Architecture throughout time has always been a field of communication. As architects and designers, we are constantly communicating our perceptions and sharing our ideas with others. When we share our ideas with other architects and designers alike, we speak the same language, and rely on our drawings to be a translator when something isn’t clear. Our experiences in school and years of practice often assist us in seeing the iterations and progression of a project. However, those without an architecture background may not necessarily speak that same creative language. Whether it be clients or family members asking about your work, sometimes our drawings or renderings can’t fully express the experience we are trying to evoke.
So, then what? We now live in an era that is becoming more and more dependent on technology, and, fortunately, this technology has brought new and exciting tools to the architecture field, such as 3D fly around views or computer-generated models. These are great devices to help us show our clients what a finished product will look like, but there is still something missing. That something is place; the experiences and characteristics we give spaces through our own cognition that truly make architecture, well, architecture. Therefore, virtual reality is the next communicator. Virtual reality, or VR, has seen great improvements in the past three years and along with them, the experiences have become more powerful and real than ever. I was skeptical at first to see if VR could truly give a sense of place to something that wasn’t real, but after stepping into a Revit model I created, I became a firm believer in its ability to deliver an experience. VR can give clients and others who may have trouble envisioning what the experience of a space will be, the ability to see and experience architecture the way we designers intend.
VR accomplishes this is by allowing clients to do a walkthrough of the spaces in first person at 1:1 scale, so they get to see the heights and views as if the space is already built. It also features the ability to set up live meetings in VR, as if it were an on-site visit, again before anything is built. This way, a client can make changes and annotate right at their fingertips, allowing the client to speak the same design language and take part in an iteration unlike ever before. Finally, no matter what design phase you are currently in, VR can take place all the way from beginning to end, from deciding the rough form up to a finer detail like choosing materials or a color. For these reasons, VR is impressive and will be an important tool in the future of architecture. Expect it to be more common in the workplace. For this to fully develop, VR must make strides to become more accessible and readily available to the public.