Stephen Skolas, Assoc. AIA

Stephen Skolas, Assoc. AIA

New York, NY, US


Architectural Interface: The Physical Manifestation of the Virtual

A technological singularity can be described as an event or discovery that accelerates progress and changes the future in ways that can be unforeseen. Certainly the introduction of computing and virtual reality is a progression of these proportions. However, it is a major misfortune in the way we have been experiencing and exercising this digital tool. It is with our interfaces that we can connect the physical and virtual worlds and thus it is these interfaces that have yet to be developed to fuse the currently parallel worlds into a single experience. It is with architecture, which composes our built environment, that we will enhance our interface into a spatial control. Architectural interface is an opportunity to make our physical and virtual world one as a single reality that will allow humankind to progress with this new virtual tool at its maximum potential.

In its current state of separated existence, our digital world is accessed primarily with single-user interfaces. Laptops, keyboards, monitors, smart phones, tablets, etcetera are designed for an individual. Surely, there are advantages and even preferences for this relationship in many cases, but we are yet to explore with primary focus multi-user interface and how that will affect the way we work and communicate digitally.

When interface becomes architectural in the sense that it is experienced in built space, multi-user capacity will be unrestricted. Data can be manipulated by groups allowing our virtual data to be exposed to the advantages offered in physical existence as most of our technology throughout history. For example, a chalkboard offers a platform in which multiple people can perform a single task. Each can extend their thoughts towards a shared thought or idea and can presented in real time to as many that can view the marks. This very concept can be translated to the computer. Apply the abilities of a computer, monitor, mouse, and keyboard to an architectural partition. The partition no longer supports a projector screen that formally displayed the digital viewport without the ability to manipulate the data, but rather supports the advantages offered by the chalkboard to the digital experience. Now the ability to view, manipulate, and share data in real-time enhances the virtual experience in a physical setting. Groups of people can now work both digitally and physically. The enhancement at the same time works the other way. The physical space is enhanced with the interactive aura. This phenomenon is not limited to a partition, but rather can incorporate entire rooms, tabletops, and window glazing, even façades. In turn, architecture can do more than just house our virtual technology and actually become a participant.

As architecture rises to the challenge of fusing the physical and virtual world, it must realize the dynamics of technological progress. Innovation and progression is the engine of technological advancement. In turn, the architectural interface must remain generative. The creators of the Internet did not know its potential but designed it generatively to allow contributions globally. By providing such a platform, advancements could be made without disrupting the whole system. The architectural interface embraces the concept allowing its design to be conceived as a system of polyarchial layers that run independent from each other to allow technological progress without compromising the system. For example, the atrium that provides the necessary space for multi-story vertical interaction is not dependant on the technology that projects 3d data visualizations whether it is holograph, augmented reality, or a multi-face glass display with O-LED screen technology. Furthermore, the partition or tabletop digital work surface is not dependant on the technology that allows human control whether it is touch screen or hand motion. Generativity ensures the relevance of the architecture as time forever moves forward.

Architecture as interface has the potential to become the most powerful tool of our society. When our physical and virtual worlds combine in a unified system realized in our built environment, it becomes a truly reflexive extension of our desires. No longer will we experience our digital creation as separate, but rather embraced in real-time offering new opportunities while crumbling old restrictions. 

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Status: Unbuilt
Location: New York, New York