The Non Speculative Virtual House
The limits of my property are the limits of my world.
All I know is what I have square meterage for.
- Ludwig Wittgenstein vu par Space Popular
The Non-Speculative VirtualHouse demonstrates a series of 4 domestic scenarios in intersection with the use of current and soon to be obsolete VR technologies, hence the highly non-speculative nature.
In 1997 ANY magazine organised a competition called “The Virtual House”, in which 6 prominent architects participated: Eisenman, Herzog & de Meuron, Zaera Polo, Ito, Nouvel and Libeskind. Their reflections in the virtual were visionary, concerned with issues of memory, nature, semiotics, and philosophy. Ten years later technology has caught up and virtual reality is here to stay, but the issues we encounter when going about our lives in split realms are far less sophisticated than those predicted in the late 90s. With ever increasing rents and ever smaller apartments, our domestic lives are currently dependent on their own shrinking in order to endure such conditions. Reducing our possessions and optimising our storage are the usual initial measures to take for our lives to become fit for the current context, yet not enough. Flexible spaces, where the same area changes use according to our routines, are the next step for survival. Pulling out the sofa-bed every night or transforming the work-desk into a dining table are now part of our daily rituals. In such tightly packed environments, virtual spaces with no physical footprint would seem like a good fit, yet it all hinges on the crucial difference between what is now called 3DoF and 6DoF. DoF stands for ‘degrees of freedom’, whereby 3DoF means you can roll, yaw, and pitch (rotate along any axis) and 6DoF adds translation along the 3 axes. This seemingly small difference has tremendous implications in the requirements for physical space: whilst one could be visually transported to a forest without leaving the sofa through a 360 video with 3DoF, this is far from the true sense of presence brought by the embodied experience of walking through it with 6DoF. Thus, as the virtual produces space out of nowhere, it also consumes it. Virtual experiences demand empty square meters for our bodies to roam around immaterial worlds –at the moment a maximum of 20 sqm and a minimum of 3 sqm. As a result, those of us who have already made the virtual a part of our lives, go to great lengths to mine that additional surface out of nowhere within our impossibly dense caves. Furniture is routinely moved around, walls turned into curtains and unrelated activities overlapped, forming an amalgam of existence that is at once atomically compact –in is physical form– and infinitely scattered –virtually. The imminent arrival of stand alone VR devices to everyday life will only increase the need for space, as the umbilical cord that now link us to our heavy computers will be forever cut, granting us limitless freedom of movement only to realise it was another cord the one keeping us constrained all along, one much harder to cut: private property. Beyond it the 7th DoF.