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Versions is the essential guide to virtual reality and beyond. It investigates the rapidly deteriorating boundary between the real world and the one behind the screen. Versions launched in 2016 at the eponymous conference dedicated to creativity and VR with the New Museum’s incubator NEW INC.

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Augmented reality can’t solve architecture’s political challenges

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Augmented reality can’t solve architecture’s political challenges

Architecture is about visualization as much as it is about imagination. The two are effectively inextricable. Part of the process of creating a building involves convincing people (and yourself) that a vision works and is worth pursuing.

Here, then, is architect Greg Lynn arguing that the practice of architecture is augmented reality:

Look, the video is basically an ad for Microsoft’s HoloLens, but the argument is nonetheless interesting. Can you really build something if you can’t comprehend its scale and shapes? Are you not always building on a substrate and effectively enhancing that reality? That does not make architecture augmented reality in the Pokémon Go sense of the term, but the parallels are nonetheless informative.

(HoloLens’s Iron Man aesthetic raises the same God Complex concerns as DesignSpace for the HTC Vive. That problem was previously covered in this space.)

AR is not a panacea

As an argument for augmented reality, mind you, the American contribution to the Venice Architecture Biennale is not exactly optimal. Here, for instance, is an excerpt from Los Angeles Times critic Christopher Hawthorne’s review:

Though the exhibit itself is beautifully designed by Ponce de Leon, the projects (by architects including Greg Lynn, Preston Scott Cohen, Pita & Bloom and Andrew Zago) do stand quite blithely for everything [curator Alejandro] Aravena wants to rail against: top-down and slickly rendered solutions shot through with disdain for the kind of expertise required to get architecture at this vast scale approved, financed and built.

Maybe Lynn, by virtue of his AR glasses, can visualize things that Hawthorne and other visitors to the exhibit missed out on with their naked eyes. But AR can only get you so far. It can help with shape and movement, but Hawthorne is correct in noting that those abilities do not constitute an economic or political model for getting projects approved. Maybe visualization can help, but AR is not a panacea.

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