Space Popular is a multidisciplinary design and research practice led by Lara Lesmes & Fredrik Hellberg, and they’ve been architecture students for the last eight years about spatial design as well as the latest immersive technologies. They’ve been teaching a design unit for the tools for architecture at the Architectural Association in London, and this past March they gathered a number of different architectural students and practitioners for a Symposium on the Architecture for the Immersive Internet.
They flew me to London so that I could participate in this day-long symposium a the Architectural Association, and then I had a chance to debrief them on the gathering, and have them share their insights as to how immersive technologies are shifting the educational landscape for architecture students. They talk about the unique aspects of an interdisciplinary education about spatial design, the future of dynamic architecture, and how real-time game engines are the latest in a long continuation of technologies that have been advancing the art of architectural representation. Also, once the quantified constraints of physical architecture is removed within virtual architecture, then there’s a renewed focus on the fundamentals of meaning, symbolism, & aesthetics within spatial design.
This podcast is the first of a series of seven episodes diving into the future of immersive architecture in a series that totals over seven hours of content looking at how immersive technologies are reshaping the art and science of spatial design.
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Here’s the entire 8-hour livestream of the symposium:
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[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to the Voices of VR Podcast. So on March 1st, 2019, I was invited to go to London to the Architectural Association to participate on a symposium about the immersive architecture of the internet. So the founders of Space Popular, Laird Lesmis and Frederick Hilbert, they teach a course there at the Architectural Association about tools for architecture. And they wanted to bring together a variety of different architects thinking about virtual reality. And to be able to come together and just brainstorm where the future is headed for the immersive architecture of the internet, but also how virtual and immersive technologies are changing the practice of architecture itself. So this was a gathering that actually had a huge impact on me just because architecture is this interdisciplinary practice that is fusing together so many different perspectives from like looking at the logistics of engineering and legal code and aesthetics and anthropology and psychology and essentially looking at how space impacts human experience and how group dynamics form around the architecture that's built. So there's a lot of things that are happening within architecture and probably the closest thing that I can think in terms of interdisciplinary practices are people who are game designers, game developers, and also virtual reality creators because I think there's a certain similarity in terms of fusing together all these different things in order to actually produce an immersive experience, a video game, or a piece of architecture. So those things are coming together to create whole new realms of dynamic architecture as well as these immersive experiences that have a certain element of spatial design. So Lara and Frederick, they've been teaching students for over eight years now. It's quite an art and practice to even teach an architecture student to know how to do architecture. And so they've been listening to the Voices of VR podcast, and it's been very helpful for them to start to create these new curriculum for the architectural association. And then they invited me to participate in this symposium over the course of the day. So I went there and did about five hours worth of interviews with different participants. So I'll be unpacking all those interviews and kind of diving into the future of immersive architecture as a series here on the Voices of VR podcast. So that's what we're covering on today's episode, as well as the next six episodes after this on the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Lara and Frederick happened on Saturday, March 2nd, 2019 at the Architectural Association in London, England. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.
[00:02:47.345] Lara Lesmes: I am Lara Lesmes. I run a practice called Space Popular together with Frederick Helberg. We are looking at the way in which architects practice in virtual reality and creating experiences in the virtual from the point of view of an architect.
[00:03:03.013] Fredrik Hellberg: I'm Fredrik Helberg and I run Space Popular, but we also run a design unit here at the Architectural Association called Tools for Architecture, where we're exploring these ideas of the virtual and the immersive internet with undergraduate students of architecture. And yeah, we're really interested in looking at not just VR and the virtual, but also looking at virtual media in architecture, both as a part of architecture, but also virtual media separate from architecture and how it affects architecture and has affected architecture across centuries.
[00:03:34.355] Kent Bye: Well ever since that I started to cover the virtual reality space the Ability to be able to do this architectural visualization within VR has been one of like the home run like obviously this is going to be a huge application within VR and seeing a lot of architectural firms starting to do architectural visualization as a way to both understand their design or communicate with the client in different ways. But in terms of like the education process that we're about three or four years in to the whole modern resurgence of consumer VR. And this is, I think the first time that I'm like hearing or seeing how the actual VR is being integrated into the curriculum of architecture. So maybe you could talk a little bit about that from your perspective in terms of this slow integration into VR and how the architectural pedagogy and educational institutions are thinking about VR right now.
[00:04:24.391] Fredrik Hellberg: Yeah, new technologies and new ways to represent are often sort of embraced by architects. And we've seen in the last couple of years, really since the DK1, that schools all around the world are really excited about this and embracing it. But architecture is also quite conservative. So most of our teaching has actually been in kind of workshop formats all around the world, Australia, Europe and Asia, where it's much more of a kind of learning how to deal with the mechanics of this thing. You rarely see, which is what we really started to try to do this year here at the Architectural Association, which is kind of questioning at a deeper level, okay, the hardware side, the mechanics, that's fine, you know, it will evolve, you know, we're not really involved in building the hardware. But thinking about how will this technology affect architecture really long term. And this is something that I think we're only really seeing now. It's starting to pop up in different schools around the world. But the symposium here is I think an example of really the first one potentially in the world where this is kind of questioned. in a serious way in regards to architecture, which is kind of surprising given the fact that it will clearly have such a tremendous effect on space or the experience of space.
[00:05:42.018] Lara Lesmes: From the point of view of architectural education, there is a little bit of a fear in the same way that there was a fear or concern of the render when it first appeared, because there was a thought that these quick ways of visualising space would bypass the traditional architectural representations, such as the plan and the section, which are thought of as ways of abstracting space in order to be able to think about it as a whole, and in order to be able to organize space beyond just what you can see. And I agree with that being something very important. I disagree with the fear of the other methods. And I don't think embracing new ones would mean the loss of the other ones. People should still be trained from those points of view of the plan and the section because they give you a completely different overview and way of thinking about space. And then an aspect that we would highlight from our experience on working with the students with virtual reality during the process of design is that it creates a very early interest on what things are going to be like, which, if you're using more abstract methods of representation, maybe that will be pushed to a much farther stage, unless you really make a point on the project being about a particular material or a particular set of colors or something like that. So it immediately brings an interest very much in materiality almost, which seems a bit of a paradox because the fear is that stepping into the virtual would detach you from the haptic material world.
[00:07:17.182] Kent Bye: Well, and I was talking to Andrea, who was one of the presenters here at the Immersive Architecture of the Internet, and she was saying that she was perceiving a big skepticism in terms of the materiality of the lack of embodied experience of how there's different stones that emit and transfer heat at different rates and that When you're in VR, you're cut off from the materiality of a space. And I sense that there may be some architects that are really connected to that aspect of materiality, of having their hands on the materials and connected to the physicality of the haptic experience of a building. And that being a critical part of having those embodied experiences of how you would experience a wide range of those different conditions and know how to design for specific specifications. you know, the virtual kind of cuts out a lot of that. And when I heard more about the nuances of the haptic heat transfer that happens in a building, then I was like, oh, yeah, we're going to have a long time before VR is going to be able to get there. But there's still such a visual component that's so compelling and being able to give you a spatial experience. But there seems to be perhaps a little bit of a split within the architectural educational community of people that are kind of skeptical of the lack of that materiality and the lack of that physical haptic connection.
[00:08:28.454] Fredrik Hellberg: Yeah, but I think that's a process that has been going on really for maybe about 150 years, I think, and that the introduction of VR is really only a further kind of implementation of virtual representation and how it affects architecture. If you look at the introduction of photography, which allowed for styles to be transferred across continents, drawings before that had clear limitations. And that resulted in the kind of pattern books of the late 19th century, where architectural styles and materials could be put into cheaply printed books and distributed all around the world. And then after that, the moving image and moving on to what we talked about, sort of the rendering and television. and now the virtual. I really think that these effects have already sort of happened. And if you look at sort of modernism and the kind of spaces that we often live in today, we rent an apartment with just plaster walls and cheap linoleum floor. It's already sort of changing the way with our bodies interact with architecture. And we're already with our bodies halfway into the two-dimensional virtual worlds. So much of what we would get from architecture pre these virtual medias we now get from the virtual. We got it from television for decades and architecture gradually got transformed and mutated into these virtual medias. But now things will definitely change when we are putting our bodies into that virtual space. So I really think that there will be a sort of return almost. And I think that Andrea bringing these things up is a kind of point of our time. It's really the kind of zeitgeist of architecture really questioning this again. Whereas if you turn back the time only 10 years, those conversations were really not had much, I think.
[00:10:16.853] Lara Lesmes: That's one thing. And the other aspect is maybe more literally how, what you were saying also, for how long is it going to take for us to be able to translate the stone emitting heat in the evening after capturing it for a whole day, right, into VR. So, what I think is interesting about that is maybe not so much how we are going to translate that, or I haven't tried yet so many wearables. However, I am more interested in the idea that it is our rich experience, a rich haptic experience of the world, is something that we bring in into a visual experience in virtual reality. And therefore, seeing a material means that you are also imagining how it feels, you're remembering how it feels. So you bring all of that with you. I mean, how often do you go and touch architecture, right? The way we interact with the materiality of architecture is through acoustics, and yes, through temperature. But we don't necessarily are touching the walls all the time. We mostly interact physically with furniture. So a lot of our interaction with architecture is visual and is based on haptic expectations. So because I have knocked on walls before, I have a feeling of how that wall is going to feel like and that is affecting my overall experience of the space. It is creating a sense of intimidation or is making it feel colder or warmer. So it's very different to be in a room that is completely clad in wood than to be in a glass box, not only by the way it sounds. So I think there can be an interesting moment where, for example, sound experiences can be achieved in a very accurate way in the virtual, and a combination of the acoustics, like really bringing in the acoustics of a material, with the haptic memory that we perceive visually. could be very powerful and I connect this also to the current aesthetic current that I see a lot of in Instagram for example where I see so many CGI artists that are working in making animations that are taking materials that are very recognizable but that are doing things that those materials usually don't do like you see something with fur and wood all like convoluted together And so it's incredibly powerful. I'm just looking at it on the screen of my phone because I have a haptic memory of what all those materials are doing. And they are moving in a way that I have never seen before. But I still can almost feel them.
[00:12:43.561] Kent Bye: Well, yeah, I'm wondering if you could each give a little bit more of a context of your journey into teaching this unit of tools for architecture and organizing this immersive architecture for the Internet symposium that just happened at the Architectural Association. So maybe talk a bit about your first VR experiences or how you got into this cross section and intersection between architecture and immersive technologies like VR and AR.
[00:13:08.849] Fredrik Hellberg: Yeah, I think our first interest really comes from our times as students here at the school. I started here in 2004, and a lot of the work that we were doing even as students were maybe not strictly dealing with the virtual and the digital or even technical level, but an interest in spatial experiences that affords richer spatial experiences that are beyond what the physical can even provide. I developed a project where It's a hotel where every single wall and floor and ceiling was hung by a theater mechanism so everything could move. So you would sit down in a chair looking one way and then you look the other way and all of a sudden the ballroom is gone and now there's a bedroom there. Now I was a young undergraduate student, the dream of the virtual and all the sort of writings about the power in material architecture or material that has been destroyed or architecture that was never built. So we were really kind of exploring these ideas quite early on before this big bridge from the sort of early linear experiments and the current sort of Oculus, you know, when the Kickstarter came out and stuff. And I think really when that started happening was when we realized that sort of, hang on, a lot of our past interest and kind of dreams of what it could be were decoupled from what would be possible mechanically or technically. So I think the first interaction we had was when we were teaching and living in Bangkok, Thailand. We started to kind of implement this technology in the thinking and in the working with young students there in workshops and in the general curriculum.
[00:14:43.650] Lara Lesmes: And more from the pedagogical point of view, we have had an incredible journey of eight years now of teaching, which has been an incredible learning experience, of course. And one thing that we noticed, both from our experience as students and our experience teaching, is how do you form an architect? How do you teach architecture? And often, you're asked to design a building in a particular site for a particular function. So design a hospital in this site, and then you study the issues of the site. You study what the building needs to do. And you think, or you have the illusion, that you somehow reach this inevitable solution to the problem. However, that is not true, because a lot of so many aesthetic decisions are made based on your intention, but you rarely engage with making sense of how are you making those decisions, right? It's usually what people in architecture schools call the concept, so then they have a concept on top of that, which is dealt with very loosely. What we realized then when we started writing briefs for students is that, well, if we remove site and if we remove function or program, then you are left with nothing else but your intention to create a special experience and therefore you need to engage with that very very seriously because there is no problem to solve, there is no puzzle. So then we started from the angle of asking the students to create building systems instead of buildings, so it's like you need to develop a system that needs to work for a series of different sites or different functions. It needs to be versatile, right? So that was one approach. And then at the same time as we were doing that, we got our first headset and started realizing, oh my God, these worlds are actually perfect for that because now we can actually engage with them more literally, as in like we can go in and see them. And then, therefore, we can treat it as a real site, as a real context, I would say. And I would say context very intentionally, because we always say that the only architectural site that exists is the human mind. And in that sense, we are always building experiences for people to experience, to go through.
[00:17:00.022] Kent Bye: During the symposium you showed a slide where you were comparing the virtual and the real and seeing how there are these different components of architecture and the different quantitative aspects that don't necessarily translate between both of them, but yet The qualitative aspects are actually the things that the artistry of what it means to create a building that's trying to give a very specific Spatial experience that in some ways the virtual reality liberates the architect from having to deal with all the pragmatic nuances of all the constraints that you're given in terms of solving the problem, but it allows you to really explore the deepest potential of what spatial experience could be so to me it feels like that would be a thrilling and exhilarating for architects to dive into, but maybe you could talk about some of those comparisons that you made in terms of the things that don't translate over, but the things that do translate over.
[00:17:49.723] Fredrik Hellberg: Yeah, that was in connection or done for an exhibition at Arctis in Stockholm called Value in the Virtual that we developed with the curator James Teller Foster. And we really think it's important to consider value as a key component of any creation of anything really, but especially in virtual space. And the really interesting thing with our research that the measurable aspects of architecture, the ones that are quantifiable in valuing architecture such as scale or location or size and these things that that's what put price tags on architecture. Since they're all measurable, they somehow don't transfer into the virtual. It really doesn't matter how big or how small a building is, where it is, at least not yet. Maybe at some point when there'll be virtual real estate and coordinates and they might be persistently mapped over the planet, then we might start seeing some of those measurable qualities. But the ones that have always nagged at architecture and the ones that are the most difficult, the qualitative ones, such as meaning and under that symbolism and aesthetics, are really the one that they don't change depending if it's physical or virtual, which is so exciting. It's the things that really we have never really been able to solve. I mean, it's so interesting to just think about the fact that Humans build architecture. We've always done it. It's the biggest mark we leave on the planet, physically. And we know which buildings are good. We know which buildings we like, almost uniformly, the ones that cities celebrate. It's like, why don't we just build loads of those? Why don't we just copy those? We figured it out. And somehow we don't do that, you know, because the qualities that those buildings have, we don't understand them and no one understands them. And that's where, like, we transfer those kind of unknowns and those endless pursuits into the virtual, which is what this exhibition was really showing, we hoped.
[00:19:41.280] Lara Lesmes: Yes, and looking at the qualitative values of architecture means that we need to leave behind the ruler. We cannot measure things anymore, and that is incredibly interesting as a challenge. How can we reach agreements, or how can we find new tools in which we can share common understanding of value without being able to give it a number, to give it what we now call a value, right?
[00:20:11.224] Kent Bye: Yeah, so I'm curious like what type of open questions that you feel like you're starting to explore For me the question obviously comes up like what are those things that make these buildings? So great, you know Is there some sort of underlying design pattern or another question? I have is how does spatial experience get translated into human experience? like what is happening there in terms of either our Embody pattern experiences or what is it about how space is structured in this holistic way? That gets translated into a very specific feeling or emotion and how as architects do you know how to modulate that translation?
[00:20:50.233] Lara Lesmes: I mean you have the physical approach or the like neuroscientific approach. It's quite interesting to see now how these things are actually being measured in terms of biology. How we react to certain things, how we perceive certain things, how our brain is pleased with certain patterns and not others. So that is certainly an area that we are deeply exploring because it's just an incredible resource of knowledge. However, it does not yet, and I kind of hope that it will never have answers to everything. And that there is one question that I find really interesting is that there's a communication level, right? Where you are reading intentions, the intentions of someone else behind the design of this space. you're reading them through the actual work. And there is an incredible pleasure in the human mind, right? In the understanding how something works and understanding the patterns behind something through experiencing it. So we do this visually. We do this with our understandings of geometry. We are constantly projecting lines. All people, not only architects, right? We're constantly seeing how things have been subdivided, how things have been fit together. So often these things are very obvious, like how a door fits in its frame, and sometimes those relationships are a bit more complex. And when you look at buildings, like for example in Islamic architecture, you read through levels of geometry as you get closer. There are things you see when you're far away, as you're getting closer you see new patterns. then you realize that those things relate to the way the arches are shaped and that this corner is relating to that corner and these things align and then you get a sense of awe because you are completely overwhelmed by the connection that you are making with the logic behind it so it's almost like you figured out this little universe and that is sort of what one would always aim for as an architect like I communicated to you an intention and a system and a geometry behind this room, and in that way we connected. And that's, I think, when we perceive beauty, is when we perceive another.
[00:23:05.547] Fredrik Hellberg: Yeah, and I think there is certainly a sort of potential with architects working with these new technologies like VR and so forth, to really invent a new way of working where the transition time from creation to experience is much shorter. Like, if you compare with which is a stretch, but to a musician who really can only perceive the final experience once the orchestra or everything is mixed and everything is put together. But an idea from a musician can be tested immediately, very simply, like architects do not and have never ever had that ability. And every way that an architect has to represent what the experience might be like will carry a little bit of the information. A scale model will show something, a drawing will show something, and a rendering will show something, and so on and so on. But they all convey very little information, and they have to be pieced together, and there's always an endless amount of surprises, which is really kind of the key of why it's so difficult. And with these new technologies, and also really why architects maybe are a bit skeptical, is that our students that are engaging with game engines, which many, many students across the world are doing now, is that things like light or depth and these kind of things that are incredibly difficult to represent can be tested within the same day of the idea occurring. And the magic power that that might have is going to change a profession radically. But architects develop methods and ways of doing things, and they are so fragile in how they manage to translate the ideas, that if you introduce something new, often it can break the whole link between the creative process and the outcome. And also to add to that to your question, in the way that we kind of create experiences and then experience them, from that list that we prepared, the meaning and the aesthetics are always overpowering things. You see it so clearly in the quite recent trends of exposed concrete and these things, and you often see kind of like a sort of hipster, as we would refer to it perhaps, a hipster cafe or something that is, in all objective experiential terms, an awful space. The acoustic is terrible, you cannot hear what people are saying, the lighting is just done through these kind of exposed globes which blinds you, but it doesn't matter, it's still appreciated because the qualitative aspects The meaning completely overpowers all of the bodily suffering of being in that space. And that's a constant battle with architects because you might create something that has the most incredible potential to give really, really good experiences. Like what Andrea was saying, like good design. It's like good design. You can't really even use those terms, in my opinion, because how do you value then the fact that people genuinely love something that does them harm bodily. But they love it or they go back and they love being in these spaces for completely other reasons like symbolic or even sub-symbolic to borrow your term reasons. And that always confuses the profession. You know, some people might be working very, very detaily on a new acoustic system that will create this incredible feeling. And then no one wants it because there's no meaning. Somehow it kind of gets associated with some kind of corporate architecture. You know, the architecture becomes a capsule for thinking. Really, that's what it is, essentially. And if it doesn't touch you in a way and to kind of inspire and sustain a good way of being creative, Regardless if you work in a creative discipline or not, then it doesn't do what it does. We've managed to protect the body from the elements for a long time. That's not an issue anymore. And we constantly get better at it, and insulation, triple-glazed windows with gas in between, et cetera. It's really not what this is about. The creation of architecture is dealing with these, and that's what's so interesting, both physical and virtual architecture has those things in common, meaning and aesthetics. That is really the most important aspects.
[00:27:01.752] Lara Lesmes: which you might even call in more common terms style. And then the idea of the virtual and especially the idea of the immersive internet in connection to style is a really important one and a really exciting one for us. We're about to start doing research for a project on this topic at large and how style has developed in parallel to new media. And how, for example, even the idea of architectural style in itself was only possible with photography. Because then you can see several spaces at once. Otherwise, the only style in the Western world was the classical style. Because that's the only one that we had enough examples of to understand it as a notion, as a concept. Then the moment we could gather so many photographs without having to go to so many buildings, we could compare and start understanding styles. And then, boom, there is a whole explosion of style. And you have architecture in all possible styles. And then there is a crisis. And then there is books written. in 19th century, the German debate on style. In what style shall we build? So they go through a whole crisis about this. And now seeing how aesthetic styles and all sorts of things that develop in the internet at such a pace, We're almost seeing that the immersive internet has the potential of becoming this machine that just produces style at rates unheard of before, because the speed at which we can gather instances in order to form notions is unprecedented and then we're having this idea that it's like you will have this Netflix of Disneyland's like this constant chain of themed worlds that are so connected to an idea and that can communicate so solidly an idea or so crystal clear an idea.
[00:28:59.091] Kent Bye: Yeah, and it reminded me of the discussions we were having earlier, just in hearing that for architects it's very difficult sometimes for them to articulate exactly the philosophy or what they're seeing in specific things. That there's a part of what an architect does, from my understanding, is that they go around and they have embodied experience of these different buildings and then they're able to then take in the whole gestalt and that's a mysterious process within itself but it reminds me of some of the challenges that are faced and computer vision is also an interesting metaphor and looking to see how AI has used these neural network architectures to be able to see how The features are all connected to each other in these relational patterns. And so what makes this a table? Well, it makes it a table both in the context of this room, but also how each of these component parts of this whole gestalt of this object are related to each other. It's below the level of language that you could point to because it's more of this ecosystem of pattern relationships. So there's things of the split between our conscious and our unconscious mind and that there's so much aspect of the architectural process that is sub-symbolic that you have to have an embodied experience and just iterate. But it seems like that VR as a medium could be eventually perhaps the medium of choice to be able to do this level of architectural communication where you could have these pattern language of experiences that you could start to build up a library of these different archetypal configurations of relationships and contexts and situations that then you can start to apply in different ways. But to try to have that same understanding of those pattern relationships without having a direct experience of them, I think is really hard to look at it through these 2D abstractions.
[00:30:39.348] Fredrik Hellberg: Yeah, architecture has for all times always been getting more and more and more responsive to human experience, like from the invention of the folding wall, for instance, which it's what a door is really. It's just a handle on the wall that is an affordance so that you can fold the wall. And increasingly, architecture gains this kind of dimensions of being responsive to you, like windows, heating, etc. It's all about sort of responding to the human experience. And I think really in the virtual, when we really, in the immersive internet, when we might start living in partially virtual spaces, what Lara was saying, it's really possibly through AI and other kind of components that architecture will start to be responsive on an immediate level. And that's really when the architect might just create that system that can do that. And I think we definitely also see that the more responsive architecture get, the less flexible we are to give those things up. You know, like, OK, we develop central heating. It's like, oh, no, we don't do that anymore. It's like, no, we can't give those things up. There's almost nothing in innovation and in architecture in the past 100 years, 200 years that we could even give up. Right. we could see that as virtual architecture starts to give us affordances to either gain more meaningful experiences or even more comfortable experiences that we will latch on to those like we have latched on to the other technological advancements in architecture and never ever be able to give them up and therefore they just keep on sort of getting better and expanding. And I think another thing to say in response to your question is that, of course, practicing architects, I mean, I don't know their ratio, but most of the work, certainly more than 50%, is a puzzle that has very little to do with spatial experience. Planning a building or whatever it is, a bridge, a skyscraper, or whatever it is, the spatial puzzle of all the functions that a building requires, that's the majority of the brainpower of architects in the world goes towards that. which is partially the reason why architects often have a difficult time describing this other dimension, the actual spatial experience. And you see many buildings that have been carefully designed where there's really been very little consideration of what it will actually be like to be in there. sort of just brushing it over. It's like, oh, there'll be views. We can see in the solar analysis that there'll be daylight even close to the core of the building. And we can see what the colors look like in this collage. And that's all done, which also points to the fact, again, what I was just saying before, the plasticity of the human mind to kind of accommodate itself to the spaces that they're given. You know, architecture is always, even virtual architecture, at least for now, is always peripheral, meaning that it's always in the background of what's happening in architecture. Which again points to the fact that it's difficult to evaluate. If architects designed spaces that were just purely designed to be experienced, then for sure there would be whole other kind of feedback loops where the architects would eventually, or in real time somehow, know what is the spatial experience. And often that doesn't really happen. You ask, I was like, are you comfortable in this space? And they're like, yeah, I guess I am. I have my chair that I like, and I got my headphones. And it's like, yeah, but ignore that and talk about the architecture. And they go, well, yeah, it's fine. But often those kind of things doesn't even happen at that very basic level.
[00:33:58.021] Lara Lesmes: I think that there are maybe two ways in which architects could start to develop what we're trying to find, this language or these components of experience, to understand how one would work with those. And one of them would be to look at when do we use form as a language. And I think one way in which we all use it every day is body language, gestures. I'm even using it now as I speak. I'm doing all sorts of gestures to try to communicate forms to you. that enhance my message, and you read them to a certain degree, and we share that language, and we don't really think about it. This connects to maybe quite early and debunked theories of empathy through form, like Wolflin's theory of empathy, really outdated, mostly debunked by neuroscientists, but still the aim of it being very relevant today, which he looks at the forms of buildings and try to compare them with bodies. And the fact that we would be uncomfortable when we see a structure that is doing something very uncomfortably, that looks like it's about to lose what it's holding. That's to put a very simple example. So that I think is one way that actually one of our students is trying to do that study. What is the formal language if we connect it to body language? And I think that definitely be something very important to and efficient to explore in VR and it applies to materials as well and finishes and then even you can go into almost facial expressions and anthropomorphism and so on. And then the other aspect that I think would be important to explore is to look at how is the general public, not just everybody, not just architects, how is everybody trying to understand notions of style, like I was talking about before. For example, Pinterest is a very popular tool. It's a really interesting block of data, of research, that you can look at and really deeply study to understand how is people understanding styles or spatial notions. How are they putting them together? I think that as a data sets for architects to unpick, it's really an incredible one. Because what happens is that as an architect, you get trained as an architect in architecture school, and you learn a new language that it's this jargon, right, as any discipline has. And you tend to get a little bit trapped on that. It's very important to learn it because it allows you to move faster or to think even more abstractly or in more advanced terms. However, in order to work with languages that are really readable at all levels, which doesn't mean that they are more basic, it's just that they are more popular or more accessible to the way all of us look at space. then I think things like Pinterest are incredibly representative of that and documents that are vivid representations of these languages we are seeking.
[00:36:59.677] Kent Bye: Yeah, well, more and more I've been covering VR, the more that I start to look at the different philosophical implications, but also the philosophical traditions to try to make sense of the human experience and consciousness and all these other disciplines. And so I'm curious to hear from you, like there's different design theories and theorists, but are they connected to philosophical traditions or is it kind of like they're off on their own trying to figure things out independent of any sort of philosophical grounding or lineage? trying to get a sense of the theoretical landscape of theorists and what the different competing theories are and if they have connections to established philosophical traditions.
[00:37:40.973] Fredrik Hellberg: Yeah, I would definitely say so. Especially in the 21st century, there is a lot of interest from architects to understand and connect to contemporary philosophy, especially. And there are plenty of philosophers, among which many of them French. We can go back to Heidegger and onwards and Foucault and Derrida and Bachelard. when they were active were kind of fueled by the interests of their writing coming from architecture. And plenty of those philosophers ended up writing specifically about those architects' work. It is something that has slowly faded, I think, as an interest. The kind of strongest in the 80s and 90s, perhaps, they're kind of very, very strong links. And again, it kind of links to the fact that architects are constantly trying to understand what the hell they're even doing, because we've already kind of established that it's such a complex topic it should really have been if you look at the kind of other disciplines of the world they should have been split up into 40 different professions already somehow it hasn't so there has been a very strong tradition I think but from our point of view I think the strongest links we have are maybe not specifically to philosophers but 19th century and early 20th century writers on decorative arts or on arts such as Gombridge or Gottfried Semper, for instance. Gottfried Semper, who we think that his writings is really paramount to the understanding of architecture and the virtual even. He was part of the team that managed to uncover the fact that Hellenistic architecture, Greek architecture that we understand as this pure white marble buildings, You know, the whole of, you know, a lot of the Western world, you look at Washington, D.C., which is modeled on that, and not necessarily only on a formal level, but on the kind of meaning, on the meaning level. And it's built in white, but Godfrey Sempel was part of the team that uncovered the fact that they were, in fact, completely colorful. All of those buildings were covered in incredibly strong colors. And even the sculptures had irises painted and eyelashes. And it kind of threw the whole world of architecture upside down. And he then developed a sort of notion we talked about, Wand & Gewand, which is very, very recent, mid-19th century, really for the first time architects could conceptually separate the structure from the surface of architecture, which is something that was impossible before. Ornamentation was always the stone. You can't remove the ornaments because that is the structure. So we're really inspired by those sorts of writings more. I think we'd say from a general point of view, philosophy and architecture really has been deeply connected in the 20th century. And from our point of view, we really take from these other sites, more directly deal with a perception of form and space.
[00:40:25.083] Lara Lesmes: Another person who we are deeply inspired by is Robin Evans, who was a historian that looked at the changes in culture and lifestyle through the understanding of art and architecture. So for example, looking at the moment in which the corridor appears in the home, and therefore how that completely changes the notion of the individual. It's almost like reverse philosophy. Philosophy understood through form, or how the introduction of the corridor, and therefore the room with a single door. Whereas before, all rooms have plenty of doors, because it was a matrix of interconnected rooms without corridors. So then you introduce the corridor, and rooms can have only one door. And through that, you introduce the notion of the individual. Suddenly you have your own space that you identify with. You can close that door and be alone. So writings like that are incredibly inspiring, not only because of the information they give you about that particular topic, But the way they teach you how to think, how to read space, and the consequences of space beyond the way space looks like or feels like at that very moment, the consequences on culture. And why it is very interesting to see the connections in between architecture and philosophy is because many architects are really, really interested in philosophy. However, I think philosophy is using architecture more than the other way around. I think we have more of the illusion that we use Philosophy, we might be really inspired by it intellectually, but we almost serve as illustrators to philosophy. And I think this refers back to this notion of the geometry as a language. So I think a lot of philosophers use forms or structures in order to develop concepts, like Latour's use of the geodesic sphere, which in architecture is more used as the geodesic dome. the geodesic sphere as this network where all points are equidistant to one another and the fact that an architect can visualize that structure it almost or maybe I'm not sure about this but it could advance philosophical concepts faster because you can perceive them in the same way as well the whole connection of mathematics and geometry the very direct connection but that how how useful it is to visualize abstract concepts in visual form. So in connection to what I was saying before, I think that's the really exciting moment where these disciplines blend.
[00:42:54.542] Fredrik Hellberg: In connection with what Laura was mentioning with Robin Evans, who was actually a tutor here at the Architectural Association, a philosopher that was sort of the pop star of the day, Marshall McLuhan is someone who's really influenced not just the whole world really, but architecture also very deeply, and he also speaks very much about architecture and these same effects. In his book, The Gutenberg Galaxy, he talks about the invention of the printing press and its effect, exactly what Robin Evans was talking about, who is an architectural historian, and the creation of the individual through the printing press and through the book of being the creator of even the private individual as even a basic concept, which then allowed the creation, responded the creation of the private room as a container for the private individual. And McLuhan then goes on really up until he spoke about the hologram, because he was not really in the era of what we call now VR or XR. He spoke about the hologram in ways of just enhanced television set. And obviously he was not around for the internet either. He spoke only about the two-way television. But that's something that we also very, very inspired by kind of thinking about these kind of technologies like the television and its effect from a philosophical point of view on this very direct effects on architecture. And another one that this example that kind of really both takes and gives to the architecture community is Bruno Latour that Laura was mentioning, who constantly travels and lectures in architecture schools because his writing is so influenced by architecture and architects and the other way around.
[00:44:25.495] Lara Lesmes: Maybe the strongest connections in between, or more accessible one, is the constructivism, the whole movement of the construction. Architecture was very much embracing these philosophical concepts. But going back to what Frederic was just saying about Marshall McLuhan in connection to Robin Evans, and then going back to Robin Evans in his writing, Figures, Doors, and Passages, he finishes by calling for an architecture that embraces carnality again, as in like he talks about the carnality of the matrix of interconnected rooms where any moment anyone could come in and therefore we were not so private about certain things that now we are so private about. When he calls for this carnality or like being a more social domestic architecture, which he's talking about in particular about the home, it's almost as if he is describing the internet or like the reason why we are resorting to technology to somehow reconnect within the private space. Maybe it's a bit of a stretch, but it's a theory that we're trying to develop and to see if it holds.
[00:45:33.093] Kent Bye: Well there's a bit of this individuation of progress but yet at the same time there's been a degradation of the collective societies and the culture and this crisis of loneliness and isolation that we have that in some ways the virtual reality technologies are providing us with these opportunities to create these architectures and these immersive spaces to recreate social gatherings and to be more connected to each other in ways that there might not be architectural representations of community centers that are open and free to go to because there's such an emphasis on these individualistic malls and stores that are not meant to be serving these community gatherings that by turning to the virtual we could start to almost bootstrap these types of social interactions. And that in terms of architecture, I see that now all of a sudden you have the capability to create architecture that's dynamic, and that's changing, and that's responsive, but is also undergoing a process, which I think philosophically is like the key connecting point to process philosophy because it's about something that is in a continual state of unfolding and changing over time. I'm starting to see the early signs of these architectural students who are thinking about these issues and exploring what that means in these virtual architectures to have dynamic architecture that represents these ecosystems.
[00:46:50.018] Fredrik Hellberg: Yeah, and I think this really points to an incredibly interesting shift and almost a paradox in how physical and virtual architecture will have to be really the kind of polar opposites in many ways, because architecture as it is physically divides us and simplifies the world around us. It either keeps the weather out or it keeps the people out that don't belong with us. As in your private home, you have doors and locks, etc. So it's all about compartmentalizing thing and virtual architecture will really have to be the complete opposite of that. It will have to be the thing that allows for overview, for transparency, for you to understand the complex networks of the spaces that are available to you. And the only kind of architectural response would be visual transparency. We use glass today to do that. And that's really not enough because it's also about your position in space, even in virtual space. Where is your body or where are your eyes versus where are they not? And I think it's really interesting to see that the creations of the spaces in social VR are really based on these traditional notions of how architecture works, which is why you so often see things like iPads in social VR spaces, which is that's what the architecture should do. You know, like the menu that you see in the thing you hold really like a big iPad, where you navigate space through a two-dimensional virtual object. There is just no conceptual or philosophical framework for how space could do that. Now, we have a student who's working on trying to figure out how can you create these doors, like affordances. It's a good word to use when you speak about affordances in architecture, like door handles, as we said, a door handle affords folding the wall. What are the affordances that allows for you to have a complete overview of all the spaces that are available to you? And what do they mean or how do they connect or how do they not connect? And how can you then step into them without traveling in the conventional architectural way? But how can your body be existing across space and time? And it's definitely not going to happen through virtual iPads. And it's interesting to see that these worlds that we greatly enjoy, social VR, we spend quite a lot of time exploring these spaces, but the foundations of them are already based on a traditional notion of architecture, which is why they're not going to survive, I think. Or they're going to have to be rebuilt from scratch, or they will be replaced by a new notion of architecture that allows for this traveling through space and time and your ability to put your eyes or your body in any conceivable space immediately.
[00:49:22.599] Lara Lesmes: Another point is that there are examples through architectural history that one can look at of how architecture has tried to perform the task of representing a more complex idea. If we can read the cathedral as a metaphor of life, Christian life. And then also you can look at Eastern temples and then how so many of them are metaphors of Mount Meru and how they use symbolism to represent those ideas. And then so many people in architecture in architecture would tell you, well, but can you really read that or not? Are those too hard to read? And what happened, I think, is that those were stories that were transmitted in different ways. And architecture was serving as a formal support to then use it to think about it in the same way that sometimes you write to evolve your thoughts. So you can also use form to keep an idea and to evolve. with that idea through being able to visualize it over and over again. It's a vehicle for thought. So I think in that sense, it's very interesting that architecture can be both a diagram of an idea and at the same time, this vehicle for thought based for development. And then there is a very interesting issue of this having overview whilst having an embodied spatial experience. So that duality is something we experience now with the map. and the city, right? Walking around the city with the map is a very simple thing. However, it's just having those two points of view. Or we are exploring things like being able to design in the space in which you are inhabiting. And again, with the students, we have tried to do that by moving things that are one full scale. And of course, it doesn't work. You want to be in the space to perceive the qualities, but then you want to have a model. to edit, right? You want to have a small dollhouse that is the one that you are transforming and making changes to. So to be able to deal with scale shifts and to design how we're going to work with those scale shifts and these potentially, like now I'm talking about two points of view, But multiplicity of points of view is just a really, really exciting question that I think architects should begin to address, because we do it constantly through drawings. And therefore, we need to invent these new things of integrating that into spaces, and objects, and maps, and whatever that may be, windows into other points of view.
[00:51:53.782] Fredrik Hellberg: Yeah, and I think something that Andrea brought up in yesterday's symposium about shifting where your eyes might be is something that is so exciting that it can be so easily tested. And we've had students, as Lara mentioned, Ludwig Holmen among many, who explore the possibility of sort of perceiving the world in orthographic projection. We see the world in perspective, but in VR you can see the world in plan, but from your own eyes. And obviously it's something really that our brain, you imagine that it's a complete paradox, but it's actually not. I think that's really going to be an imperative kind of moment when we really start to invite completely new ways of perceiving. You might get haptic feedback from the whole city, or you might, in order to understand complex relationships between things, information might be transferred to you from vast distances. And we're used to that happening visually or audibly, but they might happen also in many other ways. I think one, to come back to your question of philosophies in connection to architecture, I think one really important, specifically an article by Bruno Latour that is really relevant here, called A Cautious Prometheus, which I think is an expert from his lectures, where he kind of attacks the world of design and architecture for having four centuries develop ways to represent complexities relating to space and still not getting further. Like we have now the invention of CAD and now the invention of 3D representations. And we really have the tools now, especially with VR to represent things in its infinite complexity. And we are really nowhere near, you know, we're not using the tools for the capacity that they have. And I really think that the points that Andrea was bringing up yesterday, is what's going to allow us. We need to shift where our eyes are. If they're in our head, in our sockets, even if you watch a television screen, your eyes are traveling somewhere else, but it's still the same perspectival notion of perceiving space. By separating the eyes or finding ways to maybe give the body more eyes than it already has, we are going to be able to answer Bruno Latour's call of being able to represent complexity.
[00:54:01.202] Kent Bye: Right. And so for each of you, I'm wondering what some of the either open problems you're trying to solve or open questions you're trying to answer.
[00:54:09.668] Fredrik Hellberg: Yeah, I think apart from the philosophical approaches, I think we're really trying to think of mechanisms to work with these kind of questions in a very direct way. You know, we we find it incredibly problematic, the sort of rooms that are required for the mechanisms of VR incredibly limiting and we really think that there are ways just around the corner that are not linked specifically to the cable SVR. So we're really trying to like explore how can we bring the working of this outside of the computer screen and outside of just even the headsets really. That's among many other things something that's a really big open question because just like the architect's always struggled with, okay, you have an idea and that's best represented in the model. Five hours later, the model is one third done. That vehicle of translating ideas into experiences is not fast enough. And in VR, that gap is still immense. You have an idea, you spend a week developing the level and then you gradually go in and it's still a very conservative way of actually working. So I think that's one really big thing that we're trying to think about.
[00:55:22.806] Lara Lesmes: I think it's mainly the idea of what is spatial experience? What does it mean to experience space? What are the elements of that? What are the processes of that? And can that become a language? And then at a level more of the discipline of architecture is just how the exploration of these questions will help us redefine what is the role of an architect, if any.
[00:55:52.280] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I'm wondering if you could share some of your distilled takeaways from yesterday's immersive architecture of the internet. You gathered quite a remarkable set of people who have been thinking about these issues and have been talking about it in each of their different ways. But what's sort of your takeaways in terms of what you're able to gather through these different presentations and discussions and debates that we had over the course of the day, and then where that goes from there?
[00:56:17.387] Fredrik Hellberg: here? Yeah, I mean, we're incredibly pleased with the people that were able to come and attend one of the first of its kind in the world of architecture. And I really think that perhaps the biggest takeaway is just how vast this is. It cannot be dealt with during even an eight-hour symposium like this. And then, of course, that's something that many other disciplines have in common, but architecture being such an immensely complex topic i think really what we were sort of hungry for is to take only one thing that was said and deal with that for an entire day sort of the protocols of the physical and virtual spaces, for instance, where your physical body is and where your virtual body is. That's an eight-hour symposium, really. I think that the things that were said were more like chapters of a treaty, which was our kind of aim. They're proposals, all of them, for individual symposiums or discussions that needs to be had. I think that that's really also part of why it's so incredibly inspiring to be in this moment in history for architects where the field is so open for exciting problems, some of them that can really have incredibly positive impact on so many aspects of humanity and that you let your mind spin just for a day and you're already, you feel like you have things to deal with for lifetimes to come. So more than anything, it's inspirational.
[00:57:44.156] Lara Lesmes: Maybe more particularly in the content itself, I think for me, A big takeaway was how interesting the conversation about stepping into the virtual gets when you put together people that have been practicing with designing in the physical. And that has been for a long or shorter time, but concerned with issues of designing for our experience of the physical world. And with that, they are making very conscious thinking of how do we make that bridge. And I think yesterday a lot of interesting thoughts came that I will be continuing to elaborate on the issue of how do we deal with the reference, and not only what is a reference point, but also the aesthetic reference, the physical reference, the notions of the vernacular or nature, and how do we embrace also historical architecture and aspects like that were really exciting to talk about because it speaks for how do we bring a certain language that we have and create this bridge, still being aware and looking forward to maybe that taking us somewhere else, but without losing what there was before.
[00:59:02.420] Fredrik Hellberg: Yeah and I think also another thinking a bit more something that really at least in the debate was really prevalent was the discussions of accountability, ownership, governance, control. You know this is something that in physical architecture is Rarely discussed. There are certain interest groups that are really, really concerned of talking about architecture and that political framework. But most of those things with physical architecture are very carefully taken care of with laws, regulations, insurance, et cetera, and things that are happening in the background, let's say, of the creation or the construction of physical buildings. And it's an incredibly complex, established, objective network of things. But when we talk about virtual architecture, the field is so open that There will definitely be. It might seem as being not the most exciting part, but I think that the fact that it came up again and again and again means that there will really have to be serious discussions where architects can, I think, be quite helpful in the creation of the immersive Internet. and asking some of these questions because we're definitely going into a territory that is deeply deeply problematic with not just buildings but entire worlds and bodies themselves being owned governed and controlled by someone that you might not even know who it is. And when you spend time in the precursor of the immersive internet, the social VR platforms, you constantly witness moments when really what just happened here, it's an overstepping of what we would want to happen. If someone gets immediately banished, their avatar disappear because they were a bit too loud in a community meeting or something. We see these things happening that we think really the symposium was bringing up and they would have to be really considered moving into the future.
[01:00:52.963] Kent Bye: Great, and finally, what do you each think is the ultimate potential of virtual reality, and what it might be able to enable?
[01:01:03.808] Lara Lesmes: I think it is to enable a new form of communication, and I think a new form of communication that coming from, as we come from maybe the religious understanding of the world to then the scientific understanding of the world, and I think everything is pointing towards that there is something after the scientific, something coming next, after the scientific understanding of the world, something that challenges this measurement-based understanding and form of communicating. And I think that the virtual is what might enable that.
[01:01:40.405] Fredrik Hellberg: Yeah, I looked back in a sketchbook from 2008 where I saw my first scribbles on and the very first thing I ever scribbled down was that the virtual will increase the interface or better the interface between human minds. And I think that was really the same point on communication. And I think that's really the ultimate potential there where I see almost all the development is apart from sort of the entertainment world that we see now where you might have a singular experience, but all of the things are really developing in ways that will improve the way that our minds can understand each other. You know, worlds beyond language and worlds beyond our current understanding of what communication can even be. And I think one like really, really moving way ahead in the future, one paradox that we have to be aware of, it might figure itself out somehow, but as the connection between minds become closer, as we might be able to communicate the intricate inner beings of ourselves, maybe even in the representation of architecture, that the sort of our inner subconscious thinking might actually be visually shown or spatially shown in the architecture around us. it may create or lessen the difference between us. And I really think that if you look at what evolution really is and what evolution really wants for something to really evolve is difference. The more different each individual part is, the more the most interesting, progressive or useful or efficient one will win, but it requires as much difference as possible. So as the connection between minds gets closer and closer and closer and closer, I think these virtual worlds will have to almost, it might figure itself out, but otherwise we will have to be aware of protecting difference and protecting the fact that mutations, let's say, that as we get closer and closer and closer, differences will have to be multiplied as well.
[01:03:41.797] Kent Bye: Okay, is there anything else that's left and said that you'd like to say to the immersive community?
[01:03:47.187] Fredrik Hellberg: Yeah, just that if anyone is interested in the symposium on the architecture of the immersive internet, the full recording is available through the website of the Architectural Association that you can find online. I hope that you watch that and get in touch if you're interested in this world. It's all about getting in contact. And as we spoke about before, we hope that future meetings like this can actually happen in virtual spaces. So if anyone is interested, let's get that happening. Awesome. Great.
[01:04:16.463] Kent Bye: Well, thank you so much.
[01:04:17.664] Fredrik Hellberg: Thank you. It was great to speak to you.
[01:04:19.305] Kent Bye: Thank you. So that was Lair Lesmus and Fredrik Helberg. They run Space Popular, which is their design practice, as well as they run a design unit at the Architectural Association for Tools for Architecture. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that, first of all, Well, for me, it was fascinating just to hear a bit more about the art and practice of architecture and how it's preserved its interdisciplinary nature. Frederick said it's resisted being broken up into 40 different disciplines. And so you have this practice where you're getting trained in all these variety of different topics and you have to kind of fuse them together within the process of creating space. And this is something that I think is still something that's a bit mysterious in terms of how do you do this translation of taking all this different theory and concepts and instances that gather together to form these different notions that then aggregate into these different styles. And, you know, it's something that you experience and you understand, but to really break down what's happening, I think it gets to this level where it's really difficult to pin down this very specific aspects of how all this stuff comes together in this gestalt. And it's something that seems to be a bit of a mysterious process for architects, but they have a variety of different design philosophies and practices and approaches that they've been, as teachers of architectural students, trying to teach these different methods to be able to get into the space to actually design spatial experience. And that, you know, when you look at the difference between designing actual spatial objects in the real world versus designing spatial realities within the immersive technology, that a lot of the quantification of how big it can be, how much materials you use, all those things that are driving the actual budget within actual physical architecture, a lot of those things go away within immersive architecture. And so Now all of a sudden the immersive technologies represents these opportunities to explore different aspects of meaning and symbolism and aesthetics within these virtual spaces in a way that is going to have these fast feedback loop cycles where you're able to go in there and see what it feels like for yourself, but then to show it to other people. And so what Frederick and Lara seem to be saying is that virtual and immersive technologies is just in a long continuum of ways of doing architectural representations. that it's on this continuum of being able to capture through photographs and styles and pattern books and moving images and rendering and on television. And now virtual and augmented reality are being able to capture different aspects of these special designs in a way that is going to allow people to share these different styles and instances and notions in a way that Lara was saying, you know, looking to Pinterest to see how Pinterest was able to gather all these different design styles. In a similar way, there's going to be an ability to be able to aggregate and collect different aspects of spatial design in a way that's never even been possible before. And this represents a new opportunity for architects to be able to test it a lot faster and not only experience it for themselves, but to show other people. And so I think there was this level of excitement and potential to see what all these tools may mean. Now, they're not as easy to just like have an idea and think about it and be able to represent it. And in talking to a number of different architects, that's probably one of the biggest blockers of as an architectural student, you have many different ways of representing space and you can kind of sketch it out and get an idea out very quickly between your ability to draw and to represent things abstractly. It's a very fast process to take that idea and represent it on a piece of paper. I think the tools within virtual reality are still developing to the point where it's still difficult to be able to make that translation of your idea and imagination into a spatial experience within virtual reality. I expect to see much more architectural design tools. I think of something like Tilt Brush or Quill or Oculus Medium. These are all programs that 3D artists are able to generate things much quicker. And I imagine there's going to be something very similar within the architectural realm where it's just going to be very fast to be able to describe and create different spatial experiences. I wonder if there's tools like Gravity Sketch that will start to do that a little bit, where it's a little bit more of trying to design these different industrial objects that have spatial experiences, but it's different than some of the other different approaches. And so, you know, there's going to be some tool out there, I imagine, where it's going to be like the perfect architectural sketching or immersive technology tool to be able to get these ideas out there very quickly. So in thinking about some of the more theoretical and design perspectives, there seems to be a number of different philosophers that are drawing different inspiration, both from architecture and architectural students are reading people like Heidegger and Foucault and Derrida and Bachelard. But there's also other aspects of 19th and 20th century decorative art with Gombrich and Gottfried Semper, looking at different aspects of development of architecture and how that changed and shifted aspects of society. So looking at the corridor and the development and cultivation of the sense of self. from architectural historians like Robin Evans. Then there's Bruno Latour and Marshall McLuhan. All these different people are looking at aspects of architecture and how architecture has impacted their philosophy. And then at the same time, the architectural students drawing upon a lot of them are phenomenological continental philosophers. But just interesting to hear some of the different discussions that are coming from a little bit more of the theoretical perspectives. And to me, there seems like there's these fundamental questions about the elements of a spatial language within architecture and being able to describe different spatial relationships. Can that become a language within itself? And are there different forms that we start to understand? And what is the role of the architect going to be in this new immersive technology realm? where architects do have all this experience of creating spatial experiences. And so how is that going to get translated into the real? And it sounds like that what Frederick was saying is that, you know, a lot of the physical architecture is designed to isolate and separate and protect you from elements, and that it could be like the complete opposite with an immersive architecture, which may be much more about transparency and connection with other people and Getting an overview of all these different elements of a system and help you understand the complex networks of spaces that are available to you So I kind of see like this as a bit of the young in the end where the ego individuation and the separation that happens within the physical spaces and that is the more yen ego disillusionment to see how you as an individual are connected to the larger whole. And so how are these virtual spaces going to enable these different types of group dynamics and allowing you to connect to a lot of different people in new and novel ways. So it sounds like there's going to be a much more of a social cohesion and a gathering of these community centers and perhaps tapping into your biometric data and representing your physical feelings. And you're going to have a, almost like a projection of your inner psyche and being within these virtual spaces. And so how can you use that architecture to be able to actually connect to people in new and novel ways? When I gave a brief 20-minute talk to the different architectural students, one of the things I was talking about is these memory palaces. And so what does it mean to actually turn your own concepts and ideas into physical architecture? What does it mean to share that? Are there ways in which that you can represent your own personality and your own sense of your character within a virtual world represented in an architecture that you can actually see? So can the virtual architecture start to represent different aspects of your state of consciousness, your state of being to be able to be super intimate with people to connect to different aspects. And so maybe people would walk into your memory palace or your architectural representation of your current state of being, and maybe that would allow them to really dive deep into certain aspects of what's happening in your life right now. So those types of things, I think the parts of our inner life, our inner self, how can those start to have a spatial representation outward and being able to connect to people in new and novel ways. And so those are the different types of thoughts that started to come up as both Frederick and Lara were talking about what's unique about these virtual immersive architectures and also the fact that they're dynamic and they're moving and they're changing and evolving. And so. thinking about how space is moving over time, how it's dynamic, how it's interactive. And so I really see this fusion between the game developers, game designers with architecture to see the foundation of these game engines like Unity and Unreal, to see how that is utterly changing so many different aspects of the practice of architecture and how that is going to continue to have this fusion of these different practices from game design and immersive experience creation and the fields of architecture. So that was a bit surprising to me just to go in to hear the different types of conversations that the architects are having about the future of these different spaces. And like Frederick said, he was very interested in different aspects of accountability and ownership and control and governance. You know, these are things that are pretty well settled within the physical architectural realm. There's plenty of laws that govern all these different aspects, but in the virtual reality realm this is kind of like the wild west where like who is in control who's accountable for different aspects how are there different ways in which groups can govern these different virtual spaces that are being created and so there's all these questions that if you look at just the process of social vr and different models of governance and accountability and dealing with harassment. These are all the different types of things that the architecture students are also thinking about. And so this is something that is, I think, new in the realm of, you know, they haven't had to necessarily think about these things before, but now within virtual reality, then a lot of these contemporary discussions that I've been having here on the podcast are are coming up within these architectural discussions. And so to me, it's just interesting to see how what I've seen through the lens of technology and the future of these interactions online are being interpreted through these architectural lens where they say it is more this continual evolution of different ways in which space is able to modulate either individual experiences or these different group dynamics. And so different levels and insights from anthropology and sociology that they've already been studying so much within architecture, taking that to the next level with internet culture and everything that's been happening in these social VR spaces and video games and interactivity, and kind of like this mass fusion of all these different disciplines that are coming together. So I really took a lot away from this gathering and I'm excited to dive into different nuances of different topics that are coming up over the day long symposium, which was live streamed on YouTube. There's a page where you can go to and listen to all the different talks that were given. And we had like a two hour debate at the end, talking about all sorts of different topics of discussion. Initially, they wanted to be able to sign a treaty, which would be, in their mind, a bit of this manifesto that would be able to be handed over to the larger architectural community. And I was a bit skeptical that that was going to be possible, just based upon my previous experiences of gathering different people together at these day-long symposiums, that it's very difficult to at the end of it to summarize the entirety and the complexity of all of the nuances of a human experience and all these unknown open questions about the relationship between spatial design and human experience and how that happened. And so to me, it just felt like there's too many unbounded aspects, too many open questions still at this point to be able to bring forth a very specific design philosophies or a comprehensive manifesto trying to encompass all the different complexities of this. And so we ended up just having a little bit more of a dialectic and a dialogue, taking questions from the audience and just responding to them. And to me, it just feels like a conversation that's going to be ongoing and that there's going to be many different iterations of different designers coming together. And I personally look forward to attending any future gatherings as well, just to be a part of this conversation that's evolving. I very much appreciate the way that the architectural lens is looking at this space of virtual reality because I think there's a lot to be learned both from what architectural insights can provide to virtual reality and what virtual reality can sort of unlock into these different aspects of the fundamental nature of spatial design and architecture itself. So, that's all that I have for today, and I'm looking forward to diving into six other podcasts, unpacking different conversations, four of which happened at this gathering at the Architectural Association, and then a couple of other conversations that I had, both at Endicade and with Alex Coulomb. But we're going to be diving into more discussions that are happening there, unpacking it a little bit more. And, you know, this is a listener-supported podcast, and so I do rely upon listeners like yourself in order to continue to bring you this type of coverage. So if you enjoy these conversations and you want to hear more, then please become a member. $5 a month is a great amount to contribute at and just helps me have the foundations that I need to be able to continue to travel around and to have these different conversations documenting the evolution of these immersive technologies. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voices of VR. Thanks for listening.