Mix Reality Architecture

MIXED REALITY ARCHITECTURE: a dynamic architectural topology



Holger Schnädelbach
Mixed Reality Laboratory, University of Nottingham
Alan Penn
The Bartlett School of Graduate Studies, UCL
Phillip Steadman
The Bartlett School of Graduate Studies, UCL

Architecture can be shown to structure patterns of co-presence and in turn to be structured itself by the rules and norms of the society present within it. This two-way relationship exists in a surprisingly stable framework, as fundamental changes to buildings are slow and costly. At the same time, change within organisations is increasingly rapid and buildings are used to accommodate some of that change. This adaptation can be supported by the use of telecommunication technologies, overcoming the need for co-presence during social interaction. However, often this results in a loss of accountability or ‘civic legibility’, as the link between physical location and social activity is broken. In response to these considerations, Mixed Reality Architecture (MRA) was developed. MRA links multiple physical spaces across a shared 3D virtual world. We report on the design of MRA, including the key concept of the Mixed Reality Architectural Cell, a novel architectural interface between architectural spaces that are remote to each other. An in-depth study lasting one year and involving six office-based MRACells, used video recordings, the analysis of event logs, diaries and an interview survey. This produced a series of ethnographic vignettes describing social interaction within MRA in detail. In this paper we concentrate on the topological properties of MRA. It can be shown that the dynamic topology of MRA and social interaction taking place within it are fundamentally intertwined. We discuss how topological adjacencies across virtual space change the integration of the architectural spaces that MRA is installed in. We further reflect on how the placement of MRA technology in different parts of an office space (deep or shallow) impacts on the nature of that particular space. Both the above can be shown to influence movement through the building and social interaction taking place within it. These findings are directly relevant to new buildings that need to be designed to accommodate organisational change in future but also to existing building stock that might be very hard to adapt. We are currently expanding the system to new sites and are planning changes to the infrastructure of MRA as well as its interactional interface.





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