Architecture and the Future of Virtual Reality

Mathew Philip, one of our architectural designers, discusses his response to COVID-19 and its impact on architecture and the future of virtual reality.

As an architectural practice, our response to COVID-19 inched us closer to the dystopian reality of a technological revolution, often depicted, and written about in the science fiction of our predecessors.

We instantly detached from society and plugged into a virtual platform where we could communicate, exchange ideas, and present ourselves without having the need for our physical presence in an office. The office itself, an architectural space that has ever-evolved since the boom of the industrial revolution, was left empty and lifeless in the heart of Eden Terrace. Everything was now digital. Just plug into the “matrix” and away you go…

While we could instantaneously communicate and delegate tasks in this new digital world we had created for our office, it also showed how much we struggled to recreate other parts of the architectural practice that fosters the intangibles of working together. We could seamlessly disengage from conversations that we did not want to have, we could multi-task in the background of meetings, we could never turn our camera’s on and let the memory of what our office persona become our digital avatar in the office. We lost the casual social chats, the walking past someone’s desk and seeing something on their screen and having a yarn about it, the ability to call out a question and have someone within earshot answer, to generally increase social awareness in architecture just by being around other people who live and breathe the craft. Nothing can replace the creative collaboration of sitting around pen and paper with others, discussing and drawing all the possibilities and solutions us as ‘problem solvers’ can think of…or is there a way?

Virtual reality gives us an opportunity to delve deeper into this dystopian future, having everyone plugged into a ‘physical space’ where they can interact as if they are in the same room as their colleagues. They can represent themselves in any way they want, they can work in any digital environment that they want, they can see or hear their colleagues in anyway that they want. Leave those Gucci bags or Air Jordan’s in the shop window, you could digitally recreate them all for free. Do you really care what you look like on the real world, if 40% of your awake life is plugged into your digital office?

Why be limited to physical dimensions of meeting rooms, when you can invite your entire project team into a digital space to collaborate? Why not have that digital space be your architectural project that you can clients, consultants, contractors to immerse themselves into the design? Allow them to review clashes, highlight concerns, feel the space to scale, adjust things before the take form in our reality…

While we have just started to push open the door into what virtual technology in architecture can offer, we would serve the industry well if we stopped to think how we want our historical profession to evolve during the next revolution…and how much more of the pen & paper conversations we’re willing to give up for efficiency and “progress”?…

I, for one, am looking forward to unplugging myself from the digital world, putting some pants on, and joining my colleagues for those coffee chats that inspire creativity…

Pacific Environments is committed to architectural design excellence, creating inspiring 'fit for purpose' built environment solutions for our clients. 


Sustainability, lifestyle and the creation of enduring investment value is core to our design philosophy.

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