Architecture, NFT and metaverse or ordinary cynicism

@ Jean-Michel Wilmotte

Since April 2022, the Cité internationale de Paris has been selling the NFT drawings of a virtual architecture project by Jean-Michel Wilmotte, sold as a project by the Maison de Ukraine. A settler to follow in the metaverse?

If virtual worlds have existed since the birth of science fiction, and we have been accustomed to visualizing them from an early age, in recent years the rise of the metaverse, a highly augmented reality, has prompted architects and actors in the design of space to question possible interactions. between the reality of architecture and its digital avatar.

Until now, the thinking had remained far-sighted for the architect-designers. For many, the digital model is not yet a fundamental everyday thing, even if BIM offers possibilities that, if they could be used at full capacity, they would be a fantastic maintenance management tool for complex buildings, a living memory of the tripaille to be anticipated in time the evolution of the life of buildings.

The La Maison de dell’Ukraine project, conceived by Jean-Michel Wilmotte, on the initiative of the foundation of the Cité universitaire internationale de Paris, and sold since spring in the form of an NFT, brings with it a series of questions.

In April 2022, the Cité internationale universitaire de Paris wanted to welcome and support up to 500 university students affected by the war in Ukraine from the beginning of the 2022 academic year. This is why the foundation had asked the person skilled in the art to imagine a virtual house ” but strongly rooted in reality to unite Ukrainian citizens as the statement explained. This is a first surprise since it would have seemed logical that the project, even in the event of an emergency, was carried out with the assistance of a Ukrainian architect.

That’s where the story takes some concentration. The starting point was to welcome 500 students in the 43 existing houses and offer them all the logistics they would need. Specifically, no construction in sight but a virtual project. However, since its creation at the end of the First World War, the Cité internationale has not lacked references in architectural terms with the works of Prouvé, Le Corbusier, Foujita … in this regard, the heritage belongs to the Universities of Paris, represented by the stationery.

Let’s quickly move on to choosing the architect selected to participate in such a project. The Cité internationale is a foundation governed by private law and remains recognized as being of public utility. Since 2017, the national foundation Cité internationale universitaire de Paris is chaired by Jean-Marc Sauvé, incidentally honorary vice president of the Council of State. Did this great machine, of historically humanist inspiration, have no choice but to set its eyes on the author of a Poutinian ode in the heart of Paris * to build the wind around a Maison de Ukraine that does not exist? And who will never exist?

The agency imagined a reminiscence of constructivist architecture, whose volumes and use of materials are reminiscent of the Ukrainian flag. ” This digital work is also a way to highlight art and culture as a response to the din and destruction of war. “, Adds the press kit. Some people suspect that a virtual constructivist pavilion imagined in 2022 is a beautiful quote from Ukrainian culture!

@ Jean-Michel Wilmotte

The constructivist pavilion project consists of three drawings, it was probably necessary to proceed quickly with the facade, a bedroom and a collective space with a piano. The degree of involvement of the details leaves you speechless. These works were then converted to NFT to be sold in order to finance the arrival of the students from September. The starting price is 0.05 ETH (Ethereum is another bitcoin-like virtual currency) or around $ 86. The code architecture isn’t that expensive.

Beyond the cynicism and the incredible lack of culture shown here by the contracting authority, how can the state support this initiative? If the coffers are empty, why throw the money away working on virtual projects? Does Cité U no longer have the financial and intellectual means to make architects work on the architecture of their time? Yes, time is running out for Ukrainian students. Since they have to be housed in various houses on campus, what is virtual architecture for? Wouldn’t the auction of drawings be enough for the project that took place this summer with Sotheby’s?

Another question, all in all very simple, is that of the definition of architecture. Should it be designed to claim the title? In absolute terms, can we say that the buyers offered themselves a house, or rather a facade, a bedroom and a room with a piano, designed by Jean-Michel Wilmotte, to be implanted in a virtual reality, without any technical constraints? , climatic, contextual or even constructive?

If Geeks like to imagine that the metaverse is the world of tomorrow, humans, in flesh and blood, will always need architects to also design the premises useful for the production and housing of associated technologies, for this reason in a certain reality.

And then there is what falls within the realm of the opportunist at a time when the profession is in crisis one after another: crisis of materials, crisis of hiring, crisis of wages, crisis of recognition … architecture must meet more and more challenges, environmental, constructive, social at a time when the planet is suffocating, resources are becoming scarce and billions of people around the world are left without a protective roof. Couldn’t the time of architects who have the possibility be more usefully used by confronting reality rather than becoming mere creators of content without purpose?

@ Jean-Michel Wilmotte

The temptation to flirt with the metaverse is great because it sells a city to design contrary to our current lifestyle. Without norms, without faith, without law, in every individuality, without time limit, without constructive limit. A world without rules could, on the other hand, offer a playground to rediscover the taste for experimentation, experimentation or even the preliminary model of the project. Looking at the work for sale, nothing is less certain.

The experiment carried out by the Cité internationale de Paris has no consequences for the profession of architect. However, the metaverse now warns of other dangers that threaten the profession and the relationship the general public may have with the image of the built environment.

It was in fact already necessary to compose with the madness of the return of the owners of private works who, in the name of a sacrosanct financial balance, participate in real estate speculation with the complicity of city policies. They had already fully understood the usefulness of virtual reality in a marketing spirit to help prospective buyers better visualize the possible arrangement of space with enough blinders to avoid misfire.

These same promoters already abound in the virtual space by proposing opaque real estate speculation systems without legal protections. With NFTs, even the placements of ” Pope even the stone-paper mode finds its equivalent in the void.

Should architects be complicit in a new and increasingly meaningless way of designing?

Lia Müller

* Read our article Poutine project manager, it’s great

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