There’s been plenty of talk in architecture circles recently about the metaverse – a fictional, immersive virtual world that is facilitated using augmented reality headsets, designed to foster social connections.
Of course, this would have been a welcome solution to much of the isolation faced worldwide in 2020, but it really is gaining traction now, with international organisations increasingly holding company-wide meetings in this digital universe.
Yet, for architects used to working with bricks and mortar, the idea of suddenly designing buildings which are viewed – and interacted with – as part of a virtual world certainly is progressive.
Although, it’s not unheard of at RBA HQ.
Our studios have virtual reality headsets which we use to create immersive experiences at design concept stage, to help us envisage the finished product – and there’s no reason why this solution couldn’t adapt beyond our current scope.
There are, naturally, lots of arguments in support of the idea – bridging the gap that has been left by those no longer venturing into the office, or meeting friends at the weekend for brunch, shopping, and drinks.
In the retail sector, for example, earlier this year, we saw the inaugural Metaverse Fashion Week – featuring a Dolce & Gabbana x UNXD Catwalk Show, a ‘phygital’ store from Tommy Hilfiger, and digital recreations of high street stores – which took the retail experience to a whole new dimension, quite literally.
It’s not just the pandemic that has forced the hand of retailers, pushing them to create more immersive and engaging environments for their customers – the advancements in technology and buying habits demand design which both is visually appealing and user-friendly.
Recently, we’ve seen an influx of immersive experiences for shoppers, blending the power of digital with physical stores – and demanding a design evolution in the process – with a focus on sustainability, too.
While there’s no denying that the metaverse has a way to go yet, it begs the question as to whether it might be a turning point in the future of retail design – after all, there was a time when shoppers thought they would never purchase goods anywhere but their high street.
What cannot be denied, is that we’re on the cusp of something very exciting – and knowing just how fast digital trends can catch on, it wouldn’t be surprising to see demand for such designs creeping into architecture in years to come.