Virtual architecture : an analysis of virtual environments and the development of a virtual architecture

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Kemp, James S.
Wyman, John E.
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Thesis (B. Arch.)
College of Architecture and Planning
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The existence of cyberspace has, in recent years, presented architectural possibilities that have previously only existed in science fiction. The current state-of-the-art has advanced to a point at which cyberspace, a distinct, inhabitable and designable virtual world has come to fuition. This virtual world is vast and undefined and presents new and unfamiliar principles and issues that must be defined and explored. An architectural language must be developed that responds to the nature of this new world and the issues it represents. An architectural study of virtual environments will lead to the development of concepts that will serve as precedents for later virtual architectural designs and as starting points for further investigations.A three dimensional, interactive, virtual gallery will be the vehicle through which the architectural design of virtual environments will be explored. This project will address the identified issues and principles of virtual space and present one of unlimited solutions. The gallery will be accessed via the Internet, and thus be available anywhere in the world where there is an Internet connection.Architecture is usually considered to be the design and construction of physical buildings. Architecture in its purest form is the design of space for human habitation. The emergence of virtual reality technology and the popularity of the Internet has introduced a new arena forarchitectural design. Three-dimensional, inhabitable space exists on the miles of interconnected cables and computer chips called cyberspace. This environment is called virtual space and provides an opportunity for architects to develop a new vocabulary of architectural forms and a new set of architectural ordering principles that respond to this unique environment.It is important that architects seize the opportunity to design this new environment from its conception. The basic concepts of architecture are present in this new media and therefore architects are the most qualified to undertake the designing of this new and exciting world.The question that requires exploration is: How does architecture respond to a virtual environment? The exploration of this question involves a multifaceted process that will culminate in one possible solution. As with physical architecture, virtual architecture is not a definable entity and there are perhaps as many answers to this question as there are people in the world.Virtual space imposes a set of characteristics and principles of its own; some are similar to those of physical space and some drastically different. The architecture developed to respond to this space should reflect these similarities and differences. The first phase in developing a virtual architecture is to identify and explore the important issues that will affect the design decisions and study and analyze the few precedents that currently exist. The issues identified will create a framework for the development of a virtual architecture.The second phase involves interpreting the identified issues and proposing possible design responses. A list of responses must be compiled for each issue and then evaluated and tested. A design decision then must be made and a specific stance will be taken for each issue.The third and final phase of the process involves creating a virtual environment using the specific design decisions established in phase two. There are an endless number of solutions at this phase as well and the specific design will depend on the designer.As virtual reality and internet technology advance, new issues will emerge and new ideas and concepts will respond. Over time, virtual architecture could become an offshoot of the architectural profession with architects being specifically trained to respond to such an environment.These first attempts to identify and respond to this new world will prove to be valuable steps in the process of building a new and comprehensive architectural language.