Student Work

  • Architecture (MArch), Lighting Design (MFA)

    William Eatough

    New Tectonics of Virtual Reality: Stories of Light and Empathy

    Architecture and lighting design sit on the edge of technological revolution. Virtual reality is a tool that can position the designer in a constructed space before it has a physical reality, allowing him or her to evaluate decisions as though the space were already built. Virtual reality removes critical distance to create an unmediated experience, the experience of "being there." The power of "presence" goes beyond an intellectual understanding of a project and allows the designer to reach a state of emotional and bodily knowing. The presence creates an empathetic experience. My thesis is that virtual reality can be used to create empathy with the contextual conditions of a site. Virtual reality is currently used in design communities to represent other places. Virtual reality engages with issues of architecture and lighting in the exploration of projected realities of time and constructions based on what was there and what will be there. Keeping the physical location in virtual reality the same as the location where the virtual reality is experienced causes shifts in time to engage the mechanisms of our memories of place. This analysis of time in a physical location becomes a representational tool with which designers can explore qualities that are disappearing because they are undervalued in our culture of short-sightedness and instant gratification. By combining investigations of time and presence, the designer can use virtual reality to create empathetic experiences that communicate complicated histories and the systems that are operating across them.