Architecture & Design

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. At its core, it supports self-expressionuniqueness, and diversity. Therefore, it is more inclusive.
  4. It challenges both extrinsic and intrinsic rulestransgresses 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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