At certain moments in the history of the development of humanity, ideas and technological elements arise that could seem like the product of fantasy, and in some cases, exceed our current understanding of reality.

In 2014, the first known NFT in history was created; artist Kevin McCoy’s ”Quantum” art piece, which was auctioned off last year. This NFT set the precedent for what is now a technological revolution and is becoming an industry whose applications are spreading to other fields far beyond pictorial works such as painting and photography.

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Blockchain_©Tezos

The Collins dictionary chose NFT as the word of 2021 and this is no coincidence. The dictionary defines it as “Non-Fungible Token: a unique digital certificate, registered in a blockchain, that is used to record the ownership of an asset such as an artwork or a collectible”.

From this definition it is possible to begin to think about possible applications of this technology in the field of architecture, since this discipline carries out many of its processes digitally, through two-dimensional CAD drawings, going through illustrations to highly detailed models in 3D.

The First House as NFT and its Effects

One of the basic precepts of architecture is its understanding as a discipline whose results are tangible elements, houses that we can see and go through, doors that we can cross, and walls that we can touch to feel the texture of the materials.

In 2021, contemporary artist Krista Kim sold the first NFT-certified house. The Mars House is a home of pure geometries, whose elements are characterized by the lightness and transparency of its composition, where light plays a transcendent role through elegant colors and planes, in addition to doing complete justice to its name, since this house is located in a context that alludes to the Martian landscape.

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Mars House_©Krista Kim

This house set a very important precedent by opening the way to a new approach to view the practice of architecture and one that is consistent with the author’s beliefs about what the approaches of contemporary artists should be. Kista Kim believes that artists must participate in the forefront of technological innovations since we are going through a stage where technology is going through processes of innovation, adaptation, and disruption.

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Mars House_©Krista Kim

This search for technological innovation is not alien to architects, whose examples were visible through the Dome of Santa Maria del Fiore by Brunelleschi until the development of algorithms applied to parametric design and which allowed the development of highly complex geometries. It is undeniable that architects in their artist spirit have always had a special interest in technological innovations to push the limits of their practice.

New Opportunities and Challenges for Young Architects 

The NFTs and their qualities to develop architecture whose plastic and physical parameters have a much more extensive limit than “classical” architecture represents a growing opportunity for young architects who now do not have to face the paradigm of constructability to make their work something relevant that can attract the eyes of architecture lovers.

It might seem that the commodification of unbuilt pieces and environments also opens a window of opportunity to the possibility of minimizing the negative impact and overexploitation of resources that derive from the use of real and tangible materials such as reinforced concrete or interior finishes of an average building. The carbon footprint of the underlying blockchain technology, which supports NFTs, is now a matter of debate, as cryptocurrencies and NFTs require a network of electricity-consuming computers to power their blockchains to exist.

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Virtual Self_©Martin Sánchez

Through this new paradigm, NFTs in general now represents a new challenge in the fight against climate change, since, although they pose the possibility of new solutions given the problem of over-exploitation of resources, they now also open a new debate on the energy consumption implicit in its existence, encouraging the search for the incorporation of clean energy for it.

The new technologies that are being developed through virtuality and that are the argument behind NFTs have also paved the way for the emergence of the metaverse, which could now be a parallel reality to our physical existence where the line between what is real and virtual becomes thinner and thinner. The emergence of the metaverse could be a possible solution to the problem of the NFT architecture that has as a deterrent the lack of interactivity of its elements, being merely contemplative elements that leave interactivity aside.

The Metaverse_©Julien Tromeur

The combination of these two technologies could lead to the development of an industry that could provide a solution to the questioning associated with immersion in digital architecture, and that at the same time, could ensure the registration and authenticity of an asset, from a piece of furniture to a building.

Perhaps we are in the presence of a new revolution similar to the one brought by the internet at the end of the 20th century and that is now an intrinsic part of our way of life. It is early to tell, but the existence of so many possibilities for this new technology is refreshing and provides new opportunities for architects who are growing along with this technology.

References:

  1. Collins Dictionary [online]. Available at: https://www.collinsdictionary.com/es/woty  [Accessed date: 15/01/22].
  2. Krista Kim [online]. Available at: https://www.kristakimstudio.com/ [Accessed date: 15/01/22].
  3. Designer Krista Kim on the world’s first NFT house | CNBC Television  [YouTube video] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8IB4RXII5s 
  4. Behind the massive carbon emissions of blockchain and NFTs | CNBC Television  [YouTube video] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtZI0-m31Nc
Author

Mexican architect, LEED Green associate & CPABE. Design lover in all its expressions with a strong interest in sustainable development and accessibility. Enrique Tovar lives through dedication and passion. He firmly believes that creating a narrative through writing and photography is a vital tool to reach a deep understanding of design.

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