Posts tagged with "Virtual Reality":

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This year's Sundance and Slamdance festivals delve into memory and value in art and architecture

The 2018 Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals took place in Park City, Utah from January 18–28. The festivals featured a range of films exploring art and architecture—whether by profiling artists, addressing the relationship between buildings and memory, or exploring the value of art and architecture in the world, or the experiential possibilities of space. “A house is a universe. It’s an entire world.” So says Alan Lightman, an MIT physicist in 306 Hollywood (2018), a film made by Elan and Jonathan Bogarín, a brother and sister, about their grandmother’s house after her death. Grandma Annette was a fashion designer and a self-proclaimed packrat. Her modest Newark house was piled with stuff, which their mother instructed them to toss. Defying the phrase, “Each time someone dies, a library burns,” the siblings decided instead to take an archeological expedition that turns the everyday objects they unearth into talismans. They arranged her stuff by color and typology into beautiful catalogues, made a 3-D model of the house, and pinned the dresses she designed onto the exterior of the house including the rooftop. The film tells the story of a life and a way to remember centered around the house and its objects. The memory of a building is also the idea behind Sarah Meyohas' Cloud of Petals (2017), which was shot at the former Bell Labs Holmdel Complex (now Bell Works), designed by Eero Saarinen in Holmdel, New Jersey. 10,000 hand-dissected rose petals were photographed and made into datasets, in homage to binary code pioneered at this facility. The filmmaker says “the bit of information was invented at Bell Labs….the transistor, the laser, and the very ones and zeroes of information theory.” In the film, this poetic activity enlivens the now ghost-like space. One of the themes that emerged at the festival was value and success in art. The latest documentary by Nathaniel Kahn (My Architect (2003), The Price of Everything (2018), delves into the monetary value of art and how the market drives the art world. Interviews with representatives from auction houses, galleries, critics, curators, collectors, and artists explore this question. The inclusion of artist Larry Poons’s inclusion is notable. Poons, now 80, saw his work fall out of favor after garnering attention in the 1960s, but regardless, he has pressed on. Here, he is an articulate voice countering the marketplace as arbiter. A different questioning of the art's value occurs in a film set in 1989 Cuba. In Un Traductor [A Translator] (2018), the central character, Malin, a Russian literature professor at the University of Havana, is reassigned from his teaching post to a hospital to serve as a translator. 25,000 Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant victims with radiation poisoning were sent to the hospital for medical treatment, and Malin is assigned to the pediatric ward. While at first resistant, he reluctantly comes around to the hospital work by reading the victims stories, and getting them to write and draw their experiences. Malin’s wife is a contemporary art curator preparing an exhibition. As he gets more involved with the kids’ life and death struggles, he become critical of her work, declaring, “It’s only art,” to which she responds that art is life. The value of art versus human life is a core question that upends this man’s life. The Korean-American performance artist Vivian Bang, who co-wrote and stars in White Rabbit (2018), would agree. Her character went to art school, and now makes performances in supermarkets, parks and on the sidewalk about Koreans during the Los Angeles riots. She performs anywhere she can, because she must, despite the lack of any economic rewards. In American Animals (2018), the value of art takes a criminal turn. A bored art student and his cohorts steal rare books which they try to sell to Christie’s. They are caught and sent to prison. Upon release, the protagonist makes his living drawing birds. The filmmakers intercut interviews with the actual perpetrators of the crime with the actors who portray them, making their plight more understandable as a reckless act of youth in a misguided quest for meaning and fast economic rewards. Another tale gone awry is Arizona (2018), where the housing bust from the 2008 financial crisis wreaks havoc. A town outside Phoenix has multiple, nearly vacant gated communities with Spanish names, all including the word “d’oro,” or golden. A man tries to hang himself, a realtor is six mortgage payments behind, and a man about to foreclose takes out his frustration on his realtor. So begins a bloody hostage/murder spree in a desolate housing complex on an unfinished golf course. It’s an urgent, out-of-control romp through a land of dispiriting ghost towns. Other films relished in the delight of art and artists, and the possibilities of new technologies. Two profiles of women artists stood out at the festival. Kusama – Infinity (2018) shows the 89-year-old Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama who is best known for Infinity Rooms and her fields of polka dots, and, according to the film, is now the most “successful” contemporary artist in the world. She is shown as a young, ambitious, obsessive artist whose pioneering work was eclipsed by male artists whose similar works were praised, while hers were ignored. Her early contact with Georgia O’Keefe, who helped with her move to the U.S., and Joseph Cornell is cited, as is her return to Japan in the 1970s where checked herself into a mental hospital where she continues to live, with a studio a short walk away. She opened a museum in Japan devoted to her work last year. Impresario fashion designer Vivienne Westwood is shown as a classic artist, filled with energy, creativity, originality, and spunk in Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist (2018).The excellent music choices—no punk included—mirror her designs.   In the short documentary, I’m Not Sure (2017), directed by Gabriel Hensche, surrealist paintings by René Magritte are verbally described by an app that amusingly scrambles the meaning. The titular phrase is vocalized whenever the app is stumped by such iconic works as The Treachery of Images (the famous “This is not a pipe” painting)  and Time Transfixed (which depicrs a train chugging out of a fireplace). The “neural image caption generator” the filmmaker used was developed to provide automatic verbal descriptions for the blind. Finally, at New Frontier, the Sundance section devoted to the convergence of film, art, media, live performance, music and technology, one virtual reality project stood out with possibilities for architecture, design and physical space. Space Explorers: A New Dawn, developed by a team helmed by Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël, is experienced by viewers in synchronized Voyager chairs with haptic technology that rotate, vibrate, and move. Made in conjunction with NASA, the documentary takes viewers underwater along with astronauts in training at the Johnson Space Center, to the International Space Station, and ride in the back seat of a small aircraft.
  • 306 Hollywood (2018). Directors: Elan Bogarín and Jonathan Bogarín
  • Cloud of Petals (2017). Director: Sarah Meyohas
  • The Price of Everything (2018). Director: Nathaniel Kahn
  • Un Traductor (2018). Directors: Rodrigo Barriuso/Sebastián Barriuso
  • White Rabbit (2018). Director: Daryl Wein
  • I’m Not Sure (2018).  Director: Gabriel Hensche
  • American Animals (2018). Director: Bart Layton
  • Arizona (2018). Director: Jonathan Watson
  • Kusama – Infinity (2018). Director: Heather Lenz
  • Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist (2018). Director: Lorna Tucker
  • I’m Not Sure (2017). Director: Gabriel Hensche
  • Space Explorers: A New Dawn. Lead Artists: Félix Lajeunesse/Paul Raphaël
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AN's architectural highlights from this year's Tribeca Film Festival, including V.R. experiences

At Tribeca’s “immersive” Virtual Arcade, the virtual reality (VR) film The People’s House offered a tour of the public and private rooms of the White House with tour guides Barack and Michelle Obama. Highlighting artifacts and artworks as the embodiment of the philosophies and policies of their administration (Michelle cites Alma Thomas’s painting Resurrection, 1966, in the Old Family Dining Room), it is a stark reminder of how quickly life has changed. It was comforting to think that The People’s House is a vessel that will continue to change as administrations come and go. The following is a rundown of films and VR installations that use architecture and art that appeared at the recent festival, and that you should look out for. A few referred to the dilemma of finding or keeping housing in New York City. The Boy Downstairs finds Zosia Mamet’s character locating the perfect Brooklyn apartment when she returns to New York from a few years in London; her character is granted approval by the resident bohemian landlady who takes her under her wing, only to find that her ex-boyfriend is in the basement apartment. Will real estate triumph over emotional health? Black Magic for White Boys is an independently produced TV pilot where New York real estate plays a key role: a landlord is frustrated that he cannot raise his tenants’ rent, a magician hatches a devilish plan to save his small theater, and gentrification is causing an older version of New York to fade away. Permission finds woodworker Will (Dan Stevens) fixing up a brownstone for his long-time girlfriend Anna (Rebecca Hall), to whom he can’t quite propose. As they begin to experiment with other people, Will’s handmade furniture and house are no longer creating a home. I LIVED: Brooklyn investigates the borough’s distinct neighborhoods. If you missed Manifesto at the Park Avenue Armory, its segments have been woven into a film featuring Cate Blanchett playing different characters (newscaster, homeless man, puppeteer, punk rocker) who deliver architecture manifestos by Bruno Taut (1920/21), Antonio Sant’Elia (1914), Coop Himmelb(l)au (1980), Robert Venturi (1993), as well artists’ manifestos including Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto, Lars von Trier’s Dogma 95, and others on Dadaism, Surrealism, Minimalism, Pop Art, Situationism, Merz, Spatilaism, and The Blau Rider written by Tristan Tzara, Kazimir Malevich, André Breton, Claes Oldenburg, Yvonne Rainer, Sturtevant, Sol LeWitt, Jim Jarmusch, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, and others. Artist Laurie Simmons stars in her directorial debut, My Art. Although her character has been able to sustain her life as an artist by teaching, she has not broken out, while her students (real life daughter Lena Dunham’s character, for example) and friends have. She accepts the summer loan of a gracious summer house, complete with gardens and pool, and spends the summer making films that recreate Hollywood films. These finally give her both the satisfaction and attention she craves. Scenes take place at the Whitney Museum and Salon 94 Bowery. Shadowman is Richard Hambleton, a street artist who was part of a trio that included Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring in the 1980s whose work appeared all around New York City streets. The other two became art stars, their work came inside to galleries and was widely collected, and both died young (drug overdose and AIDS). Although Hambleton at first attained commercial and critical success—featured in LIFE magazine, and with works displayed at the Venice Biennale—he spun out with homelessness and an addiction to heroin. The film chronicles his rediscovery and a planned comeback, sponsored by Giorgio Armani, with Hambleton still painting his mesmerizing shadow-like figures. Movingly, he says that although he is still alive while his fellow artists are not, he is the waking dead. What a contrast to Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait, which chronicles this confident, gregarious artist and filmmaker from his childhood in Brooklyn and Brownsville, Texas, through his rise as a Neo-Expressionist painter (remember his plate paintings?). Schnabel came to be acknowledged for his extroverted, excessive approach to his work and life (frequently seen in silk pajamas, he lives and works in Montauk, Long Island, and in a 170-foot-tall pink Venetian-styled house in the West Village called Palazzo Chupi) as he moved into filmmaking (Basquiat, 1995, Before Night Falls, 2000, and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, 2007). We have access to Schnabel and to friends and colleagues Al Pacino, Mary Boone, Jeff Koons, Bono, and Laurie Anderson. Schnabel is one of many art luminaries who appear in Blurred Lines: Inside the Art World which lifts the curtain on the art world economy, or the glamorous and cutthroat game of genius versus commerce where art is created, exhibited, and sold. Museum directors (Glenn Lowry, Michael Govan), collectors (Michael Ovitz), auctioneers (Simon de Pury, Amy Cappelazzo, Lisa Dennison), gallerists (Iwan Wirth, Andrea Rosen), artists (Rashid Johnson, Marina Abramowitz), and many more, appear. Another crash and burn, but with a comeback, is Zac Posen in House of Z, the name of his fashion house. Son of an artist father, he attended St. Ann’s in Brooklyn with Stella Schnabel, Paz de la Huerta, Claire Danes, and Jemima Kirk, for whom he created outfits. He rose quickly at age 21, then his brand fell out of favor and his challenge was to rebuild his company and his reputation in a tenuous dance between art and commerce. More consistent is Hilda, a short about octogenarian Hilda O’Connell who has been making art since the 1950s. She started in a studio on 10th St. alongside Willem de Kooning, Milton Resnick, and Esteban Vicente, and showed at the Aegis Gallery. She continues to make paintings that use language and alphabets in colorful, gestural work. At Tribeca Immersive, in Apex we see a city withstand a violent windstorm created by a looming sun. The viewer is surrounded by buildings being whipped by the elements. Island of the Colorblind is inspired by Pingelap, a tropical island in Micronesia with an extraordinarily high percentage of achromatopsia (complete colorblindness), a highly hereditary condition. The filmmaker says, “Color is just a word to those who cannot see it. If the colorblind people paint with their mind, how would they color the world, the trees, themselves?” The Island of the Colorblind consists of three kinds of images; ‘normal’ digital black and white photos, infrared images, and photo-paintings. Together they are symbolic attempts to visualize how the colorblind people see the world. A highlight is Hallelujah, which reimagines Leonard Cohen’s song. The experience is centered around a five-part a cappella arrangement sung by one singer with a wide vocal range in-the-round. As you rotate your head to view each rendition, the directional sound moves with you. Hallelujah employs Lytro Immerge, which enables live action VR content to behave as it does in the real world. The opening night film was Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives, which profiles the music impresario behind the careers of Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Santana, Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow, Patti Smith, Alicia Keys, Sean “Puffy” Combs, and more. Best Documentary Feature, Cinematography and Editing prizes went to Bobbi Jene, which follows dancer Bobbi Jene Smith’s return to the U.S. after starring for the Israeli dance company Batsheva. Also of note are: Blues Planet: Triptych, which explores music written in response to the Gulf Oil spill and performed by Taj Mahal; Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story is about the screen siren who was also an inventor; actors John Turturro and Bobby Cannavale dialogue on the vital subject of hair in the aptly-named Hair; Letter to the Free is about jazz behind bars; New York is Dead depicts artists who become hitmen to ear money; Nobody’s Watching is about a successful actor in Argentina who can’t get noticed in New York; Tom of Finland is about cult artist Touko Laaksonen who comes to Los Angeles; King of Peking is about a pirate movie company run by a 1990s projectionist in Beijing; When God Sleeps is about exiled Iranian musician Shahin Najafi living under a fatwa after terrorist attacks in Europe; and two films are about war photographers, Hondros and Shooting War. And I was charmed by Auto, which takes on self-driving cars: an Ethiopian immigrant driver with 40 years experience is forced to “drive” one and picks up a couple more accustomed to the service with amusing consequences. The People’s House, project creators Félix Lajeunesse, Paul Raphaël (Felix & Paul Studios) The Boy Downstairs, directed and written by Sophie Brooks Black Magic for White Boys, director Onur Tukel Permission, director and writer by Brian Crano I LIVED: Brooklyn, project creators Jonathan Nelson and Danielle Andersen Manifsto, director and writer Julian Rosefeldt My Art, director and writer Laurie Simmons Shadowman, director and cinematographer Oren Jacoby Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait, director and writer Pappi Corsicato Blurred Lines: Inside the Art World, director and writer Barry Avrich House of Z, director and writer Sandy Chronopoulos Hilda, director and writer Kiira Benzing Apex, project creator Arjan van Meerten Island of the Colorblind, project creator Sanne De Wilde Hallelujah, project creators Zach Richter, Bobby Halvorson, Eames Kolar, Within, Lytro Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives, director Chris Perkel Bobbi Jene, director and writer by Elvira Lind Blues Planet: Triptych, director and writer Wyland Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, director and writer Alexandra Dean Hair, director John Turturro Letter to the Free, director and cinematographer Bradford Young Nobody’s Watching, director and writer Julia Solomonoff Tom of Finland, director Dome Karukoski King of Peking, director and writer Sam Voutas When God Sleeps, director and writer Till Schauder Hondros, director and writer Greg Campbell Shooting War, director Aeyliya Husain Auto, project creator Steven Schardt
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VR was essential to Gensler’s design of NVIDIA's new headquarters

Hao Ko, principal and design director at Gensler, will be delivering the keynote presentation at the 2017 Tech+ Expo (May 23, New York City). Like a test rendering of a 3-D model, Gensler’s new headquarters for microchip maker NVIDIA in Santa Clara, California comes haltingly into view across the landscape, a glitchy image slowly gaining resolution. The 550,000-square-foot structure has been in the works since before the Great Recession and after nearly a decade in development, work is quickly progressing on final construction. The structure is on track to open for business in September of 2017—construction photos provided to The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) by Hao Ko, principal and design director at Gensler, indicate that work on the building envelope is almost complete, with the installation of final interior finishes and the landscape underway. Devcon Construction is building the project and Louie International is acting as the structural design engineer. Along the exterior, practically every edge of the wide, triangular structure is canted subtly. A roof profile that appears curved is actually made up of broad, segmented lines. Along two sides, the building bulges at the middle, creating fat, cyclopean bay windows. From above, the building is revealed across the landscape as a microchip-inspired paper airplane—a thin roof structure pierced with triangular skylights heaving over the earth. The building is actually capped by a steel truss roof supported by steel beam walls and columns. The deeply-overhanging and undulating roof creates a cavernous interior volume below. Whenever the roof’s folded planes meet at a peak or a valley, they turn downward as large steel section columns that resolve themselves dutifully and unceremoniously by plunging straight into the concrete slab. [interstitia] The construction images showcase a cavernous, two-level interior volume intersected by a series of opaque, faceted cores that interlock with one another and contain communal functions and meeting rooms. The peripheries of each floor plate are lined with work areas. Here, the formal rows of desks and more open-ended breakout spaces will exist in a broad, sky-lit space, framed by triangular roofing members above. The project is notable for the collaborative effort between client and architect that allowed the design team to embed virtual reality-based (VR) visualization into the design process. NVIDIA worked to develop new uses for the graphics chip manufacturer’s Iray rendering engine: the project's iterative daylight simulations involved modeling up to 5,000 light sources per image. Using the technology and cluster computing to pool GPU-power, designers were able to generate renderings in as little as ten minutes’ time, converting the technology into a rapidly-deployable design tool. The technology was also designed to include physically scanned materials in such a way as to capture light intensity and character—rather than to generate only various intensities of color, as is more common in rendering applications. The resulting “simulations” guided the design of the workspaces, where NVIDIA wanted to maximize quality of light. The scheme, as a result, ended up with fewer skylights than originally intended. Simulations showed that not as many skylights were needed to achieve the correct lighting effect designers were looking for. Ko explained over telephone that virtual reality workflow integration allows for a project to take on more life, saying “previously we only had artists’ renditions of what a space could feel like.” Ko added that with VR, the architects at Gensler wanted to figure out how could get “more reality” into the design experience. Scott DeWoody, Gensler’s creative media manager, said that the use of virtual reality was integral to the NVIDIA project and that the firm had “found a use for it at every spot in the design process.” VR is something that is not only easy to adopt into the traditional office workflow, DeWoody explained, but once rendering times are reduced, the tool can result in better overall design quality, as designers “render everything around them, instead of just (rendering) an open scene.” Ko agreed that the advanced simulation techniques add more to the design process than traditional renders, saying, “I’m old school—I came in the profession back in the day when we were building big physical models, to understand size, scale, and experience. Prior to having VR, it was always a challenge to reconcile how you do that.” Technology is driving rapid changes in architecture and construction industries and the building industry, in turn, is a driver of the U.S. economy. Tech+ Expo brings together, for the first time in NYC, industry and technology leaders that are shaping the future of the built environment.
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VR tour of Wright's Hollyhock House in the works

As part of a new project orchestrated by the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), tours of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in L.A.’s Barnsdall Park could soon be accessible to the public via virtual reality. The Mayan-Revival style home was built between 1919 and 1921 as Wright’s first Los Angeles–based residential commission and presaged the architect’s experimental “textile block” technology, a system Wright envisioned as a do-it-yourself solution for prefabricated building. The house is also considered the first work in the architect’s post-Prairie Style period. Previously, in Wright’s Prairie Style work, divisions between interior and exterior were stark and emphasized; with the Hollyhock House, that dichotomy gave way to a more fluid relationship between landscape and space, interior and exterior, presaging certain tendencies inherent in the coming modernism movement. The home was also an influential project on Wright understudy Rudolph Schindler. The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007 and has been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The structure was renovated most recently starting in 2010 by architects Brenda Lavin & Associates, a $ 4.4 million modernization and restoration scheme that aimed to bring the structure back to its original luster. The DCA is seeking to make the relic more accessible to the general public and, more specifically, for patrons who cannot enter the building due to its noncompliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The historic status of the work makes ADA-focused retrofits impossible. Instead, DCA is working to transform the interiors of the structure into a virtual reality experience that can be accessed both on-site in Barnsdall Park and via the internet. According to DCA, the virtualization project could potentially increase the accessibility of the house by 210%, an increase that could perhaps boost physical attendance at the site, as well. The push would make the site’s bid for UNESCO status potentially more plausible. The nomination was organized by the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and submitted as a group nomination including nine other Wright buildings, including the Fallingwater, Guggenheim, Taliesin, and Taliesin West projects in 2015. While the status of the nomination is still pending, the DCA proposal will be working its way toward approval by the Los Angeles City Council's Innovation, Grants, Technology, Commerce and Trade Committee, the full L.A. City Council, and ultimately, the L.A. Mayor’s office.
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New Museum virtual reality app now available for download, at no cost

The New Museum has created a new app showcasing mobile virtual reality artworks. Developed in coalition with Rhizome—an art organization affiliated with the New Museum since 2003 that specializes in art and network technologies—the app showcases the exhibition First Look: Artists’ VR. Theapp-cum-exhibition six artists—Jeremy Couillard, Jayson Musson, Peter Burr, Rachel Rossin, Jacolby Satterwhite, and Jon Rafman—who undertook experimental approaches to digital animation in virtual reality. The result, according to the New Museum, reflects both the possibilities and difficulties faced when working with such a media platform. First Look: Artists’ VR presents a wide range of art that can be construed as social commentaries. These include: "A memorial to victims of police violence (Musson); an uncanny scenario of deconstructed video game characters (Rossin); a queer fantasia set in an industrial nightclub (Satterwhite); a mutating labyrinth populated with writhing figures (Burr, with Porpentine); a simulation of the afterlife (Couillard); and an unsettling dive into an alternate world rife with avatars both banal and magical (Rafman)." The First Look exhibition series focuses on art in digital mediums and is now in its fifth year. Also cementing the New Museum's status within the world of virtual art is NEW INC. Another digital, artistic arm of the museum, NEW INC, has been an incubator for those dabbling in virtual reality and other digital arts. The VR medium is quickly spreading in the realm of architecture exhibits too. Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design, currently on view at the Jewish Museum, places audiences into virtual rooms from Chareau's 1932 dwelling, the Maison de Verre in Paris. The VR movement, though, in terms of its artistic role, is still in its infancy. “I would say that there is a real swell of interest in VR right now as it becomes more attainable," said Lauren Cornell, a New Museum curator, speaking to The Creators Project at Vice. "That said, it’s costly and challenging to negotiate distribution and exhibition. It remains to be seen how truly accessible a medium it will be.” The First Look: Artists' VR app is available to download for free from the Google Play store. An iOS app meanwhile, is apparently on its way.
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New York City will fund a virtual reality and augmented reality lab

In a bid to trump their West Coast rivals, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) yesterday announced that they will invest $6 million into a virtual reality (VR) and augment reality (AR) lab—the first of its kind on the East Coast. The NYCEDC and MOME are set to release a request for proposals early next year to set up and run the lab. According to NYCEDC President Maria Torres-Springer, the decision was made to make the most of the rapidly emerging VR technology scene. The lab (whose location is yet to be decided) will also be the country's first ever publicly funded institution of its kind. Earlier this year, Antonio Pacheco, the west editor of The Architect's Newspaper, noted the rise of VR being used by architecture firms such as Gensler, NBBJ, and Özel in California. The lab in New York will serve as an incubator for VR/AR businesses. In a press release, the NYCEDC and MOME said that the city's VR/AR industry has seen more than $50 million invested in the past year along with a 125 percent increase in job demand. In terms of operation, the lab will support the growth of VR/AR companies by providing space, infrastructure, and resources. Additionally, it will serve as a place for people involved in the industry to gather. “The timing could not be better. The talent in New York City, along with its anchor industries, place this city in a unique position to propel its sprouting VR/AR sector from early disruption to everyday, cross-sector application. Convening the technologists, academics, storytellers and start-up veterans that New York City hosts and attracts will create an invigorating boost to VR/AR’s momentum as we head into 2017,” said Adaora Udoji, managing director of The Boshia Group and adjunct professor of storytelling, New York University.
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Soon this VR venue will let you rave from the comfort of home

Queue up your best dance tracks because (techno)logy will soon make it easier than ever to home rave. Music broadcasting group Boiler Room has teamed up with Inception to open the world's first virtual reality venue. The two enterprises will produce made-for-VR events in the London space so listeners can Source Direct content or sweat Midwest fresh without leaving home. Boiler Room is best known for its music live streams where dancers can be seen grooving in sweaty rave caves behind some of the world's most talented DJs. Like an internet-age MTV, the company archives the sets online so dance music fans in New York can sample Japanese grime or take a quick getaway to Acid Camp in the Poconos: In a statement on Business Wire, the broadcasters explained the significance of their new venture for far-flung fans who want to jack: “Most of Boiler Room's audience is made up of global online users who tune in to watch music events they can’t attend in person. We’ve always been driven by using technology to showcase the music we care about in the most authentic way we can.” Shows will be accessible through Inception's app. Although music fans will have to wait until early next year to home rave, VR right now is merging the digital and the physical with shocking fluidity. This year, artist Tamiko Thiel unveiled a VR installation at the Seattle Art Museum that imagines life in the climate change–burdened anthropocene while The Guardian used VR to help viewers empathize with prisoners in solitary. Earlier this month, Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) debuted a VR-enhanced exhibition at the Jewish Museum's just-opened Pierre Chareau exhibition. At that show, DS+R uses archival photographs and prints to recreate Chareau's interiors in digital space. "Virtual reality provided the perfect opportunity to re-spatialize these artifacts, these pieces of furniture,” firm principal Elizabeth Diller told The Architect's Newspaper (AN). On the West Coast, firms like Gensler are using VR to communicate project concepts for the new Los Angeles Football Club stadium, a move that is "basically normalizing the technology as a design tool."
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West Coast architecture firms are a hotbed for virtual reality applications

Though digital modeling and documentation tools have been an integral part of architectural practice for decades, until recently, visualization tools hewed closely to traditional elements of two-dimensional representation. Several firms and independent practitioners, however, are striving to adopt virtual reality (VR) as a design tool.

At the corporate level, established firms like Gensler and NBBJ are setting up in-house VR departments and standing to benefit from their corporate heft and connections.

NBBJ’s Seattle office recently launched a business partnership with construction industry start up Visual Vocal to incubate and develop what the firm referred to as a “breakthrough virtual reality productivity platform.” The tool aims to streamline the firm’s collaborative design process by allowing clients on-demand access to project information and design updates. NBBJ Managing Partner Steve McConnell described the firm’s approach in a press release: “This partnership will radically shift the way design feedback is sourced and integrated into projects, and the speed at which it can be done. As a result, we can more broadly and deeply engage project stakeholders.… Virtual reality will deepen design discourse and bring together communities in new and exciting ways.”

Gensler’s Los Angeles office has taken the opposite approach, creating a virtual reality department that engages with existing VR technologies, looping the latest design tools into Gensler’s corporate workflow as they come online. Gensler’s San Francisco office utilized VR to create a highly detailed climate model as it designed a new headquarters for computer graphics card maker Nvidia. Alan Robles, experience designer in charge of VR technologies at Gensler’s L.A. office, described the firm’s efforts as an attempt to streamline the use of VR as a design tool, calling VR the “next logical evolution for rendering technologies.” Gensler integrates VR into its workflow early in the conceptual diagram stage while also pairing Unity software with Autodesk Revit later in the process to bring designers and clients directly into a working digital model where design options can be updated in real time.

The firm’s VR capabilities are also being utilized in the ongoing design of the new Los Angeles Football Club stadium in South Los Angeles, where Gensler’s team was able to integrate VR design approaches early into the design process to communicate possible sponsorship opportunities and overall project concept. VR is incorporated into the conceptual design phases, making Gensler’s approach toward VR basically one of normalizing the technology as a design tool. The evolution of project concepts in VR takes off from there, with the technology being deployed as necessary to convey design intent. These efforts result in a custom app made by Gensler’s in-house team that clients can use as a personalized marketing and development tool.

Operating in a parallel stream, a school of emerging designers has taken up VR as a key visualization and production tool.

Güvenç Özel, principal at Özel Office, made use of VR in a recent competition proposal made for NASA. His NASA 3D-Printed Habitat project, runner-up in the competition, creates a VR environment to convey its design intention and functionality. The project, showcased at the Architecture and Design Museum’s recent exhibition, Come In! DTLA, allowed observers to wear VR headsets to explore the scheme: A space capsule 3-D-printed from martian rock and occupied as an operating base for astronaut-explorer scientists.

Özel, who spoke to AN via email, described VR’s potential impact on architecture in no uncertain terms, saying, “The immersiveness of these digital environments are becoming so convincing that they start to exist as environments in their own right. I am convinced that the architecture of our near future involves physical and digital spaces superimposed on each other, and will further blur the lines between what is interface design and what is architectural design.” Designer Devin Gharakhanian, in collaboration with VR specialist Nels Long, presented Room XYZ at this year’s One-NightStand L.A. showcase, utilizing VR to recontextualize an all-white room into a variety of experiences. The project, in a different iteration, places the viewer into a precise, virtual recreation of an elaborately staged room. For the two architecturally-trained artists, the works serve to explore existential architectural issues directly.

Adding to this inertia, is a growing stock of interdisciplinary, VR-focused coworking spaces and organizations that are coalescing across L.A., where the edges of the visualization, filmmaking, and architectural professions run into one another, like Virtual Reality Los Angeles, Navel.la, and RotoLab. With the recent announcement by computing giant Intel of a new collaboration with Microsoft aimed at developing VR capabilities for Windows-based machines and plans to open an L.A. research studio, the future of VR is here—and it’s very real. 

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Wichita State University's "VR Cave" lets designers see life-size mockups in 3D

Everyone’s talking about virtual reality (VR) these days—especially with Pokemon GO taking the planet by storm—and people are rushing to explore potential applications for VR in everything from journalism to entertainment. Artist Keiichi Matsuda has his own ambivalent, if not dire, ideas how virtual reality might change society. At Wichita State University (WSU), designers are using a new immersive VR installation to create giant mockups of their projects. The experience is different from the head-mounted devices used for video games. The setup features a floor space that's 19 feet by 10 feet wide, flanked by two 10 foot by 10 foot screen. 12 projectors fill the surfaces with a digital model. Designers using the “The Cave” wear a set of motion-sensing glasses that track their gaze around the space. However, unlike wearing video goggles, this means a group of collaborators can see the simulation together. WSU virtual reality lab manager Jeff Fisher told Digital Trends, “Systems like this are meant for collaboration. Typically we have 3 to 15 people [including] the client in the Cave at once.” It also allows them to walk and move naturally, a problem video game designers and filmmakers haven't completely figured out yet. The setup also includes a “wand” that can be used to take measurements or make notes in the virtual space. As the technology continues to advance we will likely see new ways for artists and designers to see their work in life-size 3D while still in the concept stage.
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Greg Lynn uses Microsoft HoloLens to visualize architecture at this year's Venice Biennale

"The biggest problem an architect has," said Californian architect Greg Lynn of Greg Lynn Form (GLF), "is getting from the screen into physical space." And so Lynn, who is also a professor of architecture and urban design at UCLA, has been using the Microsoft HoloLens at the U.S. Pavilion for this year's Venice Biennale. Assigned the Packard Plant, a historic half mile-long abandoned car factory in Detroit, Lynn and his firm were tasked reimagining the site. The HoloLens, which is aided by tech firm Trimble's mixed reality technology, allowed Lynn to holographically visualize and navigate the space. "It actually changes the way you think about design" said Lynn, who added that the lens meant he could fully comprehend the scale of the site, something which he achieved by placing twelve Tate Moderns into the area, by virtual means. According to Lynn, the technology also allowed him to make decisions regarding design and spatial qualities much earlier than usual. "Without the HoloLens, I would have been making those decisions three, four months from now, but with the HoloLens, I'm making those decisions at the point of inception" said Lynn. The HoloLens can also be shared with clients, allowing architects to use the language of space to show why certain design decisions were made. "Using this technology I can make decisions at the moment of inception, shorten the design cycle and improve communication with my clients," added Lynn. AN got a chance to test out the device at the Venice Biennale last week. The use of Hololens in exhibition design is very useful in displaying the US Pavilion proposal. Visitors can see the history of the site holographically projected on the physical model, complete with diagrams that display change from year to year, tracking the growth and decline of the Packard complex. The technology also allowed the exhibition to be annotated with information about the design, as well as animations that made it come alive with images of drones and puffing smokestacks. "HoloLens is going to bridge that gap between the two-dimensional and the three-dimensional and physical space.... It's a revolution," Lynn concluded. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70xDCokzAck If you want to get your hands on a Hololens, they're only $3,000. According to Microsoft’s website, the device features sensors, a processing unit, special high-def color lenses, and built-in speakers. Microsoft is also collaborating with Lowe’s, the home improvement company, to help customers visualize new kitchen or living layouts, finishes, and more.
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"Hyper-Reality" visualized in Medellín envisions capitalism enveloping the city and daily life

London-based designer and film-maker, Keiichi Matsuda has finally realized what he thinks the future may look like. Augmented reality, twinned with the advent of digital developments such as Google glass, has made films like Minority Report and Blade Runner seem slightly less fantastical, and in Matsuda's eyes, prescient in how physical and virtual worlds could one day merge. His film, Hyper-Reality, imagines a future where technology and business visually dominate our lives. The film builds on his previous work Augmented Hyper-Reality Domestic Robocop (try saying that quickly) and Augmented City where the latter depicted technology altering how we view the city and urban environments. Both films were a success, making it into the MoMA and the Art Institute of Chicago. https://vimeo.com/166807261 Hyper-Reality is the convergence of these two films. "[It's] much bigger and more ambitious," said Matsuda. "It's a more refined critique, and a fuller sense of place than the previous films." To begin with, the film plunges you into a suburban bus in Medellin, Colombia under the guise of Juliana Restrepo. At first this seems like an odd setting to host a sci-fi vision of the future though Matsuda explained how quickly the city is developing (it was the most innovative city of the year in 2013) and hence is a good stage to showcase how "rapid technological transformation" could change a city. From the outset, Matsuda introduces darker themes of how interactive interfaces could render identity and existence easily disposable. However, the film's take on how capitalism and technology alter our perception of space is its core idea. https://vimeo.com/14294054 Bamboozled by a kaleidoscopic splurge of information, Julianna Restrepo's view of the world is saturated by adverts, warnings, snippets of health advice and media. The scenario feels like an extreme version of an inescapable Las Vegas or Times Square, with everything in our field of vision vying for our attention. The film comes across as eerily realistic thanks the to inclusion of real life phenomena such as the Cootrasana bus service and Starbucks coffee. "Having real brands involved strengthens the films' post-modern appeal, and it's an ironic nod to the very systems that the film critiques," said Matsuda. "An inevitable consequence of the Internet mingling with the physical world, is that advertising and commercial environments would become an even bigger part of our cities," he added. "I'm really intrigued as to how this would affect our experience, so I'm planning to create some innovative and visually arresting branded environments within the film." https://vimeo.com/8569187 "I want to use the film as a platform for debate to anyone who is worried about where technology might be taking us," Matsuda continued. "By creating more visions, and talking about them publicly, I believe that it's possible to influence the people who are involved in developing these technologies in the first place." Thankfully, Matsuda's hyper-realistic depiction of the future isn't quite yet reality. While virtual reality machines are becoming an ever more popular tool for architectural purposes, the likes of Google glass and other similar products are yet to take off, mainly due to the products hefty price tag. Last year Google shelved their original eyewear piece though an updated product, Google Glass 2.0, is set to be unveiled, though will be marketed for healthcare and manufacturing purposes.
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Experience what solitary confinement feels like with a new virtual reality app

Few of us will hopefully ever have to experience what life in solitary confinement is like. But for those who'd like to immersively experience it—if only for a few minutes—then The Guardian has a solution. Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 14.49.39 The Guardian has put together an app called 6x9 that aims to plunge users into the confines of a six by nine foot cell. "Right now, more than 80,000 people are in solitary confinement in the US," said the newspaper. "They spend 22-­24 hours a day in their cells, with little to no human contact for days or even decades. We invite you into this world." Best enjoyed with the Google Cardboard Viewer to nullify any distractions, the experience can also be 'enjoyed' even by those without a smartphone courtesy of a 360° interactive video, seen below. https://youtu.be/odcsxUbVyZA The experience features soundbites from interviews of those who have been subject to solitary confinement. The interviews are available to read in full on The Guardian too. "I remember stepping into the cell and it was like stepping over a bridge into another world. The first feeling I had is that something could happen to me in here and no one would ever know," said Five Omar Mualimm-ak, who spent a total of five years and eight months in solitary confinement. "You will probably spend a lot of time laying flat on the floor just trying to get that little bit of air that will come under the door," adds Dolores Canales, the only female voice to feature. Canales was in solitary confinement for nine months after being jailed aged 18. Last year, the issue of solitary confinement was a contentious topic in the American architecture scene. In January 2015, New York City officials banned "solitary confinement for prison inmates 21 and younger." The decision came only a few weeks after the American Institute of Architects (AIA) refused to adhere to a plea that would forbid AIA members from designing buildings intended for human-rights violations (as defined by international laws) such as executions or prolonged solitary confinement. According to the Architectural Record, the amendment would've demanded that AIA members "not design spaces intended for execution or for torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, including prolonged solitary confinement." Speaking to the New York Times, former AIA President Helene Combs Dreiling said “If we begin to stipulate the types of projects our members can and cannot do, it opens a can of worms.” “It’s just not something we want to determine as a collective,” Dreiling added. “Members with deeply embedded beliefs will avoid designing those building types and leave it to their colleagues,” Ms. Dreiling elaborated. “Architects self-select, depending on where they feel they can contribute best.” The debate on ethical architecture raged on. “Is there nothing so odious that the A.I.A. wouldn’t step in?” retorted Raphael Sperry, who, with his organization, Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility, submitted the ethical amendment to the AIA. “What about concentration camps? The A.I.A. is basically saying business is more important than human rights," he added. Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times pointed out that American Medical Association specifically prohibits doctors from participating in execution or torture. He and Sperry also noted that A.I.A's own code of professional ethics states that "members should uphold human rights in all their professional endeavors."