Architecture in Metaverse

How virtual world impacts architecture?


1/20/2022 7 min read

Author Neal Stephenson in his science fiction novel "Snow Crash", used the term "Metaverse" for the first time back in 1992. Stephenson framed a world where lifelike avatars would meet in realistic 3D virtual reality environments. Since then, many developers have made this milestone on the way toward a real metaverse, an online virtual world that builds up VR (Virtual Reality), 3D holographic avatars, video games and other forms of communication. As the metaverse expands, it will offer a hyper-real alternative world for users to interact with.

But as an architect, the main question is why this new world matters for architects and designers and how can we play a significant role in this upcoming virtual world? We can answer this question by understanding a few contemporary terms in the virtual world such as "Metaverse", "NFT", and "Virtual Lands".


Definitely, It would be difficult to provide a particular definition for "the metaverse" due to its early development. However, defining "the metaverse" in 2022 could be similar to explaining "the Internet" back in the 1980s. A new form of communication is being built, but no one is really sure what this technology will ultimately look like in the future. 

But if you heard tech CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg (Meta Platforms, Inc.) or Satya Nadella (Microsoft Corporation) talk about this, "Metaverse" can be the future of the internet or even maybe our future lifestyle! So it is a big deal! "You've got your goggles on, 10 years from now, but they're just a pair of sunglasses that happens to have the ability to bring you into the metaverse experience," says John Riccitiello, CEO of Unity, one of the biggest video game software development companies.

It is essential to mention that there will not be just one metaverse. Instead, there will be many metaverses serving many different functions. These functions could include gaming, business, education, designing and more. A current example for this world that has already been built up could be Roblox, Decentraland and Sandbox. Roblox is a gaming platform and game creation system that permits players to play games and create games for others to play. The platform claims that it has 47 million daily users and that over half of American children use the platform. Decentraland and The Sandbox are other examples of current-day metaverses. However, unlike Roblox, both are fully decentralized metaverses. This means that there is not a controlling centralized entity governing the platforms. And both virtual worlds are built on top of the Ethereum blockchain. 


After the global pandemic, we noticed that the whole world's economy is significantly changing from a "real" economy to a "digital" economy. We have witnessed many retail stores close their shops, and commercial real estate owners are struggling as tenants leave the offices or downsize. In contrast, video conferencing companies such as "Zoom" have been enormously successful during the pandemic. Good or bad, COVID-19 has changed our work culture and lifestyle. And this matter speed-up the rising of e-commerce and transform businesses structure and expand our point of view on the economy.


NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token. "Non-fungible" easily means that something is unique and can't be replaced with something else. So, in a digital world, a bitcoin is fungible, which can trade one for another bitcoin, and you'll have exactly the same thing again. But a one of a kind trading item is non-fungible. NFTs are unique digital items that only can be purchased with cryptocurrency and can only have one official owner at a time. They're verified by the blockchain, where ownership can be publicly tracked and easily sold. NFTs can be anything digital such as drawings, music or a 3D model. But excitingly, it can also trade ownership rights to physical objects in the real world, as long as the object's title or ownership contract is tied to the NFT. So it may help real estate and crypto fans by giving them the possibility of trading the properties titles.

The beauty of NFT is royalties, which means giving the NFT creator a percentage of the sale price each time NFT is sold on a marketplace. NFT royalty payments are endless and are executed by smart contracts automatically. With most marketplaces, you can choose your royalty percentage.


Kyiv Apartment is the world's first NFT Real Estate Sale. This studio apartment is the first residential property sold using a smart contract on the blockchain in 2017. This brand new studio Apartment is located in one of the popular residential suburbs of Svyatoshino in the western part of Ukraine, Kyiv. An NFT Art Piece on the wall with licensed rights was also included in the deal. This unique NFT had access to apartment ownership transferred paperwork, digital apartment image, and a unique NFT by a famous Kyiv graffiti artist, Chizza. This Apartment was purchased via auction and paid 36 Ether, equivalent to USD 93,429.72.


Virtual property is still property, and it still exists even though it is intangible. It is precisely like website addresses, email addresses, and other accepted immaterial property objects like bank accounts, stocks, and derivatives.

As a result of entering the virtual world, investors are exploring new investment opportunities in this growing contemporary world. Buying virtual land in virtual worlds is one of these opportunities. Real estate has always been one of the most popular investment types, and now it's moving to the virtual realm. However, this intangible land only exists in virtual worlds, but just like actual land, these properties can be purchased using the specific land's currency. We can mention Decentraland again, which allows you to buy virtual land. This platform gives this opportunity to the users to build whatever they can imagine on plots of virtual land.

But what are the benefits of these lands at the moment?


Virtual land in the developing metaverse has been trading for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and it can be an excellent investment. For instance, in 2021, a piece of land was sold for more than USD 3,000,000 in Decentraland.

Also, investors can use their virtual pieces of land and earn an incomeThey can host an exclusive event or party and charge anyone who wants to attend. For a better understanding of this concept, Snoop Dogg American rapper, hosted an exclusive party on The Sandbox platform to reconstruct his real-life mansion. The condition of attending was to have an NFT, which acted as a pass and gave them access to the event.

Another perk of virtual land is giving this opportunity to investors to generate regular income from their virtual lands, precisely like an actual piece of land. For instance, it is possible to build a virtual house using NFTs on virtual land and rent it out monthly, or set up an NFT art gallery and rent the space to crypto artists to showcase their work in the metaverse. 


A virtual room can be designed with a view to the physical space, offering new possibilities for the function of the virtual world. The geometry of a virtual room is different from its equivalent physical one. For example, the walls for a room are essential in defining the boundaries; however, they might not be solid in a virtual world. In an actual room, Solid walls provide security, visual privacy, and sound transmission barriers. But, in a virtual space, the concept of boundary is irrelevant to the walls. Instead, visual existence implies when you are in the room or outside the room. Also, the functionality of the walls can be programmed. For instance, in the exclusive event that Snoop Dogg hosted, The security of a room was programmed to only allow specific people, in that case, people who own an NFT or have an invitation to enter, and regardless of the geometry of the wall, a person without permission cannot go through the wall. Ultimately this programming functionality provides security in a virtual space, not the wall.

The behaviour of the objects in a virtual world is a new consideration. Physical-world behaviour depends on an object's geometric, materials, and attributes in the "real" world. However, behaviour in a virtual world is just a programmed feature that presents new design possibilities. Although the architectural design is commented on the forms and places created, the functional aspects of physical architecture can influence the design of virtual worlds.


BIG YES! If you read all the above, you already know this virtual world is an excellent architectural opportunity. When a designer creates an architectural design, a 3D model, or an interior design in the virtual world, everyone can see the value of that design and purchase it. Or even they can make an NFT version of a "physical" design or a building and sell it online, and anyone who bought it can resell it or keep it forever as a collection. Furthermore, it could be scalable due to not relying on actual-world materials and resources. Also, these models do not require to obey any "actual" world restrictions or legislations, so architects have this opportunity to create whatever they are capable of without any limits and setbacks. Eventually, architects can create an authentic piece of art inside virtual worlds. Maybe metaverse can be a step between 3D architectural models and "actual" constructed one, a new twin digital brother.


DESIGNING VIRTUAL ARCHITECTURE - MARY LOU MAHER, SIMEON SIMOFF, NING GU, AND KOK HONG LAU - Key Centre of Design Computing, Bldg G04 - University of Sydney-Sydney, NSW 2006 Australia

Virtual Worlds and Metaverse Platforms: New communication and identity paradigm - N.Zagalo (Universidade do Minho, Portugal) - L.Morgado (University of Tras-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Portugal) - A.Boa-Ventura (University of Texas at Austin, USA)