Hosted by Architect David Lee and Marina Bourderonnet, The Second Studio is an architectural podcast incorporating various aspects of architecture and design in a comparatively modified and whimsical fashion. Both the architects have carefully curated the space wherein they interview numerous architects and discuss everyday subjects essential for the students and professionals of the field.
Why did they feel the need for the second studio? Architect David Lee and Marina Bourderonnet answer it simply-Practicing architects and designers generally do not involve the general public in the process of designing, which can sometimes create a creative block. The second studio podcast aims to give people an insight into the world of architects and simultaneously help the designers explore new paradigms through conversing about their theories and ideas.
The podcast features four categories of episodes:
- Design Reviews of buildings and projects,
- Interviews with people from architectural, art, or a designer background,
- Fellow Designer, wherein they provide tips and ideas to get through the everyday problems of an architect, and,
- After Hours- wherein they inculcate casual conversations about life and architecture in general.
The following article tries to deliberate and reveal understandings from episode 183, named Augmented Realities- The Future of City Design-Virtual, Physical, and Hybrid Environments. The chapter examines a presentation-research paper that Architect David Lee created on the said matter.
Throughout the episode, both the curators uncover environmental and design effects on the behaviour of individuals, the need for a correlation between urban and public-space designing with the augmented technologies and realities. In the video, architect David Lee elucidates that he wrote the following paper before his post-graduation with an aspiration to explore and discover how the simplest of forms in our built environment affect individuals.
He addresses questions like how the architecture of our cities shapes our lives, and of course, what effect does virtual platforms like social media, smartphones, etc., have on the architecture and people of today?
Discovering the realms of the physical world
In the first two segments, architect Lee discusses the “physical world” and every other thing and meaning related and connected to it. The research paper that he wrote fundamentally embraces four theoretical structures on which the entire methodology stands on, namely:
And, the analytical framework of the paper includes the notion of form or behaviour, a platform where this particular form or concept is realized, and the authorship describing the manipulation of an object or design according to the perfect set of rules to construct an ideal arrangement.
In this section, David Lee coins paradigms of random commodities found in nature (like a circle—an inanimate form, a rock, and a pen that is specifically an establishment of human beings). He explains that any form that we come across is imperfect, i.e., it always tries to gain validation as per the norms when realized in the physical environments or nature (the material construct).
All these examples carry out one conventional conclusion—The imagination that humans endure while creating remains different from its reality. The same intricate fact is genuine for architecture and our cities. As designers and architects, we design keeping in mind so many physical factors like climatic adaptation, user, functionality, etc.
But the actual inhabitant of that structure (the author) decides how to use and perceive that space. The platform we design represents our concrete/tangible world where we, the architects, are the authors or the manipulators of the environment with the ability to produce something of our perception. But the inhabitant experiences and explores this space composed in a completely different demeanour. Because of the said reason, our encounter with a city always remains fragmented or discontinuous.
Although the above point is explained in a somewhat complicated manner, I agree with it. The above notions come along for a variety of reasons. Unlike articles stemming from nature like a rock or an animal, humans have a unique capacity to choose how to exist in their environments. The said provides them to govern different forms with a different set of rules.
We not only see or treat architecture as a shelter or a means for survival. Architecture is self-expressing in its customs because of which it becomes open for interpretation for distinctive individuals. Likewise, according to David Lee and Marina Bourderonnet, the idea that architecture and urban design are basically about creating better lives for more people holds accurate to a certain extent.
As explained in the podcast (in a theoretical sense), the fact that our physical lives vary from us generates an opportunity to conceptualize something innovative and imperfect also creates room for enhancement. The imperfections in our designs are a way for us to evolve.
The episode further focuses on the difficulties faced in the cities. The architects point out primitive flaws like the inequality in the accessibility of various locations or the places individuals choose to perform some particular activities might not suit each of them. Architects generally don’t focus on the design of transitional spaces—the areas truly following the definition of public entities.
Cities encompass a collaboration of transitional zones, and public spaces are nothing but these regions because they are the catalysts of interaction. Although it is obvious that transitional zones are categorized as undesirable destinations because people here co-exist coercively, it still is a productive thing. Such public/transitional spaces provide human lives with a sense of community.
The one thing that Marina suggests towards the end of the second segment is something to critically deliberate. She says that we are in a vicious loop, where first when humans occurred, there was nothing but openness and public arenas. “Our physical world was, by default, a public space.”
But, as a consequence of growth and expansion, humans started constructing to demarcate and fashion more private spaces. We either destroyed the existing public entities or forgot them. Today, the architects and designers look for ways to reverse the damage, to make the cities more open and breathable.
Virtual World—Better than the physical, or does it get worse?
The next piece of the episode envelops the meaning, connection, advantages and disadvantages of the virtual world. From the entire discussion between both the architects, one thing is evident- the virtual world is nothing but an extreme version of the physical one, with more divisions, networking, and privatization of spaces. Unlike our physical environment, the virtual one does not grow out from a particular form.
Our virtual atmosphere can have a varied form at any given duration because no rules dictate its presence. But it is often seen that in the virtual existence, the behaviour of people within that space purely rests on the structure the designer shapes.
Now the point very well kept by both the architects in the podcast is that isn’t this dangerous? I completely approve of this fact. Living in the physical space does not come without its problems, but I still have the freedom to stimulate my thoughts. When it comes to augmented realities, the said freedom is lost.
David Lee also explains the above-quoted issue with the example of social media networks. The algorithm of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allows individuals to interact, network, or author the space, but yet governs it through a set system. Therefore, we see and work around the ideas they show us.
One other problem that revolves around the virtual world is that of criticism. According to David Lee, the inhabitants don’t critique the structure they reside within the augmented reality. The following occurs because, in the physical world, the nature surrounding us is a buffer between the architecture and its resident. In the case of augmented realities, that parameter exists no more. Augmented spaces are known to exclude information, delineating stuff that inevitably leads to shallow reviews, leaving no scope for improvement or evolution.
Even with so many reoccurring problems, why are humans attracted to the concept of something like a virtual city? The logical answer that I found in the podcast is that virtual realities have more sense of freedom than our physical atmospheres. Individuals can never experience a similar notion in their built environments, but in their augmented spaces, we acknowledge everything because it is well-defined and reduced to please us in a set way.
The only good thing that comes out in the virtual world is the equal access that the norms of social media provide us. But again, to have an uninterrupted network, the individuals need to invest and have resources, which everyone cannot afford. Hence to summarize, a virtual surrounding is fully created and authored by individuals, containing no specific form (generally taking only the perfect forms).
What is the solution for our future cities than – A Hybrid Environment?
Both physical and virtual worlds have unending concerns, but architect David Lee has devised a small theoretical resolution, called a Hybrid Environment. As acknowledged, humans are far more dependent on their virtual situations and cannot survive without their physical environments. The third state of existence for the future of urban development can become a bridge between the two.
According to Lee, in this city, the technology would not be optional (unlike now). Since design implies having more human motives like social, mental, emotional, physical, etc., this city will cater to the needs by imbibing the two. It will have an inbuilt virtual fabric within its physical appearance, like the streets, the sidewalks, the transportation zones, parks, plazas, etc. This city will try to produce primitive virtual facilities along with social amenities—available for everyone. The hybrid city will give everyone the opportunity to co-author it.
To conclude, the episode is like a roller-coaster ride for architects and designers who want to educate themselves with the expertise of augmented realities. In parts, the podcast becomes a bit confusing, but towards the end, both the architects establish a firm ground of their thoughts.