Experiential Immersion, Formed by Senses not Site

Open Access
Martin, Kyrie Elyssa
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Architecture
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Juan Antonio Ruescas, Thesis Supervisor
  • Scott W Wing, Honors Advisor
  • Brian A Curran, Honors Advisor
  • Virtual Reality
  • Immersion
  • Preservation
  • Architecture
An ongoing discussion in Architecture and Art History is the authenticity of site, and the inability to study works within their original context due to travel, preservation efforts, and destruction over time. This makes works of art and architecture difficult to study and understand beyond two-dimensions. The human scale of 3D forms is lost as well as the interactive nature of spatial cohabitation during this process. If the significance of physical form is lost when it is deprived of its context, spatially and culturally, how can it be restored when issues such as distance, deterioration and preservation persist? Through an architecturally based virtual replica. Interaction is an essential part of today’s society: people want their movies to be 3D, their games to be realistic and their environment to respond to their immediate needs through technology and system manipulation. Virtual Reality is at the forefront of this quest for interaction. Virtual Reality has made great strides in the last few years with the invention of the Oculus Rift, providing an individual immersion into a virtual world (Oculus). In addition, NASA and the US Military are working with the Virtuix OMNI and other omni-directional treadmills (Plafke and Virtuix). This development signifies a bridge between the digital and physical. As technology continues, new research in Haptic technology (Cyberglove) will allow full body interaction with digital environments, blurring the boundaries of reality. This virtual reality technology will revolutionize how we interact with space and form. Architecture is necessary to take virtual reality into the realm of complete sensual stimulation, however, as virtual reality has yet to stimulate the rest of the senses. Conditions such as temperature, humidity, air flow, and texture are tactile and somatic, binding the virtual in reality. These systems can be incorporated through a responsive architectural “holodeck”, becoming a threshold between the real and revived (Holodeck). Incorporating virtual reality technologies such as the Oculus Rift, Haptic technology and Summarythe OMNI within a single venue provides a stage for further immersion and interaction. Ideally, catom technology (programmable matter) will also come into play, allowing the architecture itself to become as responsive as the systems it houses (Kirby and Holodeck). Technology is finally catching up to humanity’s need for interaction and relativity. Architecture is the obvious next step. Already, architects are becoming involved in this dialogue, with the creation of the Rain Room, recently exhibited at the MoMA (MOMA) as well as Cloudscapes, the result of the collaboration of architects and environmental engineers (“Cloudscapes”). When applied in conjunction with Disney’s Smellitzer (Disney) and the proper architectural systems, these devices may be able to bring the virtual into the real. If these devices already exist, their application and integration may develop a new understanding of architecture and experiential immersion. Through this study, pieces of art and architecture, intended to be touched, experienced and admired, can be revived and their role in the human narrative restored.