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2019 - The Venn Room

The Venn Room

The Venn Room by Space Popular depicts a series of possible scenarios of cohabitation in which issues of integration, interface, exposure, overlap, representation, storage and ownership in the augmented future for our domestic environments are put into perspective through everyday narratives.

LocationTallinn Architecture Biennale.
TAB19 
“Beauty Matters”
Estonian Museum of Architecture. Estonia
TypeInstallation / VR Film 
Year2019 September 11th - November 17th 
SPOPeopleLara Lesmes, Fredrik Hellberg, Inna Fleišer
ClientTallinn Architecture Biennale. TAB19
CuratorYael Reisner
PhotographsEvert Palmets, Tõnu Tunnel

The introduction of virtual portals in the home –such as the television, the computer or the smartphone– has had considerable consequences in our day to day but has left the architecture of the home pretty much untouched. 
The Venn Room by Space Popular depicts a series of possible scenarios of cohabitation in which issues of integration, interface, exposure, overlap, representation, storage and ownership in the augmented future for our domestic environments are put into perspective through everyday narratives.

One of the attributes by which new virtual media is described is DoF, which stands for ‘degrees of freedom’. 3DoF means you can roll, yaw and pitch (rotate along any axis) and 6DoF adds translation along the 3 axes (you can walk in any direction). 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. In this way, new virtual media that offers 6 Dof poses the true challenge to our everyday environments as it offers the possibility to visually inhabit spaces that might have very little in common with our living-rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms or kitchens. The home will be to the experience of virtual space what the body is to the physical experience of architecture. Our bodies dictate which doors we can pass through, what size our beds –and therefore our bedrooms– need to be, or how high a tread can get. In the same way, the size and layout of our homes dictate where we can stand, sit, walk or reach in a virtual world (without teleportation or other means of virtual transportation). Therefore, as long as you choose to access virtual worlds from within the safety of your privately owned property, your physical home will inevitably become the skeleton upon which these are built.
As you bring your domestic blueprint into the virtual environments that you share with others, hybrids are formed, overlapping formal and functional categories in unprecedented ways and thus challenging our social codes and rituals. In doing so you expose patterns of movement that, if accumulated over time, will reveal your physical home and habits. Inevitably, the way you choose to hide or reveal them will say  as much about you as my clothes do today. Collectively with others you will create shared environments where you hang out, play, and watch movies. You will codecorate these environments and make them meaningful with colours, objects, and patterns that may be just built for the occasion or highly valued and kept over time. And as you build your virtual home that is at once a part of many others’ forming Venn Rooms you contribute to the forming of the placeless?, lawless?, unowned? Global Home. 









INTERFACE
In mixed reality environments, where the physical and virtual merge, every object has the potential to be smart. Every fitting, button, handle, knob, moulding, cornice, ledge has the potential to become a switch, gate, window, link to worlds beyond that in which they materially exist. The higher the density of detail and ornamentation the greater the opportunities for access to be granted. The home will be the toolbar keeper of your tabs into your immaterial places worth saving. 

CODECORATION
As we bring homes together into a shared virtual home, we construct the collective domestic spaces that frame our interactions. By virtue of the fully embodied experience that new technologies provide, the remote gathering place is not anymore a chat group with a funny profile picture but an actual dedicated room. Starting as the accumulation of bits of the homes of everyone involved, these ensembles will evolve into rooms in their own right that can be collectively arranged and decorated for the occasion and carry the symbols, imprints and memorabilia of its use over time. 

INTEGRATION
The introduction of virtual portals in the home –such as the television, the computer or the smartphone– has had considerable behavioural consequences but has left the size and layout of our domestic spaces pretty much untouched. New virtual media that offers 6 Dof poses the true challenge to our everyday environments as it offers the possibility to inhabit visually spaces that might have very little in common with our living-rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms or kitchens. The home will be to the experience of virtual space what the body is to the physical experience of architecture.Our bodies dictate which doors we can pass through, what size our beds –and therefore our bedrooms– need to be, or how high a tread can get. In the same way, the size and layout of our homes dictate where we can stand, sit, walk or reach in a virtual world. Therefore, as long as you choose to access virtual worlds from within the safety of your privately owned property, your physical home will inevitably become the skeleton upon which these are built.

EXPOSURE
Your patterns of movement in virtual environments, if accumulated, will reveal the footprint of your physical home and how you make use of it. Those who can walk far must live large, and those who reveal a view must be lucky to have nice one. Those who momentarily got an extension to their range must be home alone, and those who appear to be suddenly frozen, staring into nowhere must have been interrupted by another on the physical end. 

OVERLAP
Like Venn diagrams, homes will be overlapped with one another creating collages of all kinds of rooms that will lead to unprecedented hybrids of formal and functional categories that will challenge our social codes and rituals, and in-turn our behaviour and our way of making sense of how we live.  Our gatherings around domestic rituals –such as dining, brushing our teeth, folding laundry or doing the dishes– no longer need to be coordinated as we can bring their designated rooms momentarily together. 

REPRESENTATION
Inevitably, as it happened with clothing, this layer that –in some form– recurrently accompanies you in your virtual adventures becomes one with you and contributes to constructing your identity. If we are virtually hanging out together, you may want to get a sense of my physical home layout so my choices of where to stand, sit or move around can make some sense and, more importantly, can be –to a certain extent– predictable. Whether you reveal them in standard wire mesh or you cover them in flowers and glitter will say as much about you as my clothes do today. 


STORAGE
Virtual worlds have the ability to change by the second, however just as some physical things are highly valued and therefore kept and cherished while others are not, the virtual global home will contain highly valued objects which may stay for a long time while the norm will be to dispose of meshes and textures within seconds as we now do with memes. The virtual global home will become the keeper of important things in its purposely built ledges, shelves and niches for you and others to care for and preserve. 


OWNERSHIP
You may own your physical home, or at least have the right to govern within its bounds according to the laws of its geographical location, but who or what will own your virtual home? Will you? And if so, where does it begin and end? Where is it? And which laws will govern there? 

Photograph: Evert Palmets

Photograph: Tõnu Tunnel

Photograph:  Fredrik Hellberg

Photograph:  Fredrik Hellberg

Photograph:  Fredrik Hellberg

Photograph: Evert Palmets

Photograph:  Fredrik Hellberg







Who Owns The Global Home? 


Today, after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned.


Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964.


In the 1960’s, in the face of rapid development in communication technology and mass media, the Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan popularized the term “Global Village” describing a connected planet where an event in one part of the world could be virtually experienced anywhere in real time. The experience of living in a small village and the sense of togetherness that it affords was according to Mcluhan being simulated on a scale where we had to consider us all part of the same village as we increasingly developed ways to simulate virtual togetherness.  When John F. Kennedy’s funeral procession was televised during the days following his assasination on Friday 22nd of November 1963 it was watched in 93 percent of all homes in the US that were equipped with television sets, the largest viewing audience ever recorded. That weekend millions of spaces where linked, creating a kind of virtual mass gathering where homes separated by great distances became, at least on some level, one.  


The Global Village, its reach and its impact was according to Mcluhan acting like an extension of our nervous system and therefor driven by what it could afford technically, just as your sense organs can only reach as far as they are biologically able to, the mechanics of media and what it affords sets the limits of the Global Village. In the 1960’s when JFK’s funeral was virtually attended by millions of people one-way mass media such as radio and television was widespread, these affords one voice or one event to spread to an infinite number of places but it does not allow for a response, limiting the interaction and subsequent level of togetherness. Mcluen speculated that communication technologies would merge and increasingly allow for unlimited cross communication.  


Perhaps the most beautiful and visionary speculation for the future of virtual communication ever published came from the Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla a whooping over 90 years ago:  


When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not only this, but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though we were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do his will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket.

Interview with Nicolas Tesla in Colliers magazine, January 30, 1926


As Tesla –like an oracle– predicted, we now find ourselves at the edge of a paradigm shift in communication technology, where information can be three-dimensionally inhabited and virtual presence can be embodied. This also marks a big step for architecture, as alternative realms will be overlaid onto our everyday scenes. Of the many design tasks and challenges architecture will face, perhaps the first one will be tied to our need for togetherness. 

As we are able to cohabitate virtual worlds from the comfort of our own homes, the relationship between the physical environments at each end of the shared visual realm forms a triptych that must behave very much like a venn diagram, where the overlay of both rooms equates to a shared glytch from which whole new worlds emerge. To ask ourselves what worlds will we build when there is no body to shelter, what will we call home when everything could change by the second, or what will be the notion of private property when walls are made of pixels, is of great relevance and importance today as we, inhabitants of the global village, will soon move into the global home. And yet if we are not so sure about who owns the global village, who -if anyone- will own the global home? 

 

This form of virtual togetherness was first made possible by the telephone, which allows for physical distance to be partially conquered as our voices were granted a new medium to travel through. Our whispering good night’s and I love you’s could, through the telephone, be heard anywhere instantly. The letter, the telegram, the telephone, and the video-call are all technologies that provide alternative forms of togetherness allowing us to be virtually present across space and time.   

 

As a species, we will go to great lengths and levels of compromise to establish the connections we thrive from and are in constant need of.  Leaving the body behind meant that these changes have had little impact in architecture. However, the arrival of virtual and augmented reality technologies to the everyday brings communication media to a three-dimensional realm and therefore of architectural concern. The design of virtual worlds is well underway –video-game design has been around for decades, but the introduction of the virtual body brings about a whole new set of questions that concerns architecture as a discipline. As virtual worlds are tested, there seems to be an intuitive urge to create enclosures. Hopping through worlds in any of the Social VR platforms available today, one will end up in bars, lecture halls, living rooms, and other familiar settings forming an array of recognisable environments in which, even if many norms are challenged and different, we can stick to an idea of how we are supposed to behave and what we are supposed to do. In this sense, virtual worlds that are three-dimensionally inhabited highlight the side architecture that is not concerned with sheltering the body, but sheltering the mind. 

 

Virtual spaces are perceived audio-visually, however they are experienced multi-sensorially. This has to do with how other senses are triggered in association with what we see and hear. Thus, the richer our library of haptic sensations, the better we will be at auto-completing virtual worlds. The virtual, which is by definition referential, must therefore embrace such referential nature in order to communicate the many and not the few, and with as much depth as possible. The Architecture of visual worlds serves the purpose of communicating to the human mind, tapping into past memories to create an experience that is completed across time. 

 

As communication technology moves from being word-based (via the letter and later the telephone) to audio-visual (via the video-call and virtual reality), spatial context assumes a renewed and key role in how we talk. The efforts that previously went into crafting beautiful details such as handwriting, letterheads, seals, tone, or articulation can now also be supported or even transferred to the space around us providing a full picture of what we say together with when and where we say it. 

 

Just as you may choose a nice bookshelf as backdrop for a video-call, parts of your home will be part of your fully-embodied encounters with others in virtual reality, and in this case it will not only be for self-expression purposes but as a necessity for you to literally avoid bumping into walls.    And thus, the global home is born as the result of numbers of homes brought together into one large shared space to which every participant has necessarily contributed. The complexity derived from virtually blending spaces is unprecedented: what is the best angle at which your living room can overlap with my bedroom so we can have a tea together without having you awkwardly merged with my lamp? how does your kitchen and my garden blend without having you walk into my fridge? Like venn diagrams, collages of all kinds of rooms will form, leading to unprecedented hybrids of formal and functional categories that will challenge our social codes and rituals, and in-turn our behaviour and our way of making sense of how we live.  

 

It is not hard to imagine how we will also modify or re-dress our formal contexts in our virtual encounters, as we have historically done with our physical environments. For millennia, communication technology was bound to architecture and clothing, as the surfaces of buildings carried narratives essential for communities to bond and remain connected. Similarly, the surfaces we wrap our bodies in, communicated alliances and societal roles. As these technologies evolve, so does our ability to value them. The spreading of the book and of the ability to read and write, rendered architecture as a form of communication far too slow and nearly obsolete. 

 

However, the age of virtual technology and spatial computing will make new demands  on architecture and clothing to act as communication devices, as they will be able to shift at the speed of thought. 

 

As we will be able to access an unprecedented volume of spatial samples, an experience-based language will be enabled. The design tools that have evolved from representation technology are clear indications of the human craving for a language beyond words: photography enabled the mood-board and together with the internet it led to the online-interconnected board (i.e. Pinterest). The ease of access provided by these tools means that the depth and study that would otherwise go into every finding is now gone and therefore they are often regarded as unworthy. However one can also see them as our means to communicate that which we cannot put into words. Via atmospheres we convey ideas that are non-linear, non-factual and that speak more to the senses than to reason. By putting several spaces together in a board we communicate a notion that goes well beyond the spaces represented and into all the subtle implications that we can derive from them. When we perceive a notion as such and we are embraced by its all-encompassing quality, we perceive beauty. So perhaps what we describe as beauty can come down to that which communicates best and most.


Lara Lesmes & Fredrik Hellberg
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