May 10, 2022 Architecture Studio Explores New Media Through Virtual Reality

This spring, Adjunct Lecturer Richard-Allen Foster in the School of Architecture, is leading a unique studio for 5th-year and graduate students entitled, “The [New] Normal.” This studio dives deep into the concepts of what the world would be like post-pandemic and explores this theory through the use of virtual reality technology.

Foster VR

In the studio, students explore architectural storytelling through VR to allow for fully immersive and collaborative presentations with people in the same room and from around the world. The students’ new media presentations are based on three main ideas discussed in the studio. The first concept discusses the emergence of new lifestyle-first communities. Second is the concept of the integration of technology, architecture and placemaking and how it contributes to increased collaboration and communications. Lastly, the third concept investigates storytelling and workflow development.

Students are taking their presentations into the metaverse, which is a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection. These 3D worlds allow students to explore how “new tools enable designers to tell richer design narratives through site models that are annotated, interactive design options, exploded-axons that become three dimensional exploded models, section-cuts that become experiential, and yes, fully experiencing the designs at 1-to-1 scale,” said Foster.

The use of this new media in the studio allows for students to creatively and efficiently display relevant information, such as research, drawings, videos and models on multiple scales. The use of VR makes it possible to follow an idea from inception to execution and transition between pieces of information quickly and continuously.

“Software such as Gravity Sketch allows me to use my hands to sketch in 3D. It has also helped bring conceptual ideas to life,” said Trevor Thompson, 5th-year Architecture student. “A sketch I would traditionally produce in my sketchbook that is line-based can now be sculpted in a virtual environment with the means of exporting into building information model platforms.”

In March, the level of discussion in the mid-semester reviews was no less than that of an in-person review. The engagement between students and reviewers was exemplary through the use of this new media. A number of the reviewers commented on the helpfulness of having so many digital models with which they could engage and how easy it was to understand the projects.

In addition to using VR for the presentations, the studio is also using VR for design critiques, which has become an important role in understanding and communicating about 3D spatial design.

Foster VR

“[The use of VR] has been incredibly helpful during the studio because it has made communicating with teammates much simpler as we can show each other information in a living version of the model, rather than trying to flatten everything into a drawing,” said Melissa Lozano Lykes, 5th-year Architecture student. “This makes the model more inhabitable. In the future, I hope that this helps me to be more able to visualize the entire design and have innovative representation technique ideas.”

Another benefit to using VR is that participants do not need to be in VR goggles to either participate or view images from the reviews. A headset does provide a more immersive experience for the reviewer. However, the platform being used for the review,, does allow for access through a web browser.

See for yourself!

The studio will be hosting a virtual open gallery on Friday, May 13, 6:15 p.m., which is open to the public. VR goggles are not required to enjoy the gallery.

Learn more

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