arch+ech

architecture + technology

molecular city

AR installation at Future Places, Portugal.


Tasos Varoudis with Roberto Bottazzi & Tobias Klein
Future Places, Porto, Portugal, October 2010 ( http://futureplaces.org/ )



By taking advantage of Augmented Reality technology developed by ‘arch+ech’, Molecular City allows the public to create their collective hybrid city by superimposing virtual architectures onto the existing city of Porto. The physical space of Porto becomes a canvas constantly connected to the endless possibilities provided by virtual space.

As technology increases in computational power and user-friendliness, portable devices will be completely tuned in people’s needs and desires to their environment. The future of augmented reality technology [AR] will be urban. However, if fields as diverse as music or the military have already capitalized on such radical advancements, architecture and urbanism are still largely unaffected by this revolution. Architects still see themselves as the solitary creators of static physical objects seeking to single-handedly control urban experience.


Molecular City challenges this outdated vision by speculating alternative modes of planning and experiencing the twenty-first century city. Similar to how simple molecules can be aggregated to form complex organic compounds such as proteins, Molecular City imagines a condition in which the overall complexity and richness of the urban experience is the result of a multitude of diverse narratives and singular gestures. The construction of such environment emphasizes contingency and discontinuity over exactness and stability.


By taking advantage of AR technology, Molecular City allows the public to create their collective hybrid city by superimposing virtual architectures onto the existing city of Porto via computer projection. The physical space of Porto becomes a canvas constantly connected to the endless possibilities provided by virtual space. The role of the architect recedes to the background; the city transforms into a gameboard where cultural desires and needs can be seamlessly projected and negotiated. Conflations of place, scale, emotion and history overlay to give rise to a hybrid (half real, half virtual) urban condition. A library of digital architectural models to play with were provided via RCA’s ADS1 student models and free downlodable models from the Internet.

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