What Would Architecture Look Like in the Virtual Realm? See Inside a New Show of Gravity-Defying, A.I.-Generated Designs

Now on view at MAK Vienna, the show includes works by Charlotte Taylor, Andrés Reisinger, and more.

Andrés Reisinger, Hortensia (2018). Photo: © Andrés REISINGER.

As the virtual realm has grown in size and complexity, it’s become another space that we can inhabit. But what does design and architecture actually look like online? A new survey show at the Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna (MAK Vienna) reveals how this new, simulated world has enticed creators who enjoy working without the practical constraints that would confine their imaginations IRL.

The exhibition, titled “/imagine: A Journey Into the New Virtual,” is named for the “/image” command that is used to input text prompts into Midjourney, a generative A.I. tool that is particularly popular among artists interested in world-building. It is just one from a wide array of design strategies that are included in the show, from CGI rendering and 3D animation to V.R. and A.R. technologies.

Highlights include Material Speculation: ISIS (2015-16), a project by Iranian-Kurdish activist and artist Morehshin Allahyari that demonstrates technology’s potential for cultural conservation. In a process she has termed “digital decolonialism,” she created 3D-printed replicas of 12 precious artifacts that had been destroyed by ISIS and has stored in each a memory card containing rich contextual data from her own research.

The technology’s more fantastical, surreal possibilities are evident in design pieces by digital artists like Andrés Reisinger, whose Hortensia Chair went viral in 2018. Immersive “dreamscapes” that bring to life magical, other worlds include a pastel-toned reimagining of Marseille’s famous Calanques in Neo-Chemosphere (2023) by Charlotte Taylor and Anthony Authié, and the verdantly overgrown tennis courts of Smokebush Court (2020) by Studio Mary Lennox.

To help translate these digital creations into a traditional gallery context, the museum hired the architectural practice Some Place Studio, which built a custom display inspired by the ways in which virtual worlds tend to appear on screen.

See more images from the show below.

Alexis Christodoulou, Quantum Express (2022) at “/imagine: A Journey into The New Virtual” at MAK Museum. Photo: © kunst-dokumentation.com/MAK.

Leah Wulfman, My Mid Journey Trash Pile (2022) at “/imagine: A Journey into The New Virtual” at MAK Museum. Photo: © kunst-dokumentation.com/MAK.

Simone C. Niquille, HOMESCHOOL (2019) at “/imagine: A Journey into The New Virtual” at MAK Museum. Photo: © kunst-dokumentation.com/MAK.

SPAN (Matias del Campo &Sandra Manninger), The Doghouse (2023) using images generated using Midjourney at “/imagine: A Journey into The New Virtual” at MAK Museum. Photo: © kunst-dokumentation.com/MAK.

Genevieve Goffman, The View (2023) at “/imagine: A Journey into The New Virtual” at MAK Museum. Photo: © kunst-dokumentation.com/MAK.

Genevieve Goffman, Turn (2020). Photo: © Genevieve Goffman.

Leah Wulfman, My Mid Journey Trash Pile (2022). Photo: © Leah Wulfman.

Space Popular, The Fabric of Civic Teleportation (2021) Photo: © Space Popular.

Zyva Studio × Charlotte Taylor, New Chemosphere (2021).
Photo: © Zyva Studio × Charlotte Taylor.

“/imagine: A Journey into The New Virtual” is on view at MAK Vienna, Stubenring 5, 1010 Wien, Austria, through September 10.


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