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STORIES: The Metaverse.  A brave new world or the beginning of the end?

This month, we explain what the Metaverse is; how it works in relation to the design and architectural worlds as well as introduce some of the seminal players whilst asking what this all means for humanity. Nothing too deep and meaningful then.

The Metaverse and The Matrix - a simple definition.


The Metaverse is simply the internet in 3-D allowing us to go beyond reality by extending it into various digital realms. An illustration of this that already exists is how we all shifted to using Zoom during the pandemic as a platform to conduct our business meetings, get our spiritual fix in downward dog for yoga classes and even have a digital walk-through of a potential property with the estate agent. 

Unable to go “out-out”  (unless you were on Boris Johnstone ( British Prime Minister) guest list ) the now defunct House Party app became the VIP club for us all in the era that gave us all the kitchen disco. 

 It’s worth mentioning here that Epic Games the company behind House Party are now focusing its efforts on building an advanced version where users will experience more authentic exchanges with others or at least fewer gatecrashers. 

Essentially then with so many of us working from home and in social isolation the desire to connect to other humans needed to somehow transcend our physical limitations. 

The name Metaverse itself came from the Sci-Fi novel, “Snowcrash” written by Neal Stephenson who coined the term to describe his vision of how the internet would evolve in the future. Movies and TV series such as the Matrix, Ready Player One, Westworld, Black Mirror and Upload have already prophesied on-screen amalgamations of the Metaverse.


The announcement by Mark Zuckerberg on October 28th 2021 to rebrand and rename the social media platform Facebook to Meta was a significant indicator of the company’s faith in this prognosis.


“We believe the metaverse will be the successor to the mobile internet, we’ll be able to feel present – like we’re right there with people no matter how far apart we actually are,” he said.

Photo Credit Facebook

The digital economy - NFTs and blockchain

The Metaverse is not totally free however and this is where it becomes a little bizarre for some of us. The more we interact with the digital realm the more our desire to enrich our experiences becomes and acquiring “assets’ albeit digital such as unique art, clothes to dress our avatars in, concerts to attend, property, land and of course the latest furniture to place in our homes all come at a cost. Consumers can exchange their real currency for cryptocurrency and then add this to their wallet either via their bank or any number of in app companies such as Roblox or Alipay.

Photos Credit Traxer
Photo Credit Andre Metelev

You may already be familiar with the concept of cryptocurrency but get ready to embrace Non-Fungible Tokens and blockchain if fancy going on a spending spree and want to purchase the original license for a product. Non-fungible tokens often referred to as NFTs, are blockchain-based tokens that each represent a unique asset like a piece of art, digital content, or media. An NFT can be thought of as an irrevocable digital certificate of ownership and authenticity for a given asset, whether digital or physical.

If this is all starting to feel like you’re entering a mind warp then check out this Youtube video – we think it breaks things down easily and with a bit of much-needed humour.

Photo Credit Andres Reisinger

Seminal Players in the architectural and design worlds.

So what does the Metaverse mean for architecture and designers? One advantage is there are no limits to how fantastical the designs can be. This also makes the whole process more sustainable as no materials are used until a piece has been approved. The use of NFTs is attractive to designers as it means their design is traceable to them and in the case of a digital print cannot be replicated without their permission and some form of payment exchange. Giving much more autonomy and ownership to the original source as explained here by Argentinian 3D artist, Andres Reisinger:

“For artists, being able to sell artwork in digital form directly to a global audience of buyers without using an auction house or gallery allows them to keep a significantly greater portion of the profits they make from sales,” he said. 

 Reisinger was always drawn to the digital spheres since a young age and has been quoted as saying that whilst he enjoyed gaming he was more interested in creating his own worlds with his own rules. His technical skills and precisions led him to pursue a graphic design course at Buenos Aires University and his love of music inspired him to explore the visual aspect of composing. 

Photo Credit Andres Reisinger

In 2018 his digital rendering of a chair called Hortensia adorned with thousands of pale pink petals went viral and prompted him to turn this into a real-life product with the help of Mooi. since then his avant-garde reputation has propelled him into being one of the most exciting pioneers of design and architecture in the Metaverse. In early 2021 ten of his virtual pieces sold within 10 minutes in an NFT online auction, with the most expensive non-existent item fetching almost $70,000. Five pieces were to be created into digital products for the respective buyers.

Other players to look our for  are Arsham, Misha Kahn, Alexis Christodolou, design studio Six N Five and Hard Architects.

The shadow side of the Metaverse

The advantages of the Metaverse may seem egalitarian, for one, no central bank systems will control the economic ecosystem although it is safe to say that early companies with the technical knowledge and massive funding will have a similar advantage as those in a real capitalist society do. However, it is worth pondering the darker sides of the Metaverse. The virtual reality technology and data banks that use AI all require vast amounts of energy that emit huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. So we need to push for more climate- and carbon-neutral ways of conducting the digital. 

The good news is that cleaner more sustainable solutions are being heavily researched and with big investments being made amounting to billions being made it cannot be overlooked.

What’s going on?

Whilst the Metaverse may still be in its early stages, the human connection aspect such as meeting a loved one in another country whenever you want to, learning about the Amazon without getting on a plane via a pair of oculus and exploring more sustainable designs in architecture and furniture before you buy all seem more alluring and ethical.

Photo credit Remy Gieling


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