Any project leader who doubts virtual reality’s potential to expand their team’s imagination should pay a visit to Ryerson University’s architectural science classes.
They may find themselves in a picturesque cave, a natural-looking shelter that would make Frank Lloyd Wright proud, or a courtyard that manages to resemble both a forest and city, but all share a common thread – the Yulio VR platform, which only three months after being introduced at the school has allowed a team of first-year students to build the park installations of their dreams, unencumbered by such mundane considerations as “years or design experience” or “construction costs.”
For example, Mimi Cepic wanted to depict the impact sunlight can have on a person’s emotions with her installation, which features a pyramid with slit apertures and an opening in the centre suspended using metal wire above the floor. As light shines through the central opening and apertures, it casts patterns onto the ground that change shape as the sun passes overhead.
“I wanted to give visitors a moment of silence – a chance to reflect on the difference between standing in this confined, dark space, and the fresh air outside,” Cepic explains. “So when they leave, they have more appreciation for nature because of that moment of separation.”
Meanwhile, Cepic’s friend Patricia Diaz wanted visitors to her proposed installation to think about where its construction materials came from. So in addition to a lattice-grid ceiling that makes the ground resemble a forest floor, Diaz’s design incorporates multiple types of concrete and makes a show of building not only on top of the site, but through it.
“I wanted to show how humans basically take all of these materials from the earth to create new ones for our benefit,” she explains.
There are, of course, limitations to what the Yulio platform can depict – for example, Diaz imagines the metal grating beneath visitors’ feet lighting up at night, illuminating the passages below, while Cepic imagines a layer of water that would reflect ripples onto her pyramid’s ceiling – yet it’s undeniably effective all the same, bringing the students’ projects to life in a way blueprints could never hope to match.
“When you look at drawings, it’s all 2D – you don’t get any perspective,” Cipic says. “With VR you can get a sense of what it looks like underneath, or how light hits it from a certain angle – it really gives you a better understanding of what the structure would look like if it were real.”
It also opens their eyes to ideas they might not have otherwise considered, Diaz says.
“Because we’re only in first year, we have a hard time thinking about our ideas in 3D,” she says. “Using VR sometimes you’ll be working on a project and think, ‘That doesn’t look as good as I thought it would in three dimensions,’ or, ‘Maybe I can add something more.'”
With her installation, Elizabeth Young aimed to remind visitors how small they are compared to nature, surrounding them with a wooden fence that simultaneously resembles both a forest and a city.
“The idea was to have visitors walk into a building, look up, and see the walls fading away,” she says.
Sang-Kyu Joo wanted to depict the relationship between people and water with his underground installation, which leads visitors into a cavern with thin waterfalls along the walls and a pool in the centre. It looks darker and colder than what one might expect from a park, but it’s a comforting darkness.
“I want to create a building that draws you in naturally,” he says. “It doesn’t force you to see any lights or man-made features, it’s just a natural place to have conversations.”
Finally, Mutwashukh Wahla wanted visitors to think about how we use the Earth’s resources in our daily lives with his installation, a layered structure that incorporates fewer natural materials the higher it goes.
“The first level is basically raw wood, and then as you move up a level it’s stone masonry… and by the time you reach the top it’s concrete, so I wanted to show how we are moving away from nature,” he explains.
Frank Lloyd Wright would be proud.
You can learn more about Ryerson’s collaboration with Yulio here.