01 X INTRODUCTION
The Metaverse. It’s hard to find a more trending topic than this one. In this article I don’t want to talk about what the Metaverse is (or rather, what it could be), but you can find all the info in this very comprehensive article written by Matthew Ball.
The situation in which the world of architecture finds itself is desperate: employment is scarce or poorly paid, false hires and the impossibility of emerging in a system in which the biggest (big firms) eat the little ones. And it’s for these (and more) reasons that architects from all over the world begin to be interested in the Metaverse.
02 X METAVERSE AND ARCHITECTS: WHAT CAN WE DO?
The closest thing that the Metaverse allows us to do is the virtual construction of virtual real estate.
WOW! So, someone is telling me that I no longer have to worry about calculating steel roof structures anymore??
The truth is that the Metaverse, inevitably linked to NFT and cryptocurrencies (respectively virtual licenses on a good and virtual exchange currency, in short), is a phenomenon of which we can only imagine the future potential and applications.
The Metaverse could open to several possibilities, but currently none of these constitute a solid market based on a solid global utility service. On the other hand, at the moment, the closest thing to the Metaverse is that of an open world video game, such as The Sims.
It’s also true that the Metaverse will not be simply a videogame, but probably it will not lose the light-heartedness of the latter, a bit like modern social networks.
“The Metaverse real estate market is growing exponentially”. Correct.
“Virtual interactions have increased during the pandemic and it’s important to build adequate virtual rooms”. More than correct.
“There will be no other option but to join the new game. Otherwise, you will not survive as a company.”
This is a sentence taken from Chloe Sun’s article on Archdaily and it’s very dangerous.
We have been playing the game of capitalism for decades to allow many big companies to survive and we have almost destroyed the only world where life is possible!
If our only goal as architects is to make as much money as possible, then the Metaverse, and everything linked to it, is definitely a world you can speculate on (pay attention to a possible Ponzi scheme, which is always around the corner when new technologies and new possibilities comes out)
03 X METAVERSE PROBLEMS AND ARCHITECT RESPONSABILITY
As architects we should evaluate the success of a project according to other parameters: cultural, social and technological contribution of our project to people, a neighbourhood, or an entire city, reducing waste and developing construction technologies that solve the energy problem of buildings and improve people’s lifestyle.
A critical point of the Metaverse, NFT and cryptocurrency is that linked to the environment.
The Bitcoin electricity consumption index (Cambridge University) calculates that Bitcoin alone needs more than 133 terawatt/hour of electricity every year, more than a country like Sweden, which has an annual consumption of just under 132 TWh (data from 2021).
And a complex structure like the Metaverse, in which the exchange currency would be cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, would do nothing but definitively collapse the Paris agreement on climate change.
Another aspect to consider is the social responsability of the architect. As architects we must build better cities, which break down social differences, are accessible to all, with the awareness of the difficulties of these challenges.
It’s undeniable that virtual world and social networks have already led to an increase of phenomena such as alienation, ostentation and the persecution of false myths. Just as it’s undeniable that the Metaverse would only underline these differences. This is the case of pay-to-win videogames, or the much-vaunted Fortnite by Epic Games, which is working on its own Metaverse and which allows purchases of skins and avatars through v-bucks, their virtual currency.
So, what should we focus on as architects?
The architect will have to have a planning and management role, from the smallest neighbourhoods to the largest cities, so that all the parts are interconnected with each other, through the revolution of public and private mobility (which is one of the real great challenges we must respond to). In addition, he will have to be aware of all current and future trends, foresee future important roles and reorganize existing ones within the society. If the mayor will have the role of administering the city and managing human resources, the architect will have the role of suggesting changes of the city, finding adequate human resources, knowing, integrating and empowering the communities.
Historically our job has always been a “slow profession”: the construction of a building is not as immediate as a virtual one.
Today’s world runs fast, and we must never stop for sure. However, there is the risk of running in the wrong direction. And in these cases, it’s important to stop for a moment, reflect and focus.
It’s clear that new technologies bring both good and bad things.
The only certain thing, however, is that there is no greater priority than the real challenges of this world. Because there can be infinite Metaverses, but none of them will ever exist if we destroy the “real one”.
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Author: Francesco Decaro
Born in 1995 in Conversano, Puglia, he graduated in architecture at the Polytechnic University of Bari in 2020 with a thesis on rural architecture in the Fujian region, China. During his academic career he studied in Spain for two years, in Cartagena first and Valencia later. In 2017 he founded C A G E Architecture. In 2021 he co-founded Nebra Skay Studio about sustainable design.