ITcon Vol. 16, pg. 231-242,

Unstable Building: virtual environments and real relevance

submitted:March 2010
revised:June 2010
published:February 2011
editor(s):Turk Z.
authors:Dermott McMeel, Dr.
The University of Auckland, New Zealand;

Judy Cockeram.
The University of Auckland, New Zealand;
summary:Design is often romanticised as a solitary pursuit and the pedagogical framework within educational environments often cements this perception with the demand for individual student assessment. In popular journals the architect as artist is celebrated for singular vision and the tenacity to realise that vision. However, in practice as designs evolve into construction the process becomes decidedly collaborative, with engineers, interior designers and contractors contributing unique parts as the design evolves to accommodate revision and change. This paper will bring evidence to bear that suggests the value in using Virtual Environments (VE’s) is in their potential to facilitate collaboration, and not just in the popularised phenomenon of 3D or 4D model creation. We use design theorist Brian Lawson’s design problem/solution mapping of analysis, appraisal and synthesis as a framework to scrutinize design and construction in the VE Second Life. Within this framework we draw on philosophical reflects by Ludwig Wittgenstein and appropriate cultural theory from Richard Sennett, Mary Douglas and Lewis Hyde. Which provides a theoretical underpinning to our observational evidence that suggests VE’s contribute to Lawson’s constituents of analysis and appraisal as well as 3D synthesis. Striations, breakdown and friction are brought to centre stage during collaboration in this virtual environment; we argue these facets to collaboration have value for emergent designers as important source of opportunity and innovation. Observations challenge attempts by popular collaborative software to expunge these clashes and conflicts from the design and construction process. VE’s bring breakdown and conflict into focus, sensitising emergent practitioners to it’s inherent potential for both problematic conflict and creative opportunity. Findings suggest that VE’s have considerable influence not only for verisimilitude but for simulating the fluid or ‘unstable’ design and construction process and promoting the development of skills that Lawson contents are fundamental to the designer and which cultural theorist Richard Sennett posits are critical to the notion of craft.
full text: (PDF file, 1.524 MB)
citation:Dermott McMeel, Judy Cockeram (2011). Unstable Building: virtual environments and real relevance, ITcon Vol. 16, Special issue Use of virtual world technology in architecture, engineering and construction, pg. 231-242,