The former industrial areas of Bratislava are currently transforming into a great city centre full of glass-facade skyscrapers, luxurious apartments and office spaces. Different real estate companies are building multiple projects on a relatively small site, which causes concerns about the density of population, traffic load and gentrification of the new and neighbouring districts. The public consent with this development was generated mainly based on visually seductive architecture visualisations and aggressive PR strategies. The visuals communicating the future district sold an enchanting utopian vision of a new city, that is easy to fall for, but will only hardly come true.
Virtual Develoutopia is a series of public happenings that respond to the curious vision of developer utopias using visual communication and virtual reality in the form of an interactive site-specific installation. The first public event took place in the surroundings of temporary Bratislava Bus Station on Saturday, the 9th of November and offered the possibility to experience the bizarre synthesis of developers’ utopian fantasy in virtual reality. Visitors could find themselves in a fictitious 3D bubble that lets them experience the specific public space as it “should always have been”. It combines the visual and verbal language that Bratislava real estate companies use to communicate their projects to the public – including specific citations from architectural visualizations, promo videos and slogans of PR texts.
Virtual reality (VR) is increasingly being used in marketing as well as games – including the real estate sector. More and more developers are introducing virtual reality as a new tool in real estate sales, in addition to hyperrealistic architectural visualizations, drone shots and physical 3D models. The presentation of interiors and exteriors via VR is a great success, as it enables customers to “experience” space virtually on their own. The main argument is that the technical drawings are difficult to understand, and it is almost impossible for most people to imagine the actual space. Architectural visualizations are not an ideal source of information, as they build on the emotivity of the overall impression rather than the presentation of specific details. Virtual reality seeks to substitute for personal viewing in a situation where the property does not yet exist and allows customers to view the layout of a particular apartment, unlike the sample apartment viewings. However, to what extent can the virtual reality be considered an accurate representation of reality, and how does the perception of spatial relationships experienced through VR glasses affect our judgment?
A person in a virtual 3D bubble can quickly forget the fact that he perceives a simulation of space, indicating the ease with which the human senses can be manipulated. In 3D projection, space appears to be more realistic than 2D, but this type of display favours an overall impression rather than a detailed analysis of individual details. Being personally in virtual reality means giving space to an emotional perception – which in the case of buying an apartment is of some significance, but does not allow keeping the necessary distance for more critical processing of perceived information
These virtual 3D collages were designed as a critical view of the utopian nature of the future city centre vision, which does not take into account the individual realities typical of city life, deliberately excludes the diversity of the population or urban culture and replaces it with cheap attractions such as street food festivals and circus art. The absurdity of such a vision is given to the viewer through a visual hyperbola without commentary, leaving room for one’s critical judgment and the creation of an opinion on the ongoing development, which does not concern only the owners of real estate properties, but equally all residents of the city. At the same time, the project’s ambition is to raise awareness of the overall social responsibility for the consent of the city development and thus to encourage the active participation of the population in public discussion and to oversee the finalization of development in line with expectations.
These “virtual bubbles” are available to dive in with your own VR headset, or to visit in your browser via following links:
This project is part of a wider critical research in the field of visual communication and its transparency by Lenka Hamosova and collaboration with the Open Design Studio and Critical Daily, an an online magazine about the critical practice of graphic designers.