Imagine being seated in a room with no windows, only white walls, and a ceiling. With the flip of a switch at your fingertips, you reach the 1000th Floor of a skyscraper overlooking the ocean; you sip your coffee while admiring the spectacular city skyline from beneath the glass floor of your balcony, much like an Avengers movie. And click! You find yourself roaming about a magnificent Gothic-style Hall with flying buttresses and stained-glass windows depicting biblical imagery.
Welcome to the Future-The Metaverse! 

Architecture of the Metaverse- A peek into the Future - Sheet1
Future of Architecture_©BCOM ARTS

We, as architects, are compelled to confront the harsh limitations of the physical realm, that most of our ideas are only developed to stay as a figment of our mind. But the future has a workaround! Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta (earlier ‘Facebook’), has just announced his intention to establish an alternate digital realm or the Metaverse. So, are we talking about a new branch of architecture?

What is Metaverse?

The word “Metaverse,” derived from Neal Stephenson’s 1992 sci-fi novel “Snowcrash,” was coined as a successor to the internet and represents his concept of how a digital world may emerge shortly. The metaverse is the digital realm in which whatever we can conceive may exist. We’ll eventually be connected to the ‘metaverse’ constantly, allowing us to extend our senses of sight, hearing, and touch, as well as mix digital objects into the actual world and enter completely immersive 3D environments anytime we desire.

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In the Metaverse_©Wacomka

For the architects, the idea of producing a digital twin of the physical world is similar to creating an ‘alternate universe’- an uncharted area of possibilities with absolutely no constraints whatsoever. The unimaginable massive demand for content in the metaverse might bring about a boom in the field of digital architecture to create virtual spaces like stadiums, meeting halls, museums, or even the whole of a city!

Designing the Metaverse

The question arises- is designing the virtual world the same as the physical one? 

Today’s good design is intuitive, simple to use, and aesthetically pleasing to the eye. In the metaverse, on the other hand, it’s an entirely other experience — it’s absolutely immersive. “That’s what people get from virtual worlds that they can’t get from anywhere else. That’s when they stop playing the world and start living it.” (Bartle, 2010). Individual involvement in pursuing a goal in the metaverse may be more important than the speed with which they reach their goal in the real world. It may be desirable to go to a marketplace rather than having access to online markets where anything can be bought at any time, or the person might want to go see friends rather than meeting them instantly via a Zoom session.

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Spaces in the Metaverse_©Josh Pabst

Architects of the Metaverse

Anyone with a creative and wild imagination may easily see the metaverse being created. But what do the real-world architects bring to the plate as digital-world designers?

Socio-cultural Integration 

Even though the Metaverse has no physical barriers, societal troubles may still exist. Designers will need to discern not just how societies operate in the real world but also what threatens them, to construct a healthy society in the virtual world. Architects have long been active members of our society, and their knowledge about social and cultural considerations is unrivaled. Hence, it is the role of an architect; that will ensure that the metaverse is an all-inclusive and vernacular world. 

Psychology and Environment 

It is a proven fact that our emotions are governed by our environment. Spaces can make us feel happy, sad, depressed, or electric; and a good design is said to have emotion and purpose. The Metaverse will be in dire need of designers who understand this, and guess what! no one knows it better than architects. Apart from being excellent listeners, architects are also inquisitive beings. They understand human psychology and the needs and demands of the communities and manifest this knowledge into the built environment. 

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Psychology and Virtuality_©www.dreamstime.com

A Link Between the Physical and the Virtual World

As the metaverse is unfolding, every industry is attempting to bridge the gap between the virtual and the physical. For the Construction Industry, as Autodesk puts it, “A digital twin might mean to develop an up-to-date replica of the physical asset or a set of assets- Be it a building, a campus, a city or a railway -that brings together design, construction, and real-time operational data.”  Digital twins might replicate, anticipate, and inform decisions such as the structure’s building process or the potential applications of the physical building evaluated in the virtual environment. It may also augment a real-life experience, such as hosting a global conference with participants; being virtually present in the physical world. 

Digital twin in Construction industry_©www.cadalyst.com

Because it resembles the actual world, we embrace the concept of a virtual world. Our understanding of how things function in the real world impacts our interpretation of how things may work in the virtual world. What awaits real-world architects is the possibility that the opposite is also true at times. While the metaverses’ architecture designs may be out of this world, our expectations of the physical world may grow exponentially. As we prepare to enter the realm of Utopia to create the metaverse, the role of architecture becomes increasingly crucial for the architects to conquer both the physical and the virtual domains. So, architects, is it time to reconsider our architectural values? or is it time to call into question the physical world’s constraints?

References

  • Bartle, R., 2010. Designing virtual worlds. Johanneshov: TPB.
  • Redshift EN. 2021. What Is a Digital Twin? Smart Data for the Built World. [online] Available at: <https://redshift.autodesk.com/what-is-a-digital-twin> [Accessed 16 November 2021].
Author

A firm believer of the fact that happy, thriving, and sustainable places are all the same, Reshika strives to build environments that promote individual well-being. Her work as an architect is driven by the desire to attain spatial and urban contentment, and it is in the intersection between this ideation and pragmatism that she contends her quest.

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