The Role of Architecture in the Metaverse
From NFT-financed hotels to concept dreamscapes, buildings in the metaverse come in many shapes and sizes
“As an architect, you design for the present, with an awareness of the past for a future which is essentially unknown” - Norman Foster
Since time immemorial, symbols of wealth and power have been reflected in our built environment — from mansions and estates to castles and skyscrapers. Architecture has always been a reflection of function and utility, as well as culture and status.
The word “architecture” conjures images of objects like bricks, steel, marble, pillars, crystal chandeliers, and bay windows.
Up until recently, this medium of expression was limited to the physical realm.
Now, that’s all changing.
In March 2021, artist Krista Kim sold the Mars House. It was the world’s first virtual house to be sold as an NFT, and it sold for more than $500,000.
Just a few weeks prior, Argentinian designer Andrés Reisinger had sold a virtual furniture collection for about the same amount. The 10 digital-only pieces included a bulging light-pink table and a tube-like armchair, and sold out in 10 minutes.
Over a year has passed since those first forays, and a lot of major artists, architects, and design firms have planted their flag since then. Here are some of the highlights of this new era of architectural design.
Who is leading the way?
The metaverse is still largely thought of as the Wild West and offers a chance to re-envision the built environment completely and collectively. And there are likely to be multiple interoperable platforms to explore.
With no laws, gravity, permits, construction workers, or material shortages to worry about, architects are trying different things.
Besides the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and Zaha Hadid’s firm (ZHA), Voxel Architects, HOK, and Perkins+Will have already made a name for themselves as metaverse-ready studios.
3D modeling tools SketchUp, Blender, and Unreal Engine enable pretty much anyone to design for the metaverse, according to architect Breanna Faye, who claims fees of $200,000-$300,000 for virtual building designs are common.
Luca Arrigo, who’s designing the tallest tower in Decentraland, thinks “the profession will need to re-skill to learn coding, understand how metaverse platforms work, and break free of the limitations of real life.”
Five architecture trends we’re seeing in the metaverse.
#1. Architects are re-imagining themselves as content creators.
The metaverse needs content to keep users engaged. This allows architects to think of their offerings at scale, with exponential growth across platforms. Just as environment artists do for movies, architects can create digital assets and sell them to virtual worlds or games.
Further, since geography is no longer a constraint, architects have numerous project opportunities they can deliver quicker. Those who have the skill set can even write “formulas” and create reusable designs for other creators to use in their work.
#2. Algorithms are generating ‘dream home’ and ‘skyscraper’ NFT buildings.
Architect-technologist Breanna Faye’s project, ‘Metarkitex’,uses an algorithm to generate affordable, accessible, and interactive ‘meta-buildings.’ Elsewhere, PLP Architecture – the designers of 22 Bishopsgate, London’s second-tallest building, have released 5,000 virtual skyscraper NFTs.
#3. Barrier-breaking designs are being explored.
Paris-based film director Hugo Fournier is creating environments such as the “Blueberry House” and “The Comfortable Room.” Fournier expresses metaverse interiors and exteriors as non-interactive, conceptual dreamscapes.
BIG’s Leon Rost is building VICE Media’s office in Decentraland, designed as a playground.
Meanwhile, ZHA’s Patrik Schumacher warns us: “The metaverse is not an escape, and it's not a video game.” At Art Basel Miami, his team presented “NFTism,” a virtual gallery to explore interaction and architecture in the metaverse.
#4. Virtual cities are being built.
Zaha Hadid Architects is designing a ‘virtual self-governed city. ’Inspired by the real-world Free Republic of Liberland, the ‘cyber-world’ metaverse features a city hall, a central plaza, collaborative working spaces, and galleries that sell NFTs.
#5. Virtual buildings are being financed through NFTS.
CitizenM is building a hotel in The Sandbox and selling 2,000 NFTs to finance its ‘construction’, giving NFT holders perks such as free drinks redeemable at real-life CitizenM hotels.
We're proud to announce the launch of The Row, a private, members-only metaverse real estate community featuring architecture designed by artists. The Row is co-developed by The Alexander Team and Everyrealm.
The Row is a limited-edition series of thirty three-dimensional, architectural landmarks designed by celebrated artists including Daniel Arsham, Misha Kahn, Andrés Reisinger, Alexis Christodoulou, Six N. Five, and Hard. Each is sold as a 1-of-1 non-fungible token (or “NFT”).
The artists have developed and built each of the Row’s landmarks with the ability to be deployed across a variety of metaverse platforms within The Row district. Membership to The Row is by invitation only, and can be requested on our website.
We created an exhibition in a metaverse called Mona which features an immersive gallery of each of the works in The Row where you can view detailed 3D models of each.
Learn more about The Row, view all the landmarks, and request an invitation here.
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General metaverse and web3 news:
A new report estimates metaverse market share will surpass $50 billion by 2026
Dubai has officially launched its ‘Dubai Metaverse Strategy’ and is home to 1,000 metaverse and blockchain companies already. The country aims to create 40,000 virtual jobs in 5 years
Animoca Brands, metaverse platforms launch interoperability DAO
The CEO of the company formerly known as “Facebook” declares they are in “deep philosophical competition” with Apple. They also recently partnered with web3 fashion house DRESSX on digital clothing offerings in their avatar store.
NFT holders might become the new membership model but could threaten other revenue streams
The Magic Eden Miracle: How an NFT Marketplace Soared in the Midst of a Crypto Crash
MetaMundo has launched a new marketplace to help buyers collect metaverse-ready 3D NFTs
City of Miami collabs with TIME, Mastercard, and Salesforce to Sell 5,000 NFTs
Tony Hawk drops into The Sandbox with a new, massive virtual skatepark game.
The Sandbox and KEB Hana Bank are offering banking services in the metaverse
The Union Bank of India is opening a Metaverse Virtual Lounge, ‘Uni-verse,’ to serve its customers better, along with an ‘Open Banking Sandbox environment’
Language learning App Duolingo now has a presence in Decentraland and Roblox
Delphi Digital released their own vision for the future of web3 gaming.
Minecraft maker Mojang announced they are banning NFTs from the game. Meanwhile, former Minecraft native NFT project NFT Worlds announced their vision for how they’ll forward. (Read more about NFT Worlds in this week’s premium section below👇)
Epic Games quickly seized the opportunity to announce their stalwart support of NFTs and web3.
In other gaming news, popular streamer Dr. Disrespect announced his own NFT game.
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