Rojkind Arquitectos makes its Metaverse debut with the José Cuervo Metadistillery

STIR interviews Michel Rojkind, founder of Rojkind Arquitectos, on exploring the blooming realm of Metaverse architecture with the Metadistillery, modelled on the roots of an agave plant.

by Jincy IypePublished on : Sep 05, 2022

An experience centre in the Metaverse conceived as a digital escapade for customers and enthusiasts to interact with a tequila brand - who would have thought, even a decade ago that it would be tangibly (or intangibly?) possible for architects and artists to craft ingenious interactions and spatial agencies, to be explored and experienced within a wholly virtual universe?

The entire peg of digital architecture anchors upon its enormous, exciting potential being 'omnipresent', accessible to nearly everyone, through electronic devices with internet connectivity. As a plethora of fresh digital scenographies emerge, such as The Row metaverse architectural community designed by globally sought-after artists, the virtual realm is in ever exploration, through Non Fungible Tokens (NFT) as artsy, permanent collectibles, within three dimensional environments that excite, surprise and enthrall.  

Rojkind Arquitectos makes their thriving debut into the Metaverse real estate realm, with the zany and unique Metadistillery for José Cuervo Tequila, replete with an acid blue pool, and a circle of fire surrounded by bottles of tequila greeting visitors. “We are always seeking to create architecture that questions and responds to current events - Jose Cuervo's Metadistillery is no exception, seeking to understand the enormous potential that design represents in digital environments," says the multidisciplinary design and architecture studio based in Mexico City, Mexico.

A mini tour of the Metadistillery José Cuervo, Rojkind Arquitectos’s debuts in the Metaverse Video: Courtesy of Rojkind Arquitectos

Inspired by the shallow yet extensive roots of the agave plant, the Metadistillery does not shy away from being madcap, explorative, unapologetic, creative and (perhaps), ever so bewildering – the latter in a general sense of perception, of how brands like José Cuervo can interact effectively with their customers, within a digital world. "Self-criticism enables us to recognise our blindness to the possibility afforded by programs to construct metaverse ecosystems. This blindness, together with our traditional approach to design in physical space, is our starting point for expanding the disciplinary boundaries of design to digital spaces, in order to create new experiences and make sense of architecture in a virtual setting,” elaborates Michel Rojkind, Founding Partner of Rojkind Arquitectos.

To create the Metadistillery, Rojkind Arquitectos collaborated with a group of experts and designers specialising in digital experiences - the agency Ache, which specialised in creative development; the expert study in the Metaverse, Tangible; the largest video game district, Decentraland, the developers of the experience; Vegas City, Mekanism as a marketing agency; and the UK-based dining experience experts, Bompass & Parr, tasked with creating the aesthetic and consumer experience.

The Metadistillery José Cuervo conceived by Rojkind Arquitectos is inspired by the roots of an agave plant | Metadistillery José Cuervo by Rojkind Arquitectos | STIRworld
The Metadistillery José Cuervo conceived by Rojkind Arquitectos is inspired by the roots of an agave plant Image: Courtesy of Rojkind Arquitectos

Grounded but also at times, flamboyant, the Mexican architect of the eponymous firm indulges STIR in an all-around conversation about the studio’s foray into the Metaverse, highlighting their inspirations, as well as their creative intent and process that fuelled Metadistillery’s interaction-led architecture and design.

Jincy Iype: Where does the Metadistillery take up residence within the far-reaching, virtual world of the Metaverse? What informs its core concept and inspiration?

Michel Rojkind: The project is located in the Decentraland platform in the Metaverse, and the structure's form takes inspiration from the roots of the agave, a plant nucleus that, when observed, evokes feelings of protection and consolidation. The José Cuervo meta-distillery can be viewed as organic architecture, and aspires to be the centre around which all participating individuals can, or are encouraged to, forge stronger bonds, build an inclusive community, as a comprehensive, custom-made, digital experience.

Jincy: What comprised the brief given to you by the clients?

Michel: The client is Jose Cuervo Tequila, the world’s largest selling tequila brand. Senior vice president of marketing at Proximo Spirits, the international distributor for Jose Cuervo declared that it is not surprising that Cuervo is taking its tequila to uncharted places - “It is time to take Cuervo to a new frontier and bring tequila to the new, by opening the first-ever tequila distillery in the metaverse.”

The challenge and brief to us were - "How do we get strangers to connect in a virtual world, over a glass of Jose Cuervo?” Compelling, strange, challenging and fun.

The Metadistillery is designed as an experience centre within the Metaverse, for customers to interact with the brand, José Cuervo | Metadistillery José Cuervo by Rojkind Arquitectos | STIRworld
The Metadistillery is designed as an experience centre within the Metaverse, for customers to interact with the brand, José Cuervo Image: Courtesy of Rojkind Arquitectos

Jincy: So how does your virtual experience centre interpret that brief? How does it boost interaction between the customers and the brand, and what advantages does its digital location have over a physical one?

Michel: A design exercise responds to the function of objects in relation to human requirements within certain contexts, but there is also the difficulty of creating distinctive experiences via objects or buildings. For instance, a building makes sense due to its program, physical position, and construction technology; but, for the person, what is unforgettable remains subjective - the view, the comfort, the spatial comprehension, a light effect, or the overall experience of the visit.

Within the infinitely diverse paths of “unique experiences,” the digital world has permeated the imagination of millions of young people and created common environments with intuitive languages of interaction that pose digital challenges, where any subject can acquire an alternate identity through avatars in a new social context. It is a compression of time and space, in which the schedules of each region of the world are diluted and existing languages are invaded by new digital ones that permit active involvement, akin to how they are inscribed in a video game.

But if we consider the enormous potential that design represents in digital environments, its presence in millions of people’s imaginations, and its accessibility through electronic devices, we are compelled to ponder more active participation of architecture and design, particularly as new digital scenarios emerge and evolve, like the metaverse. The metaverse can be viewed as a permanent online parallel universe with three-dimensional environments that permit the coexistence of diverse virtual places and unique things known as NFTs.

Inside the Cuervo Metadistillery, where a series of gaming challenges await | Metadistillery José Cuervo by Rojkind Arquitectos | STIRworld
Inside the Cuervo Metadistillery, where a series of gaming challenges await Image: Courtesy of Rojkind Arquitectos

Jincy: "The starting point is questioning the approach of virtual design through traditional architecture and design methods which are used to work in digital environments for the production of high-resolution virtual realities, when the scenarios of the metaverse are only possible in limited resolution, as well as questioning the physical – structural characteristics of manufacturing, in order to develop a design with different principles that do not respond to classical physics.” – could you elaborate in the context of the Metadistillery?

Michel: Following a sustained and methodical dialogue with Arturo Ortiz Struck, a visual artist and architect currently leading Taller Territorial de México, we collectively developed and nurtured the following idea: If we recognise that our creative structure is supported by a system, which is defined as a collection of parts that interact to achieve a particular goal, then we will be able to develop more effective strategies (simply by virtue of being a consolidated office facing many design challenges). The underlying implication is that there is mutual interaction between components, such that the creative process in one of them influences, has consequences for, and affects the others.

Our approach to the metaverse is as impacted by other design processes and everyday creative advances as the rest of our "real-world" challenges are, by the notion of placing visual perfection in challenging design scenarios. This also puts our architectural and design principles in crisis, when on a digital platform, gravity does not exist! It is literally upending all that we know of, and have created in the physical world. Surprisingly, the platforms for the metaverse mimic gravity to a substantial degree. Originally, we were interested in changing this level, or perception of gravity, putting it at any angle simultaneously (up, to the side, and more), but the platforms did not permit this. Perhaps these digital platforms can, or should be adjusted to allow the creation of settings that do not necessarily replicate physical laws.

The Barrel Maze, where users have to weave their way through to collect droplets of tequila without getting stuck in a tequila whirlpool | Metadistillery José Cuervo by Rojkind Arquitectos | STIRworld
The Barrel Maze, where users have to weave their way through to collect droplets of tequila without getting stuck in a tequila whirlpool Image: Courtesy of Rojkind Arquitectos

The question is whether modifying a digital platform for the production of the metaverse can be classified as thorough architecture. We think it cannot, but we are also acting from different places and perspectives, in places that do not have a clear definition of a discipline yet. It is a challenging but truly amazing opportunity that does not need a structure of a discipline - that is what truly makes it what it is, giving it incognito power.

Jincy: How does the architecture aim to shape and achieve an “inclusive community” within a digital space?

Michel: Continuing our dialogue with Arturo, we understood that, that is the point, precisely. We do not believe that architecture, within the confines of its discipline, is capable of fostering wholly inclusive communities, in a virtual or a physical setting. Our work has uncovered alternatives from the discipline in a quest for alternative participation in this digital environment, one that distinguishes a need to provide conditions of equality, while preserving individual distinctions. Working in the Metaverse demands moving outside the usual boundaries of architecture, in a relatively horizontal digital environment (not everyone has access to it yet) where we feel alternative forms of engagement are conceivable. Architecture-wise, the question is how we should handle this digital environment. This dilemma also applies to physical space, where numerous solutions have little to do with architecture per se, but rather with facilitating the daily flow of individuals and their activities.

The Cuervo Discovery Garden, where guests are whisked away to a virtual space filled with blue agave plants with a luminous center | Metadistillery José Cuervo by Rojkind Arquitectos | STIRworld
The Cuervo Discovery Garden, where guests are whisked away to a virtual space filled with blue agave plants with a luminous center Image: Courtesy of Rojkind Arquitectos

Our approach to the metaverse is precisely one more attempt to escape disciplinary boundaries and interact with our surroundings from other logistics, from our own technical restrictions, but in a quest for possibilities that affect and influence digital design at large.

Jincy: What informs the adopted materiality and colour palette for the José Cuervo Metadistillery?

Michel: There were two crucial aspects of materiality that were considered: firstly, the limitations that Decentraland made us aware of, and secondly, the spatial experiences that we intended to create. For the façade, the sensation of a material that portrayed a rooted, earthy tone while still being very warm and natural. For the interior design, the intent was to create something that felt modern while retaining a sense of a place such as La Rojeña, the oldest distillery in Latin America, located in Guadalajara, Mexico. So the insides reveal extremely warm-toned, brightly-hued materials, typical of colonial architecture, combined with lights and very defined forms.

Jincy: Please indulge us in a walkthrough of the virtual architecture, in as much detail as possible.

Michel: In each zone of the José Cuervo meta-distillery, a different activity is programmed to make the experience more vibrant:
Entering the Metadistillery: Visitors are greeted by a circle of fire surrounded by bottles of tequila and will receive the "Cuervo Challenge," which will guide them through the Metadistillery experience, starting by claiming a bottle of Cuervo Tradicional Cristalino. 

Cuervo Discovery Garden: Guests will be whisked away to a virtual garden of blue agave plants with a luminous centre, where they’ll nurture the plants, watering to help them grow before harvesting the fully-grown piñas to create their very own Metaverse cocktail. 

Piña Pool Party: Once the Blue Weber agave has been harvested, visitors can play a game of Piña Volleyball with their friends to pop fermentation bubbles necessary in creating the flavour and essence of tequila. 

The Piña Pool Party, where visitors can play a game of volleyball with their virtual friends | Metadistillery José Cuervo by Rojkind Arquitectos | STIRworld
The Piña Pool Party, where visitors can play a game of volleyball with their virtual friends Image: Courtesy of Rojkind Arquitectos

Barrel Maze: Fans will then have to weave their way through a maze of barrels to test their visuospatial skills, collecting droplets of tequila without getting stuck in a tequila whirlpool – evoking the process of barrel ageing via American White Oak. 

Crystal Filter Portal: Guests will then journey through the Crystal Filter Portal where they will transform their tequila into Cuervo Tradicional Cristalino - leading them to the grand finale of the Cuervo Metadistillery.  

The Familia Bar: Finally, fans encounter a glass filter portal that leads to the La Familia bar to enhance social interactions, where they can turn strangers into fast friends over a 'virtual' tequila cocktail – all created thanks to the hard work accomplished in the previous stages. 

Brewing intrigue and countless questions along the way, the intersection of the real and the virtual is being satisfactorily and increasingly blurred within the Metaverse, which has no physics, no weather, no engineering or material costs, and next to no spatial limitations. The nascent disciplines of digital art and imaginary architecture as NFTs continue to push boundaries, and we are excited to apprehend virtual experiences crafted by world-renowned professionals, as presented by Rojkind Arquitectos with the Metadistillery, of exploring uncharted routes of digital interaction.

From collectible NFTs to otherworldly blockchain-funded crypto creations, STIR brings you the best of fungible-non-fungible inspiration from the global realms of art, design, and architecture. Read more here.

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