Visions made flesh

Words:
Stephen Cousins

Virtual reality headset gives vicar actual vision of his dreams for his church

View of interior showing historic church wall.
View of interior showing historic church wall.

The idea of a vicar wearing a virtual reality headset might sound ridiculous, but that is exactly what happened when architect Purcell trialled the technology as part of the planning process for a grade II listed church in East Sheen, south west London.

Christ Church is a ragstone-built English Gothic church with unusual stone and render decorations on a wall adjacent to a proposed new annexe.  The virtual reality headset, developed by tech start-up Visual-Wise in collaboration with Purcell, was used to demonstrate to client, the Borough of Richmond, and the vicar, Revd Stephen Griffith, that the new scheme would integrate well with the existing building.

The technology displays a first person view of a digital CAD model, which updates in real time in response to the wearer's head movements, or when navigating around the model using a hand-held controller.

The idea is to provide a more accurate sense of the scale and detail of a proposal, going beyond 2D drawings and renders offer in way that is more easily interpreted by clients or planning and conservation officers.

  • View of the proposal featuring decorative laser-cut metal screen.
    View of the proposal featuring decorative laser-cut metal screen.
  • View of proposal in context.
    View of proposal in context.
12

After using the system, Revd Griffith commented:  'When we were struggling to find out what the drawings meant, we were presented with this new headset and it was astonishing. For the first time I really had an idea of what our dreams were turning into: dreams made visible!

'It was wonderful to walk around the hall, look up and see so well what we soon hope to see in reality.'

The effectiveness of the simulation is strongly affected by the quality and detail of the 3D model because it fills the user’s field of vision. As a result, certain realistic details like light fittings, skirting boards and door furniture must be included to allow users to feel like they are in a real environment.

Future versions of the headset are likely to include augmented reality features and its developer claims Visual-Wise will become a best practice method of showing interventions in listed buildings within sensitive contexts, and perhaps become a supplement to the verified views methodology.


 

Latest

As if winning top awards including the Stephen Lawrence Prize and Don't Move, Improve! wasn't enough, Storrar's restless imagination continues to challenge cross-disciplinary boundaries

Storrar's visionary research opens up whole new worlds for architecture

Kessler can certainly deliver projects – the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale is next on her list – but just as impressive is her ambition to improve the human structures around them

Kessler is a force for good in the industry. Here's why

The creator of the UK's largest glass sports floor is an energetic architecture advocate, already reaching out to the next generation

Co-opting digital technology with the future of architecture in her sights

Byker’s design principles of life cycle costs, energy usage and community involvement remain ‘special’ in housing, 40 years later. They should be routine

Dan Kerr of MawsonKerr on why he so admires Ralph Erskine’s scheme

Simpson & Brown has applied dedication and painstaking detail to recreate a masterpiece – and bring it to the modern world

Simpson & Brown reinstates Willow Tea Rooms’ full elegance