How architects are using virtual reality to walk through buildings that don’t yet exist, by Carolina Miranda

A rendering of the Orange County Museum of Art by Morphosis Architects. The firm is using virtual reality to allow for immersive views of the building. (Morphosis Architects)

In the studios of Morphosis Architects in Culver City, it is possible to step into the lobby of the new Orange County Museum of Art — even though construction on the museum, which will occupy an empty lot in Costa Mesa, isn’t scheduled to begin until sometime next year. By donning a pair of virtual reality goggles, however, you can stand before the planned museum’s large outdoor plaza at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts and step into the soaring atrium, where, if you look up, you’ll see a pair of sky bridges and a skylight.

Two-dimensional renderings (such as the ones you see on this page) can deliver a general idea of a building’s form and scale. But virtual reality’s uncanny ability to convey a sensation of depth and three-dimensionality can create the impression that you are standing in the middle of OCMA’s lobby in Costa Mesa — all without leaving the technology desk at Morphosis.

“It is total immersion,” says Arne Emerson, who oversees business development at the firm. “Virtual reality is the closest thing to seeing that is on a one-to-one scale.”

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