Kostas Terzidis, Ph.D.
UCLA- school of Arts and Architecture
Los Angeles CA 90095-1467
Designers and artists express their ideas by developing imaginary worlds before they project them as images on a drafting board or a canvas. In their minds, they create an ideal world, a world that fits to their needs and expresses their desires. By creating systems of symbols and rules, designers are able to describe, represent, and control their imaginary worlds. In Architecture the construction and development of significant buildings was usually preceded or paralleled by theoretical projects which were never built, either because they were too impractical or because their purpose was to be used as ideal models and paradigms to be followed. By formulating such models, theorists were able to express their theoretical views about architecture, space, and society, to criticize the current practice and to demonstrate how they imagine an ideal world. Perault, the architect of the peristyle of the Louvre, argued that architecture is a fantastic art of pure invention. He asserted that architecture really exists in the mind of the designer and that there is no connection to the natural world. In addition, architecture as an imaginative art, obeys its own rules which are internal and personal to each designer, and that is why most creators are vaguely aware of the rules of nature and yet produce excellent pieces of art.
The purpose of an ideal model in architecture is not necessarily the actual production of a building. Many models serve merely the purpose of fulfilling the designer's imagination and satisfying his/her need to create a perfect world. On the other hand, models, such as mathematical, social, and statistical, are rational constructions, which are supposed to describe "real life" phenomena. By altering the parameters that describe those models one is able to interpolate and extrapolate the data and understand their behavior. Moreover, alterations under extreme conditions reveal behavior far more unpredictable than a human mind can imagine.
In Mathematics, notions such as randomness, reality, and imagination have been extensively investigated. The fact that in nature certain phenomena have a possibility of existence that cannot be predicted gives rise to the concept of randomness. A one-to-one correspondence of natural objects to discrete representations in our minds defines the world of reality. Finally, the absence of a fact or an evidence of reality gives rise to the concept of imagination. In imagination, we do not know the nature of the elements we are dealing with; we are only sure about the relationships that determine their behavior. Elements such as infinity, zero-ness, and the square root of minus one are objects of imagination. Unlike random elements, the existence of imaginary elements cannot be explained, but their behavior can be described through certain relationships.
Parallel with the history of architecture is the history of media technology by which abstract entities such as events, experiences, and ideas, become symbolically represented and transmitted through electronic devices. Through the use of mathematical models, it has become possible to visualize those abstract entities, verify their existence and project their behavior into a once unimaginable world. The introduction of new electronic media in the last fifty years gave a different twist to the exploration of these mathematical notions. The ideas of mathematical models and simulations were realized through fast computations and large memory capacities. A world was discovered, the world of virtual reality, which is a "make-believe" representation of mathematical models. This world can be projected to the computer screen or animated through real-time computations. Objects, represented through instructions in the computer's memory, were projected to a screen by simple algorithms, then transformed as if they were physically there, occasionally dressed in fancy textures and, in special cases, animated and transformed indefinitely.
For architecture, the notion of virtual reality has a very exciting aspect. Architects, as mentioned earlier, dream of imaginary and ideal worlds. Their utopian visions are only objects of imagination and, in the best case can only be drawn on a piece of paper, or written in the form of a narrative or a poem. Their virtual world is a world of fantasy and imagination, a territory of mythical figures, symbols, rules, and truths; a world free from the bounds of physical space and time. This world is not a dream anymore.
The following sections describe two experiments that try to cross between the boundaries of art and architecture. The first is inspired by the work David Hockney’s "PearBlossom Hwy., 11-18 April 1986, No. 2" photographic collage and the second on the painter Giorgio De Chirico’s work.
For the first experiment, a video camera was taken and footage was taken from the desert area of Southern California. This footage was played back on a computer and individual frames were captured. Each frame was taken into an image processor where textures were selected and clipped. Then a 3D model of the desert area was created in a modeling program. The model represents the intersection of two roads in the desert. There are traffic signs, trees, ground, and pavement panels. The clipped textures are mapped to the 3D models. In some textures transparency effects were used to represent trees or traffic signs. The texture mapped 3D model was then transferred into a real time virtual reality navigating program. Different viewpoints were selected and an audio clip with sound of the desert wind was attached. A filter was then attached on top of the navigator’s screen. The filter clips pieces of the screen and overlaps them creating a mosaic effect. The model and textures reside at http://www.cda.ucla.edu/caad/worlds.html
The second experiment was inspired by Giorgio De Chirico’s work. A series of paintings were used and form each one textures were captured. Then a 3D model of two buildings and a tower were created. These models were shifted and rotated in space so their perspective vanishing points would not match. In other words, each model has its own direction resulting in a sense of messed up perspective. The models are mapped with the textures taken for the paintings. . The texture mapped 3D model was then transferred into a real time virtual reality navigating program. Different viewpoints were selected. The models and textures reside at http://www.cda.ucla.edu/caad/worlds.html
David Hockney "PearBlossom Hwy., 11-18 April 1986, No. 2" The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
A virtual reality representation of the Southern California desert
Another view of a virtual reality representation of the Southern California desert
Giorgio de Chirico, The Nostalgia of the Infinite, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
A virtual reality version of the painting
A view of the virtual reality environment