The Problem of Mass-Produced Architecture in the Metaverse
Expert insights on the architecture and design philosophy for building Metaverse environments.
A guest article from Matej Gyárfáš, Founder & Partner, Better Virtual Architecture.
As more players are popping up in the field of virtual architecture, we keep returning to an old problem: custom-made architecture, vs. mass-produced catalog architecture.
When I talk about custom-made and mass-produced, I refer not only to houses but practically to any building with at least some level of utility in the Metaverse.
At Better, we think that custom-made virtual architecture is the right way for the Metaverse. In the course of this article, I will try to explain our reasoning.
How did we get to mass-produced architecture?
The answer lies in the early industrial period of the 19th century and the rise of the factories. With modernization, a need for efficiency and cheapness arose, and the lower social classes were also aspiring for middle-class homes.
The result were cheap dwellings mass-produced by thousands. This left the architects in an undesirable position and resulted in their withdrawal from a large part of the building process during the early industrial period. During the next 150 years, and effectively until today, we can still observe this duality of custom-made buildings and mass-produced ones.
Now, I am the last person who would think that things work the same way in the physical world and the Metaverse, but in the case of mass-produced buildings, the problems are quite similar.
So, what does mass-produced architecture mean in the Metaverse context? It’s simple: a company produces a series of space NFTs of the same building or space. Numbers-wise, it’s usually around 500 to 10,000 copies.****Before I start with the negatives though, I consider it fair to also look at two positive aspects.
The Positives Of Mass-Produced Architecture In The Metaverse
1. Mass-produced architecture is cheaper – Yes, this is usually the case. If a company produces a thousand copies of the same build, it can indeed offer each copy for a lower price.
2. Mass-produced architecture democratizes access – Yes, and this is directly connected to the lower price. However, considering the negatives mentioned below, I am in doubt if it’s worth it.
Now, let’s go to the negatives:
The Negatives of Mass-Produced Architecture In The Metaverse
1. Mass-produced architecture suffers from rigidity – However harsh this might sound, mass-produced architecture is always rigid, since it has to cater to a very large group of users/clients and their tastes. It does not provide what the user/client wants and needs, but instead it imposes. Why would we even want to repeat this in the Metaverse?
2. Mass-produced architecture suffers from premature standardization – When the low price is the main object, mass production tends to prolong the life of designs which should be refurbished. Let’s say a company releases a thousand copies of the same build. They sell this one design for a year. In a rapidly evolving field such as the Metaverse, one year is a very long time. So, while with custom-made architecture, you can adapt to the new possibilities and exploit new opportunities, I highly doubt the mass-produced NFT builds will be updated, or re-minted.
3. Mass-produced architecture suppresses diversity – There’s a lot of talk about making the Metaverse a much more open and diverse place. This will hardly happen with mass-produced architecture, which, at its core, suppresses self-expression, cultural, ethnic, sexual, or other diversity.
4. Mass-produced architecture is monotonous – While in the physical world, many would stand against a neighborhood where every house is a radical stylistic piece of its own, the Metaverse is a different place, with different utility. A place of challenging established rules, transgressing borders, and experimentation. I hope we want to keep it that way.
5. Mass-produced architecture restricts utility – Similar to the standardization of esthetics, mass production also has a negative effect on utility. We do a variety of activities in the Metaverse and, as I mentioned elsewhere, architecture must reflect the expected activities to a much higher degree in a metaverse setting, than in the physical world. Thus, in the case of mass-production, the utility of the spaces is only assumed, and for a very wide spectrum of users. This might end up with spaces not being used because they do not offer the utility expected by the user.
Why is Custom-Made Architecture Better for the Metaverse?
- It caters to the specific needs of clients/users, both in esthetics and utility. Therefore, there is a much higher chance that it is going to be actually used.
- It is more adaptable, both during the process of building (imagine e.g. that the metaverse platform releases new features during the process of building), and after the building is finished. Custom-made architecture can be easily re-minted (upgraded).
- At its core, it supports self-expression, uniqueness, and diversity. Therefore, it is more inclusive.
- It challenges both extrinsic and intrinsic rules, transgresses borders, invites experimentation, and hence leads to constant progress.
To Sum It Up
I know there is a market for mass-produced builds in the Metaverse, no question about that. However, I am certain that mass production in this case has a lot more to do with profit than the democratization of access and actual progress. In the Metaverse, everyone loves to call themselves builders. So let’s not forget: where mass-production expands, real building shrinks.
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