this is a moment where architecture can take a step forward, and take over design. In the last 25-30 years, the internet became a domain of graphic designers. But at the beginning of the internet, there was the opportunity for architects to step up. Cyberspace could have been conceived spatially, in a more 3-D way. The internet would not be based on the analogy of a magazine with pages and content, and a filing system with top down menus.”

Virtual reality gives one a sense of being immersed in a created reality, and architects can freely alter the perception of a space sans obstructions, which allows for new architectural possibilities that might not have been possible previously. Expanding on this Schumacher stated, “The complex layering of interactions in urban and virtual spaces, and overlapping and gradients can be brought to virtual spaces. Virtual spaces are coming heavily, they are becoming new interaction spaces. That is why digitalization is big as many home in on the space.”

“Take augmented reality, where digital spaces are overlapping with physical spaces. The augmented screens now possible that occupy real and virtual worlds sees a switch between both simulated and real spaces. This is a defining moment for us all, and sets me up and my teams to push into those spaces where a lot of energy and resources will flow. It is an exciting time for we as architects.”

Without any doubt, the symbiosis of physical and virtual architecture will stretch the limits of what was conceived as possible, leading to the creation of new realities reflecting the evolving world around us.

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