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Micro-Utopia: A theoretical and practical study of inhabiting the virtual

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Today we live within a highly networked environment in which new technologies are increasingly blurring the lines between physical and virtual worlds; as a result, we are struggling to imagine new spatial typologies for our increasingly ephemeral and nomadic lifestyle. In response to London’s rapidly growing housing crisis, the article theorizes the architectural implications of creating and co-inhabiting an interactive mixed-reality version of a home where space is born (not from site-specific and/or structural constraints) but from the finely tuned sensorial interplay between the body and physical/virtual objects that are connected to the Internet of Things. First, designing for utopia is revisited in the form of a sampled historiography looking at critical moments of radicalism that relate to the domestic interior of the second half of the twentieth century. The return and reassessment to the avant-garde practices of the likes of the Smithsons, David Greene, Superstudio and Archizoom, will set up the account for the effectiveness of a reconceptualized virtual design practice. Second, the historical study of late-modernist domestic utopias is reinvested in first-hand experiments and mixed-reality fieldwork culminating in the speculative script and location-based virtual reality installation entitled Micro-Utopia: The Imaginary Potential of Home. The prototypical model of domesticity explores the possibility of co-living within an infinite grid of shared tactile objects while virtually inhabiting a highly bespoke and selfdetermined digital space of one’s own, liberated of any physical constraints. Drawing on radical art practice, interiors in historical painting and contemporary product design, the virtual multiverses of Micro-Utopia are populated by sensing and speaking objects that encapsulate highly immersive and unfathomable spaces. Finally, the article discusses the art of inhabiting the dream of a house that is nothing, but the parameters of our perception triggered through the metaphorical dimension of the objects we interact with daily.
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Keywords: domesticity; immersion; interaction; objects of desire; sensory design; tactility; utopia; virtual reality

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

Publication date: June 1, 2019

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  • Design Ecologies foregrounds the inextricable connection between human communication and ecological accountability in architectural design. This burgeoning field has the potential to become a far-reaching discipline, bonding a community that crosses over into and out of architecture, environment, interaction, urbanism, and performing arts and communication.
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