The Metaverse as Opportunity for Architects: An Interview with Patrik Schumacher

As the world of Architecture finds itself on the edge over the recent Metaverse and NFT hype, Zaha Hadid Architects is at the forefront of innovation showing us exactly how to utilize Web 3 and its socio-economic opportunities for architects, globally.

The topic has become especially relevant at the beginning of this year, with more and more platforms publishing about it. All the recent hype forces us to evaluate our role as architects and whether or not we want to consider servicing the digital realm.

After seeing a number of recent publications about the "Cyber-Urban" Metaverse City and how Zaha Hadid Architects Presents Virtual Gallery Exploring Architecture, NFT's, and the Metaverse I decided to sit down with Patrick Schumacher himself and ask him about the practices recent investment into digital architecture.

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Courtesy of Mytaverse

Sara: Patrik, can you tell us more about the metaverse and opportunities you identified for your practice?

Patrik: The metaverse is being built as we speak, rapidly. But who is designing it? Who should design it? My thesis is that the design of the metaverse falls within the remit of the discipline of architecture and the wider design disciplines, not video game artists. According to my theory of architecture and design, video game developers/artists are not designers. They do not belong to the discipline of design, but to the entertainment industry. This does in no way imply a value judgement but simply notes a difference in purpose and criteria of success. The metaverse is where much of the architectural action and innovation will be happening in the coming period. I also believe that the metaverse offers a potent opportunity for parametricism – the only natively digital, computational and truly contemporary architectural style – to make strides toward the hegemony it long aspires to within the discipline.

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Courtesy of Mytaverse

S: How do you see the metaverse opportunities for architects manifest in positive impacts on society and the future of the built environment?

P: The metaverse I want to contribute to supports and becomes part of productive societal life and an integral part of social production and societal reproduction. This serious type of metaverse does not offer an alternate reality or second life or any escape from social reality or societal life, but instead enhances society and enables fulfilling, productive lives. Entertainment is not altogether excluded, but it is only a small part of this. Fiction plays a productive role in societal self-reflection and education, but the world of video games and many of the virtual worlds and metaverses tied up with the world of video games are all too often ideologically regressive fantasy worlds. To be sure, the video game industry has developed all the amazing digital technologies that are now ready to be emancipated and transferred to greater tasks. The computer game market is big, but it is only a small niche compared to the generalised concept of virtual interaction spaces that will now invite and frame all domains of human interaction: knowledge exchange, professional collaboration, cultural communication, art, education, political engagement, etc. We will never get away from real physical architecture altogether, as long as we have bodies. Also, there will probably never be a total virtual substitution even of all physically embodied social communications. However, no domain will remain untouched by these new opportunities, and no physical space will remain without virtual competition and potential substitution.

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Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

S: What, in your opinion, is the role of the architect in the metaverse?

P: The life process of society is a communication process that is ordered via a rich typology of communicative situations. It is the designed environment, both physical and digital, that distributes, frames, stabilises and coordinates these distinct situations and unfolds them within a designed order that allows us to self-sort as participants of various specific social interactions. The designed spaces – real or virtual – are themselves communications: they are communications that define, premise and prime the communicative interactions that are expected to take place within the respectively framed territory. 

All design is about framing social interactions. This is also true for virtual interactions. Any design project in this space involves the three parts of the architect’s project I have distinguished in my theory of architecture: the organisational project, the phenomenological project and the semiological project. In the context of the metaverse, I must add the dramaturgical project, representing interaction design. The semiological project is crucial: While all urban spaces are also information-rich navigation and interaction spaces, this information-rich communicative charge and capacity is the very essence of all virtual spaces and the metaverse.  To design architectural projects, real or virtual, implies the development of a spatio-visual language, with a much enhanced communicative capacity, to create navigable and legible information-rich environments for multiple layered societal interactions, purposes and audiences. The metaverse promises co-location synergies, just like cities, and an immersive 3D layered visual field makes many more interaction offerings simultaneously navigable, recognisable and accessible than 2D pages with scroll down menus. How to maintain perceptual tractability and legibility in the face of richness and complexity is the designer’s task and core competency with respect to both city and metaverse.

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Courtesy of Mytaverse

S: Do you see any alternative opportunities for architects, which are worth exploring?

P: There is another reason why architecture will take the lead in metaverse design: All organisations – firms, cultural institutions, charities, etc. – will host virtual spaces in the metaverse. Most of them will retain their urban premises too. It makes sense that both physical and virtual premises are congenial extensions of each other, and are designed together. I further predict that our physical urban and architectural environments will transform and become interfaces to these virtual worlds. This means users can enter the virtual worlds not only individually from their homes via headsets or laptops but together with others via large panoramic screens and other spatial interfaces. We’ll experience the metaverse from shared physical social spaces, from within our work spaces and public urban spaces. So I predict a mixed reality and a cyber-urban fusion. If this is true, it is again important to design real and virtual spaces together, as a continuum. 

Architecture and the design disciplines must gear up to take on this task and a massive, soon snowballing market.

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Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

Patrik Schumacher will speak at the Disrupt Symposium- The Largest Business of Architecture virtual gathering, planned to take place on 1-5th May 2022. He will give a presentation about “opportunities in the metaverse” and disclose advice and step-by-step strategies architect entrepreneurs can implement today to better strategize for success as designers for the metaverse.

We will also have an in-depth conversation and break-out networking rooms dedicated to this topic. Disrupt brings to you practices and C-suite executives from the AEC industry to cover topics of Business Development, Marketing, Branding, Communications, Sales, Client Attraction Strategies, Financials, Practice Operations, Tools of Digital Transformation and more.

Some of the key companies involved are UnStudio, SOM, OMA-AMO, Snohetta, Safdie Architects, Zaha Hadid Architects, Perkins & Will, Gensler, ARUP and more. 

The event is generously supported by Graphisoft, HP, Chaos Group, Tunarch, and IE School of Architecture and Design. 

Join us, tickets are still available:

About this author
Cite: Sara Kolata. "The Metaverse as Opportunity for Architects: An Interview with Patrik Schumacher" 14 Apr 2022. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

Courtesy of Journee

专访扎哈事务所 Patrik Schumacher,元宇宙中建筑师的机遇

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