Pushing the Boundaries of Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is developing rapidly and has found many uses in all kinds of fields. We have always embraced new technology at Gaunt Francis Architects, so we have invested in VR technology to create engaging and interactive architectural visualisation experiences and to ensure we remain at the forefront of innovation, whilst at the same time recognising there is value in the plurality of design tools at our disposal.

Although the tools of architectural communication have constantly evolved, recent technological change has allowed the rapid development of 3D building modelling. The promise of “Virtual Reality” as an architectural design tool has been lingering for several decades, perhaps more as science fiction than fact, but it is actually the popularity of gaming that has driven software and hardware development forward to the point that the systems are now genuinely interactive and immersive.

The development of Virtual Reality, or VR, therefore presents a unique opportunity for Architects. It opens up a completely new way of designing, whereby Architects can experience spaces they are designing as they would be experienced by the end users, as well as being able to make changes and test ideas in near real time – something that simply can’t be done on traditional desktop software. It is one thing to have a physical 3D model on your desk, or a digital model on your screen, but to be able to experience it at a real world scale, walk through it, fly like a drone or even change the time of day, enables designers to get to grips with the impact of their design decisions on the end user’s experience of the building. To be able to sketch something by hand or to test massing with a physical model are still important ways of working – VR doesn’t replace them – but rather stands firmly alongside.

Perhaps the most interesting possibility of VR is that it presents an entirely new way of communicating with our clients and other collaborators. One of the greatest challenges for Architects has always been communicating their designs to others. For the first time, a building’s end user can truly experience what it will be like to be in the spaces before they are built. It puts the end user on a level playing field with the professional team in terms of understanding and interpreting design intentions. Without VR, there are always ideas that are lost in translation purely because of the difficulties in representing a building in 2D. With VR, there is no translation needed – the client or end user is experiencing the building as it will be.

We believe using Virtual Reality Technology as a design aid is where architectural design will be heading in the very near future, and it is important for the team at Gaunt Francis Architects to be pioneers in the field. As the development of this innovative technology moves towards stable 4K and 8K resolutions, Virtual Reality is expected to become an essential component in the design process and commonplace in architectural practices. Science fiction no longer.

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