What we need to learn from architecture when designing virtual spaces

When VR meets architecture

A few weeks ago I relaunched the podcast I run with an interview focusing on multisensory technologies. This week, I have Norwegian architect Kim Baumann Larsen discussing VR and architecture:

Kim has worked with VR and interactive technologies since the 1990s and draws from environmental psychology into his work. He gave a talk on the topic earlier in the year at the RealTime conference - check out Kim’s talk here:

Design as the rendering of intent

As with any design activity, if we define it as a process where the designers render their intent into the outcome, creating a virtual space is an output that goes through many considerations and choices.

If we pay more attention to how architects have deliberated on the nature of space, and how humans inhabit it, we become more conscious of those choices. We also arrive at a better place to think beyond conventional truths and start embracing less of the constraints snd forms that we have been accustomed to physical spaces.

This does not mean abandoning cognitive and psychological principles around what makes a space us feel in a specific way and how we orientate ourselves to it.

Quite vice versa.

Shapes, colours, and peripheral vision

We can draw e.g from how different shapes and colours affect our sense of space, as discusses in his talk above and also writes about.

We discuss this in more detail in the podcast. For reading, I recommend a book by the Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa, The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses, where he discusses the phenomenology of architecture and how thinking beyond sight is integral to a more nuanced premise for designing spaces we inhabit. Pallasmaa writes:

”The very essence of the lived experience is moulded by unconscious haptic imagery and unfocused peripheral vision. Focused vision confronts us with the world whereas peripheral vision envelops us in the flesh of the world.”

Just think what that might mean for designing VR spaces?

The answers are not obvious and certainly not trivial. I’d venture to say that we have been preoccupied with focused vision with VR. Architectural thinking gives us a more holistic framework for designing experiences of space.

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Next week I will delve into this recent paper from Stanford University about motion tracking and data privacy, and design implications arising from that.

Stay safe,

Aki

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