In September 2017 I joined my colleagues Louise Daley and Diana Panagakis in the Australian Institute of Architect’s Annual SuperStudio Competition. This is our winning entry for the SONA Victoria chapter. With 48 hours to conceive and develop a three-minute presentation, we were asked to consider the future of architecture in our city. Go.
We considered the future of virtual and augmented reality technology and architecture, and how this can be utilised to address the myriad of problems facing the architectural community today. How can our future combine these technologies and address the problems that both already exist and those that will emerge in this new future?
Identify the problems. What is holding us back today? We destroy our natural environment, break down interpersonal relationships and not for the better. Concrete and steel increasingly dictate the usage of physical space and magnify the physical distance between us. Technology seeks to make us more connected but paradoxically keeps us apart. Is there a better solution?
Break the boundaries of conventional thought. Imagine: all construction has been banned, and no future developments are approved. Instead, nature is allowed to take over, and the gradual deterioration of the city is controlled to ensure the citizens’ safety. This tree map shows how nature might grow over time. This new wilderness becomes the Overgrowth.
We’re familiar with this built view of the city. But as the nature grows, the Melbourne Overgrowth becomes the new actuality, experienced by the citizens as we would experience life today.
The citizens live in the Overgrowth. Everyone is relaxed, empowered and equal. The citizens are protected and sustained by their suits: a marvellous technology that satisfies all human functions. The citizens are protected from the elements and wilderness by the suits. A key feature of the suit is the Environment Changer.
The Environment Changer allows the citizen to switch between the Overgrowth and the Augmented City.
With a click of the Environment Changer, the Augmented City is turned on for the individual citizen. The Augmented City appears over the Overgrowth, changing the citizen’s perceived reality. The City is supported by technology embedded in the earth and satellites orbiting above.
The role of the Architect becomes the master of experiences within the Augmented City. Their role sees them working between the two realities: in the Overgrowth, the Architect sees the trees and natural formations of the Earth, then uses these as the basis for designing the augmented structures for the City.
A simple language forms the basis for development in the Augmented City. Waterways are designed as walls to prevent citizens from falling in; trees become architectural elements that prevent citizens walking into them as they move around the Overgrowth and Augmented City simultaneously.
The citizens exist in the Overgrowth, but they live in the Augmented City. Clicking the Environment Changer overlays the Augmented City.
Each citizen’s perspective is calibrated to perceive the augmented reality, and the Architect maintains and creates these perceptions of the Augmented City.
The citizen’s perceptions of the augmented reality merge and evolve as the generations pass. The Architect adapts to not only to maintain and create, but also curate the evolving interpretations of ‘City’.
The buildings in the Augmented City serve to protect both nature and the citizens. Augmented buildings are designed around natural forms. The structures require maintenance over time, both as the needs within the Augmented City change, and as the forms grow and decay in the Overgrowth.
The new architecture changes the way the citizens live. Everyone is connected and protected. The Augmented City uses the habits of the citizens to help them develop new and stronger relationships. While visiting a coffee shop, identifying who among their friends has already been there is part of the experience. Someone who doesn’t wish to see a movie alone can easily identify and invite friends they haven’t yet met who may want to join them.
Communication is instant.
As many generations pass, the Augmented City takes on a new identity. The Architect still sees the Overgrowth, and must still work with the natural landscape to create the augmented structures for the citizens. As always though, time distorts history and the definition of building changes completely.
The City is a playground for interpretation. Buildings can be changed and edited. The Augmented City evolves to accommodate the ever-changing needs of the citizens.
We don’t pretend this idea is a solution. This concept does not attempt to address the many facets of life in the city, nor do we think any one solution ever will.
What we do propose is that Architecture is a concept centred in the human experience. The Architect is the conductor of the experience: whose role in blending art, engineering, technology, sociology and community must not be underestimated.