VIRTUAL REALITY AS A "REAL" EXPERIENCE
The recent interview of Andreea Cojocaru on the Voices of VR Podcast, was quite a lively discussion about the parallels, overlaps, and juxtapositions of virtual reality (VR) environments as related to physical reality environments. During the discussion, Cojocaru explains how virtual reality experience can indeed be a “real” experience as it feeds the human senses by which participants perceive and respond. (1)
Thus, the question remains: Can virtual reality be an architectural sensory experience? As you ponder the answer to this question, it is important to think first about how to define an architectural sensory experience. At its core, architectural design nurtures the human body moving through space, perceiving the “world” which surrounds them. This can also be said of virtual environments. As a VR participant engages with an immersive virtual environment, they are also experiencing stimuli through their senses, as well as moving through space (both virtually and physically as they navigate the “world”).
EXPANDING DESIGN BEYOND THE PHYSICAL WORLD
Not all buildings are to be considered fine works of architecture, just as not all VR experiences are to be considered fine works of architectural experience. Vital to the design of VR environments is the ability to create an immersive experience that evokes human response in meaningful ways. Of course, meaning can take many forms. For this reason, virtual reality stands as a very interesting path by which to explore immersive architectural experiences that may not be able to be built in the purely physical world.
As you design architecture for the physical world, think of how virtual reality (or augmented reality) can help you explore new dimensions of space – and the way in which that space gets perceived. You can use virtual reality to inform your architectural designing, to create truly unique spaces that cannot be built elsewhere, and/or you can create experiments to unlock how humans perceive and respond to the design of spatial stimuli. Thus, virtual reality is not completely separate from the world of traditional architectural practice. As Andreea Cojocaru explains in her interview, engaging in each can help the other, as you are likely to become a better architect because of your virtual reality investigations. (1)
DESIGNING ARCHITECTURAL BEHAVIOR WITHIN VIRTUAL SPACE
Yes, virtual reality can be an architectural sensory experience if the architect of the environment understands and builds an immersion that speaks in the language of architecture. And this architectural language is what gives architecture its behavior that ultimately evokes participant engagement, perception, and response. Within virtual reality design, traditional architectural principles and methods can fuse with new architectural principles and methods. This creates exciting opportunity for architects to expand what virtual reality (and traditional architectural practice) can do. The virtual canvas awaits.
(1) Bye, Kent. (2018) #719: The Phenomenology of Architecture and How VR is Revolutionizing Spatial Design Intuition. Voices of VR Podcast [Accessed Online: January 14, 2019] http://voicesofvr.com/719-the-phenomenology-of-architecture-how-vr-is-revolutionizing-spatial-design-intuition