by Anmol AhujaJul 05, 2022
Architecture is no longer a discipline that deems only the physical as 'sacred'. The digital is fast taking over the discourse and opening avenues to new ways of thinking and experimentation, and with much acceleration by the COVID-19 pandemic, a new world has already propped above the horizon. London-headquartered Zaha Hadid Architects needs no introduction when it comes to their pioneering engagement with the built and the speculative realms. The brainchild of late British-Iraqi architect Zaha Mohammad Hadid, the practice, since the 80s, has stood out for delivering timeless architecture that fuses technology with design, and for perennially pushing the envelope to create new tools to enhance our spatial experiences.
The firm is presenting its parametric adventures in the cyberphysical space and metaverse through an exhibition hosted at the Dongdaemun Design Museum in Seoul, Korea. Meta-Horizons: The Future Now marks the opening of the new museum which is located within the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, a cultural hub and meeting place in Seoul’s Dongdaemun district completed by ZHA in 2014. The exhibition offers a peek into ZHA’s illustrious repertoire spanning across multiple fields, from digital technology to artificial intelligence, NFT, and virtual reality. One gets to experience the sheer breadth of work through three main zones of the showcase - Innovation, Imagination, and Interaction - where these categories reveal the firm’s recent designs, process, and research that incorporates immersive technologies, participatory design, and new fabrication techniques.
Within the first section titled Innovation: Process & Research, the exhibition focuses on collaborations across disciplines which rely on a research-based approach towards the design process and physical prototyping. The presented projects include a platform used to create customised modular homes, and a recent 3D-printed concrete bridge named Striatus, which was assembled without mortar in Venice as a result of a collaboration between ZHA and ETH Zurich. The various projects that fall under this zone represent the three ongoing research strands of the architectural practice, namely robotic technologies, folded geometries, and digital timber construction.
Within Imagination: Design & Virtual, the exhibition delves into the digital realm of things and how it continues to become more established as an activated destination integrating with the physical world. Presented within this section is ZHA’s increased presence in the designing of the metaverse, with projects such as the cyber urban incubator 'Liberland', and 'NFTism' – a virtual gallery space experimenting with architecture and social interaction.
The third section titled Interaction: Technologies & Collaboration puts a spotlight on technologies that enhance the seamless user experience across the world of cyber-physics, mixed reality, augmented and virtual reality. Projects presented within this section include Project Correl 1.0 – a collaborative experiment in multi-presence virtual reality that illustrates the development of complex assemblies inside virtual space; and New Worlds – a ‘LOOP’ mixed-reality experience created by ZHVR. It is revealed as an immersive soundscape by artist Halina Rice which visitors could experience using HTC headsets.
A highlight of the overall exhibition is an immersive art project conceived by ZHA in collaboration with Refik Anadol Studio (RAS). The result of a six month-long collaboration, the artwork titled Architecting the Metaverse "extends RAS Media Lab’s ongoing research project and visualises their entire database of architectural documentation in the oeuvre of ZHA". Expressed as an immersive room, visitors are exposed to an infinitely reflecting mirrored tunnel that creates a perception shift by merging the boundlessness of space with the endless permutations of machine learning. Speculating on the future of architecture in the digital realm, the installation was specially conceived for the exhibition and it marks the first collaboration of media artist Refik Anadol with a pioneering architectural studio. Architecting the Metaverse is also stated to be the first of its kind in realising the machine dream of ZHA’s architectural works around the world.
Meta-Horizons: The Future Now is on view at the DDP Design Museum in Seoul till September 18, 2022.