Delving into the Design Inquiry

What if architects could create design solutions before they even became a problem, and evolve spaces before they are built?

David Weir-McCall

The technology of Virtual and Augmented Reality has become popular in recent times. It is used for gaming, fabrication, and marketing. The technology can be adapted for architectural use as well. It is a popular application to showcase design to the public and to clients. VR/AR is a dynamic, immersive experience that enables clients to be able to see and “walk” through conceptual designs. It can take some trial and error to properly use the VR/AR tools as folks can be distracted by the experience of the technology and they don’t necessarily pay attention to the design itself.

What I am interested in is: How can architectural designers/drafters use the VR/AR interfaces in the conceptual design process before it gets to the cliental presentations to improve overall design quality using less time to where the technology will be worth for architectural firms and schools to invest in more?

What I want to learn in researching this topic:

  • How does the technology of Virtual and Augmented Reality work?
  • Experience using Virtual Reality for design decisions and development.
  • Investigate the benefits and the drawbacks of using Virtual Reality.
  • Explore how different firms and trades use Virtual Reality.
  • Learn the science of what one needs to include in the VR experience in order to properly convey what one intends to show by using the tool.

I had heard about Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality and was curious about the technology, but when I saw BRR Architecture (where I work) using VR for presentations I was curious to know how architecture can use VR. In the local area around me, I am aware that NorthWest Community College has VR more for gaming. The University of Arkansas has equipment for VR/AR, but I have yet to discover how these tools are implemented as I have not seen much interaction with this technology in the architecture program. From what I have discovered, the university does use VR for gaming and for documenting older architecture through their Tesseract program.

I know that BRR Architecture uses VR and I am sure that a handful of other architectural firms use the technology as well. Through the research, I know that an apartment company called MRV uses VR technology to showcase apartment designs and layout, saving the company $20 million over two years and keeping the unit rent price lower than what it could be if the showcase units were physically built. Companies like Callison RTLK and BVN have taken the VR technology and used it in their own research projects to discover the benefits and the science of using VR technology in design.

I have found that different engines and platforms that enhance/run the VR world include: Unreal, Fuzor, Twin Motion, Unity, Archviz. I want to look into these third parties to see if they have any showcasing recorded events that talk about their integration with architecture.

From what I have seen over and over again, VR is immersive and cost-saving. It is a method of communication and allows for immediate feedback. VR increases the quality of design decisions and presentations. It is a system that is reusable and can be accessed anywhere. It is a dynamic environment where one can implement physics and interactions within the model. Both sight and sound can lend themselves to the design in keeping one’s attention throughout the model. The experience brings people together and each experience is different for different people. The trick lies in making the design the main focal point and not just the experience of using VR technology.


3 thoughts on “Delving into the Design Inquiry”

  1. Hi Alexander! I feel like you have done a lot of looking into this area and support its use in schooling and architecture. In my physiology class last semester, we were able to use VR to learn about the functions of the body, and I have not thought about how VR could be incorporated into Fay Jones. I am curious to see what your method will be to study this on Tuesday as well, or if this will be a more persuasive piece such as the Hurricane Disaster Relief case study. Looking forward to seeing what you do! – Samantha Hernandez


  2. The note about the apartment complex using VR models of model apartments and saving a lot of money is really interesting! I hadn’t considered that aspect. I think that VR could be a really interesting tool in design decisions, in firms and in schools! It’s a great way to see the experiential impact of your decisions that you can’t fully see in plan or even perspective views. I would be interested in how much it costs to invest into VR equipment on a firm scale and a school scale. I’ve always assumed it’s very expensive, but surely it’s doable? Overall, very excited about where you’re going with this!

    Virginia Hammond


  3. Hey Alex! Fun topic! This will also lead to some fun experimentation later on in your studies. I know you looked into the University of Arkansas’s use of VR, but you should know that the Interior Design program at Fay Jones got a grant last year I believe to start using VR in their studios to help in their design investigations. They bought quite a few Oculus head sets. You should ask around the department to see if any faculty could talk to you about their experience. Good luck!


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