How Architects are Making Their Way Into the Metaverse

By Published On: May 9, 20227.2 min read

The metaverse is projected to grow into a trillion-dollar industry in the years to come. Naturally, architects are finding themselves mulling over the metaverse and hype around NFTs.

Major firms such as Zaha Hadid Architects are innovating in Web 3.0 and the opportunities for architects. The firm created virtual architecture by partnering with Journee for their SaaS exhibition called “NFTism,” which opened as part of the Art Basel Miami Beach art fair in December, 2021. Now the firm is creating a virtual city in the metaverse.

a vehicle is rendered in the metaverse.

Image provided by Zaha Hadid Architects

Patrik Schumacher, principal of Zaha Hadid Architects, said they are jumping on board early because the metaverse is growing at a rapid rate. In terms of its design, it shouldn’t only be created by video game artists, but also for architects. “All design is about framing social interactions, this is also true for virtual interactions,” he explained in a recent interview.

Amusements are rendered in the metaverse.

Image provided by Zaha Hadid Architects

He sees virtual space as an extension of the urban landscape.

“The metaverse promises co-location synergies, just like cities, and an immersive 3D layered visual field makes many more interaction offerings simultaneously navigable, recognizable and accessible than 2D pages with scroll-down menus,” he said. “How to maintain perceptual tractability and legibility in the face of richness and complexity is the designer’s task and core competency with respect to both city and metaverse.”

Another player in the space is Grimshaw Architects, who are launching their first-ever blockchain project with metaverse for a virtual land sale rollout, which they are calling the “Metaserai.”

A virtual room is rendered in the metaverse.

Image provided by Journee

In April, 2022, the firm announced the partnership, as they are currently designing the four central gathering spaces in the metaverse known as Grimshaw is designing four major areas in that are inspired by medieval gathering places called the “Caravanserai.”

It takes its name from ancient roadside recharge stations, also called Caravanserai, which were like town squares for travelers along the Silk Road.

“Like their ancient counterparts, which were the backbone of trade and cultural exchange for the civilizations of the time,’s metaserai will serve as focal points where people of all backgrounds, identities, languages and economic circumstances can gather, socialize, transact, learn and grow as a community,” Grimshaw chairman Andrew Whalley said in a statement.

Whalley claimed that Grimshaw’s design brings flexible, adaptable design to the world, and hopes to bring a similar approach to the metaverse.

“The emerging virtual world — the metaverse — provides us an opportunity to extend and expand this thinking, and the invitation to design a metaserai within is an opportunity for us to further understand the perception of spaces in architecture and their life beyond the physical world,” Whalley added.

In April 2022, opened their initial sale of 100 parcels of land, which was open to whitelisted buyers, who were eligible for early access. The official launch is this summer.

A student metaverse project from UCLA’s Architecture and Urban Design School

Professor Nathan Su, who teaches in UCLA’s Architecture and Urban Design school, recently taught a seminar about the metaverse, where he asked students: “How might architects rethink the navigation of information by reorganizing it spatially?” and “As our reality becomes more virtual, augmented, mixed and extended, how will the convergence of space and data change the way we perceive ourselves, our social networks, and our environments?”

If universities are having design students design for the metaverse already, entire school programs are bound to be created as well.

A room is rendered in the metaverse.

Image provided by Journee

It’s more than architects designing for virtual spaces, however. One metaverse is especially design-forward. ILLUSORR, which calls itself “the world’s first meta-architecture and technology company,” was built for architects.

According to Faisal U-K, an architectural designer who is the research director at ILLUSORR, it’s a complex issue.

“Architects are experts in organizing social functions within space; every urban landscape, building, structure, piece of furniture, or component that an architect designs is to aid human social functions within space,” U-K said. “This space includes virtual space, because most of human social functions and interactions are moving to the metaverse, and we have a near infinite number of spaces that need to be designed. It takes an architect to understand that light fixtures are not needed in the metaverse. Structural columns are unnecessary in a world with no gravity or physical laws.”

A room is rendered in the metaverse.

Image provided by Journee

At the same time, architects need to understand that VR glasses can cause nausea, depending on how you design a space.

“At ILLUSORR, we take this very seriously, as the world’s first meta-architecture and technology company, and the world’s leading design-oriented metaverse company,” U-K added. “Design is our priority on all frontiers, and we work with neuroscientists, psychologists and geneticists, to make sure we are creating the best human experiences as we transition civilization into the age of the metaverse.”

On the company website, they explain that it isn’t a glorified video game: “Our spaces are not replicas of real spaces, or cartoonish environments, they are optimized designs of the future.”

A neon sign is rendered in the metaverse.

Image provided by Decentraland Architects

Designers are invited to create their own virtual space in one of five categories, which includes retail spaces, galleries, an auditorium and more, using their latest modeling techniques. From there, each individual space can be used to host an event, whether it’s a talk, a fashion show, music event or product launch.

“These events can be fully customized with company branding, logos, themes, and even links embedded for video streams or direct purchases,” the company claimed. They’ve worked with BMW to virtually launch their iX car, for example.

Virtual architecture firms are popping up, too. The Plethora Project, founded by Jose Sanchez, an architect and game designer, is a research studio building on the future of virtual architecture and design.

Decentraland Architects is a 3D design and architecture studio designing virtual spaces for the blockchain metaverse, Decentraland. Luca Arrigo first founded it March, 2021, after getting the idea while learning about the metaverse from listening to a podcast with entrepreneur Gary Vee.

Arrigo helps virtual landowners build and develop professional virtual real estate, whether they need a building facade, advertising billboards ora simple art gallery. Users buy plots of land with the in-game cryptocurrency Mana.

“We’re here to help entrepreneurs & companies that lack the in-house skills and are looking to subcontract,” the company stated on their website.

According to Arrigo, the aim is to “combine the real world mantra behind beautiful architecture with user experience, game design and novel digital business models.”

A green cityscape is rendered in the metaverse.

Image provided by Plethora Project

The virtual commercial real estate categories they specialize in include virtual retail boutiques for luxury brands, casinos, office spaces and virtual gaming spaces.

“I spotted an opportunity to service landowners by being a one-stop-shop for the design and animation of virtual world projects,” Arrigo said. “Many landowners are crypto investors speculating on the price of their land. Therefore, they lack the skills to 3D design and animate their ideas.”

Arrigo thinks more architects will be turning to virtual real estate in the years to come. “I foresee a future where brands and businesses will become more aware of the marketing, branding and ROI opportunities in blockchain powered virtual worlds,” he said.

He hopes to help businesses that have the capital to invest in virtual buildings but lack the in-house experience to design and develop their own properties in the metaverse worlds.

Avatars interact in the metaverse.

Image provided by ILLUSORR

“I dreamed up the idea of an architectural firm for Decentraland and used my digital marketing skills to build a web presence,” recalled Arrigo, who started out designing and virtually building small projects such as farms.

After scoring their first large project and being featured in The New York Times, they are working with Fortune 500 companies to help them build their debut in the metaverse. “I hope to continue learning about new metaverses and figuring out what new opportunities our team can try our hand at,” he said.

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