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The dawn of the virtual reality in architecture | Gunita Kulikovska | TEDxRiga

The dawn of the virtual reality in architecture | Gunita Kulikovska | TEDxRiga


Translator: Ilze Garda
Reviewer: Robert Tucker When I was a kid, my world of imagination
was building tree houses. That was a real playground
for creativity and physical work. I started from the bottom using old potato boxes
just right after potatoes were planted, and then, with skill, it turned
into more complicated structures supplied in the existing landscapes, and various elements
started to affect the structure, like the position of the sun,
viewpoints, garden, places to read a book
or places overlooking the surroundings. That was the place where kids
were meeting seasonally every year. I was dreaming and sketching,
and making a lot of notes, but the only way in which I could totally immerse myself
in the perspective of the scene was by building it with my own hands. Just like the box on the top of the box,
it turned into form and structure. I remember that the garage
and daddy’s toolset was the most familiar
computing system at that time. I was really into action and real doing. What I wanted to do with that was to perceptualize that between
the space and the imagination. So I went to the school of architecture. Years of dedication,
hard work, push, and pull. During the studies,
we did a lot of modeling, in fact, and visuals, and drawings, but somehow I felt that it was a language
created by architects for architects. When I first jumped into a project
that involved the public, I eventually realized how weak I was
in communicating my designs. I had the feeling that people
were left misunderstood. However, tools that architects
use to visualize spaces have developed over time. Even more, the whole context
of visual communication has enriched, from a raw sketch
on a piece of paper, to physical models
and digital visualizations. All these tools correspond
to communication, they are means by which we can deliver
the message of the future space. I think that the architecture
and construction industry is full of failed expectations, just because of this weak communication. In every stage, from client to architect,
from architect to builder, there is just huge frustration and chaos. For instance, think of yourself
in the role of a client. Your dream, your vision, your feel
about the space you want to live in – what tools do you use? How can you express your vision? And the opposite – an architect,
with his ambition, with his vision, and his idea about
how your space should be. What tools does this architect use
to communicate it back to you? How can you talk to each other? And now, think about the first moment
you were truly sure about the space you’re going to live in. It’s reality. Because reality, guys, is the only way
we can understand the future. It’s the only common language
we can all understand when you first enter
that bare frame of the building that barely has a roof on the top, but you start to have
that initial instinct of how wide or narrow
this space will become. A fun fact here about practice reality. In order to explain to clients
one or another solution, we used to drag them to the objects
that were already finished and showcased. And I remember myself calling: “Hey, Ms. or Mr.,
this is the architect here. We’re going to drop by and see how the size of your window frames
affect the light in your bedroom.” Or that kind of quite odd details. One thing though, you had to keep a really
good relationship with your clients. However, professionals think it’s possible to standardize, to systemize,
that individual feeling in data books
and tables of measurements. But would you agree? Do you think that
your feeling about a space is the same as the person’s next to you? Well, if we look a little bit
into the construction process itself, there are different stakeholders involved, and each one of them
thinks about different criteria. There is the architect
with his vision and context, there is the engineer who cares about the numbers
and how to stick it all together, and there is the client, who just wants to know
what the space will look like, how it’s going to be used, right? Success in architecture
is actually hidden in the process where one clearly communicates
with the other, and vice versa. I had a chance to visit the previews
of Venice Biennale of Architecture and interview architects
from all around the world, where I was curious about how often clients
actually request changes right after the building is finished. They were nodding their heads
and confirming that, in fact, greater or lesser
significant changes were made in the last stage
of construction or even after the project was completed. And you know what? It hurts more than failed expectations, it hurts a lot more when you have invested
thousands, even millions, in the building. And you know what? Actually, the same feeling
of lost in translation happens every day
on the construction site. Expectations do not match reality. Many mistakes and errors
happen on the construction site because of this weak communication, because of the miscommunication
between the 2D, 3D, and the reality. There are so many hopes
and expectations in this whole process, while there is so much
lost in translation. And now again, if we come back to what kind of visualization tools
we have right now. At the end of the day, drawings, designs, Photoshops are just a huge illusion, a vision, a failed attempt
to communicate the reality. A transparent and very close reality check is what attracted me
to virtual reality technologies. But not only – also the ability
to get as close as we can get to this pure empathic feeling
about spaces, cities, and the world. Without any barriers of knowledge,
language, perception, or location, virtual reality is like a medium, but it’s different
from all the ones we know so far. The synergy between human beings,
architecture, and technology is what fascinates me. All through history,
progress has been driven by these creative minds
and technological innovation: the Eiffel Tower in Paris,
the Sydney Opera House, and the fabulous buildings of Zaha Hadid. That’s why, in 2015, I built a team of young architects
and tech professionals in order to experiment with that gray zone
where architecture meets virtual reality. That was the right moment to roll up your sleeves
and start experimenting. We saw an opportunity in VR that could really become
this common language, a common ground for all the stakeholders
involved in the construction process, that was a tool
to communicate in architecture, to engage and to be able
to contribute to architecture. So, it was almost like back
in my young days, only now my toolbox consisted
of a little more complicated gadgets, wires, optics, and a lot of unknown,
but at the same time very intriguing. We did a little testing on the way: we compared the 2D paper portfolio with a 3D model,
and the virtual experience. VR was an obvious winner
in communicating this space, but another interesting aspect
arose from that. People who had the chance
of seeing the space in VR afterwards had a better ability
to think in three-dimensional space. So basically, it is not
just a presentation tool, but it can also be educative. It can increase the capacity of our brain. A lot of tries,
a lot of errors on the way, from tech advancement
to human perception. And let me explain to you just a couple
of those major struggles that we have. The first thing is the visualization part. The hardware that actually does
the whole trick in your brain and allows you to enter
that virtual world. There’s not just the one device
that you see here, but there are actually several, and there are many more under development. But in every case, you are the one who is wearing
this head-mounted brick on your head and trying to understand
how to get along with this technology. This is quite a disadvantage for VR in becoming a medium in daily use. The second thing is: OK, you have put
the glasses on, so what’s next? How do you navigate with it? You’re already familiar
with the buttons, with the clicks, with the touchscreens and swipes, but what if the whole space around you
is your navigation panel? Nothing works like it worked before because your whole body
becomes a navigation system. In our project, we use immersive,
gesture-based controls. Here you can use your hand
as a remote controller, and with gestures you let the system
understand what you want to do. The third factor is obviously
a human factor. Motion sickness in virtual reality
is created by the disconnection between what you see
visually in the device and how your body moves. And it may be quite a bad experience
for a lot of people the first time. That’s why we, as developers,
have to do everything, we have to find ways how to provide
a pleasant experience for everybody. The initial reason why we started
to play around with VR was to build something meaningful, something that would really benefit the industry of architecture
and construction. But, you know, architects,
they just want to do architecture, they don’t want to learn
another complicated software, so the tool had to be simple, intuitive, that would turn 3D models
into virtual experiences without any extra complications and employing this power
of VR technologies. I’m sure that virtual reality
is the closest reality check that we can have
as human beings right now. It connects humans with architecture in a profound way
that we have never seen before and provides us
with a trial before the trial, an ability to simulate the concepts
even before they have been built. With this VR tool in hand, I no longer have to call my clients
and ask permission to enter their houses to show one or another solution. I can just simply click
an icon on my desktop and enter the space,
and use it for my communication. So, now, if we have this technology that can bring us
a little bit closer to reality, then maybe let’s not waste
materials, resources, man-hours, on building false expectations. Let’s experience architecture vividly, let’s bring that vivid vision
of the space into life. The world is now standing on an edge where we are shifting
from flat visualizations towards immersive environments. And, gosh, I’m so excited about all those opportunities
that VR can bring us, and we are so looking forward
to where it’s going to take us. Thank you. (Applause)

8 comments found

  1. I am also very interested in VR in architecture. But have real concerns of how it has not been integrated in the education and the Professors in university do not seem to accept the versatility of the technology. I am a masters interior architecture student and used it to visualize everything in my last project,. The professors were super impressed but told me it was something that wouldn't catch on… which is ridiculous. I think is sad that in education there is no room for the new generation of innovators to start right away in teaching positions and we have to receive "old knowledge" that is already out-dated when we start to work…

  2. The big issue between clients and architects is that sometimes its diffcult to let clients know what the architects' thinking or the design idea. In communication, the graphics or drawing is more efficient than words, and 3D model provides more visual effects than 2D graphics. Now VR in architecture creates the virtual enivronment of the buildings, it will make clients to understand what is going on in those inside spaces within the building. The better way of communication in architecture. COOL THING.

  3. hi! is there someone who can give me a tip how I can start with virtual reality work? I am a ´classical´ engineer, electricity and power systems, but I would like to get on the virtual reality train… Thanks

  4. Thanks for video.We are architectural company and we are using VR more than 6 mounts and we are successful about jewelry store

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