The inspiration for my 2016 Patrick Curran Fellowship stemmed from the desire to elevate and proliferate the in-house motion graphic capabilities of our Los Angeles office. This initial impetus then evolved into a firm- and discipline-wide consideration. My proposal, LArchVIS (Landscape Architectural Visualization), was to revisit static concept packages with an eye on current trends in video production. The use of virtual reality in concept development and communication was an auxiliary focus, adding a facet to the endeavor that ultimately pushed its collective value into approval by our principals.The months allocated for research and production were sandwiched between June and October, and they proved to be the busiest of my life.
Somewhere in the midst of the fellowship’s daunting tasklist, I managed to squeeze in a wedding, mine. The fellowship workload coupled with an exercise in extreme event planning created a context that unexpectedly enhanced the focus of the research. Limitations and time constraints generated by the four-month window mimicked the relative in-office constraints that we regularly contend with. The bulk of the research was comprised of software, hardware, and skillset assessment, and my wedding saw to it that time as a constraint was meticulously factored in. The results of this arduous, yet extremely fruitful four months were packaged into a 20-minute video. Two items deserve attention: Virtual reality is indeed bigger than video games. An in fact, it seemed to explode into the mainstream media as a significant new form of entertainment and communication during the window of the fellowship research. Within SWA I became a beacon for everyone who was aware of the fellowship—my email inbox was inundated with links to VR commercials or articles. The epitome of that awareness was walking into Target and seeing an entire shelving section in the electronics department dedicated to virtual reality systems.
We’ve already used our virtual reality system in the LA office to place a client within a modelled space. The “wow” factor is great, but the communicative abilities of the format are also going to be extremely relevant moving forward.
While this extensive study of video rearticulation and virtual reality continues to be an investigation of new processes and evolved skill sets, it is ultimately an inquiry in communication. How can we as landscape architects communicate more effectively? As design and concept communications undergo massive paradigm shifts, where does SWA stand in its readiness to usher in the coming era? LArchVIS is the most current effort to foster this by identifying the skills and equipment, as well as the manpower, necessary to hit this new ground running. I am personally very excited to not only witness but be a part of the steps to follow. The future of our specialized methods of communication will continue to be fascinating to explore.