In 1968, two visionaries—Ivan Sutherland and his brilliant student Bob Sproull—unveiled a creation that would fundamentally redefine the limits of human experience. This groundbreaking invention allowed people to enter virtual worlds and interact with digital environments in a more immersive and exciting way than traditional screens. As time passed, the virtual reality industry grew rapidly, with gaming being a major catalyst. However, the late 20th century saw virtual reality make inroads into another field—the Architecture industry. It became a transformative tool for architects, allowing them to explore designs and showcase their ideas in a whole new way, sparking creativity and unlocking new possibilities
The use of VR in architecture has since evolved, architects and designers utilize VR to create immersive walkthroughs of their designs, enabling clients and stakeholders to experience and provide feedback on virtual representations of buildings before they are built, and now we utilize it to improve architecture education.
Virtual reality (VR) is increasingly used in architecture education to enhance learning experiences and provide students with immersive, hands-on training. Its implementation in architecture education has gained momentum in recent years.Angela Nicole
VR allows architecture students to explore and engage with virtual environments, enabling them to visualize and understand spatial relationships, design principles, and construction processes in a more interactive and intuitive manner. With VR, architecture education transcends the limitations of traditional methods, empowering the next generation of architects, such as Generation Z, to shape the built environment in innovative and transformative ways.
Virtual Walkthroughs and Tours: Through virtual reality, architecture students can explore the world’s architectural masterpieces without being constrained by geography. Students can examine architectural features, research cultural value, and gain an understanding of various design styles and historical contexts through virtual walkthroughs. This offers a unique opportunity for students to explore architectural masterpieces in the comfort of their own classrooms.
Collaborative Design Reviews: In the digital age, collaborative discussions and critiques are facilitated through VR platforms. Students and instructors can come together in virtual spaces for design reviews and feedback sessions. Real-time discussions, idea exchange, and feedback from peers and instructors foster collaboration, improving design outcomes.
Simulation and Analysis: VR simulations allow architecture students to evaluate environmental conditions and lighting effects in their designs. By experimenting with natural lighting, shadows, and material appearances, students gain a better understanding of how design choices affect the atmosphere and ambiance of spaces. In addition, VR makes it possible to analyze structure behavior and performance, which aids students in recognizing potential problems and making wise design choices. This is particularly valuable because many issues in an architecture project only become apparent once construction has commenced.
Urban Planning and Site Analysis: Using Virtual Reality, students can replicate urban landscapes to analyze sites and comprehend the spatial relationships and limitations of actual places. They can assess site conditions, analyze traffic patterns, and consider the contextual impact of their designs on the surrounding environment. Furthermore, VR allows students to insert their design proposals into existing urban environments, facilitating better visualization and evaluation. This fosters critical thinking and informed decision-making.
Unlimited Possibilities: The applications of VR in architecture education are vast and continuously expanding. From design visualization to collaborative reviews, simulation, and urban planning, VR offers unlimited possibilities for students to engage with architecture in innovative and immersive ways. By embracing VR technology, architecture education transcends the limitations of traditional methods, empowering students, especially Generation Z, to shape and imagine the built environment without constraints. Today, many architectural institutions and universities have started incorporating VR into their curriculum to supplement traditional teaching methods. VR labs and facilities are being established to provide students with access to VR equipment and software.
To start, here is a list of apps, software, and websites that architects and architecture students can use for virtual reality in their work and education:
- Autodesk Revit: This widely used Building Information Modeling (BIM) software offers a VR feature called “Revit Live” that allows users to export their models into VR experiences for immersive walkthroughs and presentations.
- SketchUp Viewer: SketchUp offers a VR viewer that allows architects to explore their 3D models in virtual reality, providing a more immersive understanding of the design.
- Enscape: Enscape is a real-time rendering and VR plugin for architectural software like Revit, SketchUp, and Rhino. It enables architects to quickly create VR experiences from their models and visualize designs in virtual reality.
- Unreal Engine: A powerful game development engine that can be used for architectural visualization and VR experiences. Architects and students can import their 3D models and create interactive VR walkthroughs with realistic lighting, materials, and environments.
- IrisVR: IrisVR offers software solutions like Prospect and Scope that enable architects to convert their 3D models into VR experiences. It supports various architectural design software and provides collaboration and design review features.
- Unity3D: Similar to Unreal Engine, Unity3D is a game development engine that can be utilized for architectural visualization and VR experiences. Architects and students can import their models, create interactive environments, and explore designs in VR.
- Gravity Sketch: This VR software allows architects to create 3D sketches and models directly in virtual reality. It offers intuitive tools for conceptualization and design exploration.
- Trezi: Trezi is a VR platform specifically designed for architects and designers. It allows users to import their 3D models from software like Revit and SketchUp and create immersive VR experiences for design exploration and collaboration.
- Sketchfab: Sketchfab is a web-based platform that allows architects to upload and share their 3D models. It also supports VR viewing, enabling users to explore models in virtual reality.
- Mozilla Hubs: Mozilla Hubs is a web-based VR platform that allows architects and students to collaborate, create virtual environments, and host VR meetings and presentations. It can be accessed through web browsers and various VR devices.
- AT + Explore: AT+Explore lets you create multiplatform interactive projects without coding.
- AUGmentecture™: AUGmentecture is an augmented reality platform for design collaboration that enables the viewing of 3D models in AR format.
Given the limitless potential of VR in architecture education, we passionately anticipate a future in which the industry adopts these developments, producing a generation of architects who will push beyond the boundaries of what is possible and leave a lasting mark on the future of architecture.
By Ms. Angela Nicole Hernandez an Architecture Student at De La Salle College of Dasmarinas, Philippines