Despite London traffic, I managed to arrive at the office at 9.00 sharp. The email I received on my mobile yesterday asked me to be at the building site at 14.30 local time, so I had about 30 minutes to get there.
After checking all my mail, I phoned Betty, just to be sure she would also be there. She was staying at home today, and told me she already was at the site since 5.00, doing some last minute changes.
Activating all the sensors, I donned the spectacles, and let myself get immersed in the system. It was a beautiful afternoon in São Paulo, with that special light that comes after a cleaning rainfall. As I entered the building, I saw that Betty was in animated conversation with the Santos couple.
Having said hello to everybody (no handshake or kisses - yet), we got right down to business. Apparently Teresa Santos had been fooling around with the living room ceiling last night. She had seen in some magazine a domed ceiling, so she had tried to modify it, with disastrous results. Betty was trying to explain that it was impossible to curve the ceiling, as we had the boys bedroom over it. After some shoving around with the walls and the windows, we managed to extract the living room from the main volume of the house, thus enabling us to provide the much desired domed ceiling.
Thinking it would be a good idea to have an specialist present at this point, I asked our engineer Gunter from Germany to come over and have a look at the ceiling.
Having gotten her way, Teresa was in animated discussion with what I presumed was a furniture salesman that had arrived recently at the site. They where testing some couches and tables, changing and dragging them all over the place. The salesman had almost no facial and body expressions, so I presumed it was a local firm, riding on a low band connection. Reminded me of the software we had to work some 10 years ago, where our avatars glided trough space without moving their legs or arms, went straight through walls, and only had 4 or 5 preset facial expressions.
Nowadays we had the new VRF009, installed right into our web cams, that read every movement of our bodies, including lips, eyes and ears (really, I tried to move my ears once and my avatar duplicated the movements, to much surprise of my clients).
The salesman seemed to be off balance, which probably meant that he was using one of those old head mounted displays, that always showed a small delay between the head movement and the image it displays.
After making sure that our junior architect and Gunter where managing the situation, I came outside to have a look. The house was building up quite well. Although there was still little definition on the materials, the retro 90s look did fit well into the neighbourhood background. On the lawn there where 4 swimming pools side by side, left there by a company for the Santos choose one. On housing projects, we usualy let the clients pick the swimming pool, so I was not very worried if it was going to be rectangular or kidney shaped.
This is when I noticed that the horizon was particularly pixilated today. At a 2 mile distance, São Paulo landscape started to loose definition. This could only mean that someone at the office was taxing our system quite heavily, so I got curious. After a quick search, I discovered that about 20% of the computers resources where being drained into our Bejin project.
So I took a jump there. Beeing a senior architect has its advantages, and one of them is that I am allowed to drop in almost any project.
It was night at the new Beijin concert hall was wholly illuminated. One of our team members told me that they where testing acoustic and light conditions, so I went right into the main auditorium. The orchestra was playing some Beethoven, and the 800 seats where about half filled with grey simple avatars. Mei Ling, the head engineer of the acoustic team, was moving the ceilings around, while his technicians where reading the output from some giant monitors placed on stage. There was a couple of Chinese man in suits, which I suppose where representing the client, that where helping Mei place the 1000 plus square foot curved panels, arranging them so they would dampen sound in the right way.
This was being supervised by Damien, the head architect of the project, who would probably be still at home recovering from that nasty car accident. He informed me that the project was in its final stage, doing the last tune ups, and they would start producing all the technical drawings next week, since construction was programmed to begin in a fortnight.
Cheking my watch, I saw there was still half an hour to kill till lunch, so I decided to take a peek at what the Rashid team was up to. I found them at the Berliener Computer Virtual Museum project.
This is our newest team, dedicated solely to VR jobs. They don't build any real structures. Everything they do is Virtual, like this project, so they tend to use young architects fresh out of school.
As I walk into the museum, the first thing that strikes me is that there is no up or down. People, walls, grids, are all over the place, most of them moving smoothly around. There is a cluster of architects in what I could call the main hall. They are bend over a scale model of the whole museum, and I glimpse inside this model a representation of me , 2 inches tall, looking at a cluster of people around what seems a tiny model.
This new generation is quite different from mine. They think differently. Whenever they need to develop a idea, they just start building. I never saw one of them do a sketch or a drawing. As a matter of fact, I never saw one of them period. Some of them work from home, wherever that is, and most of them just wear their computers, and stroll around while they work. It is said that they are starting to implant some hardware into their bodies. Apart from being illegal, I really can't imagine myself physically connected to a chip, even if it gave me much greater memory capacity…
But then, I’m an old architect. My first computer was a ZX81. I tried to keep up with the professions evolution. We where one of the first British offices to use ArchiCAD, then running on a Mac platform (when we still knew which operating system we where using). I really was into the virtual building idea, and when most of the offices where still using 2D software, we where making the jump into Virtual reality space.
Around 2014 we converted the whole office into VR. At first this was difficult, because the hardware was expensive and cumbersome. I still remember our first cave, where 5 or 6 persons would squeeze into a 10 foot cube, wearing big heavy spectacles and brandishing our wands around. Clients would come to our office to immerse themselves into this 3D environment and our way of doing architecture gradually changed.
Formerly, architects used to do their work alone in their offices, and would present it in stages to the client, who made little or no contribution to the creative work. These young architects find this hard to belive, how could we possibly work without the clients at our side. But I guess this change was the main reason why so many architects ceased to practice. It was a difficult adaptation to new working methods but for those of us who made the effort it was worth it.
Looking at the museum, I realize that despite all my efforts to keep up, this next generations does things I cant even imagine. In another couple of years I will retire, and enjoy my grandchildren while they are still young. Well, I’m off to lunch now. I have a lunch meeting with a possible client. A real lunch.
VR will get you only this far…
Miguel Krippahl 2006