Luke Pearson, Associate Professor, Bartlett School of Architecture, Faculty of the Built Environment, UCL, Sandra Youkhana, Lecturer and PhD student, The Bartlett School of Architecture, Faculty of the Built Environment, UCL.
Virtual real estate is booming. In December 2021, one buyer spent USD 450,000 on a plot of land in rapper Snoop Dogg’s virtual world. Which begs the question of what will be built there.
In the physical world, cities are shaped by innumerable forces. Some are desirable, designed in conversation with local communities. Others are not, subverting building regulations for financial gain.
By contrast, space in the metaverse – the version of the internet comprising immersive games and other virtual reality environments – has so far been smooth, clean and very ordinary. This is despite its links to emerging, “disruptive” technologies such as cryptocurrencies.
Our research shows that while designing virtual worlds gives people a creative voice, it can also reveal the infinitely more complex social, societal, and historical ways by which physical places are formed.