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Virtual reality in the service of user participation in architecture

Petric, Jelena and Maver, T.W. and Conti, G. and Ucelli, G. (2002) Virtual reality in the service of user participation in architecture. In: Proceedings of the CIB W78 Conference 2002 - Distributing Knowledge in Building. International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction, pp. 217-224.

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The issue of user participation in the processes of building and urban design is enjoying renewed attention following its relative neglect over the last 20 years due, in large measure, to significant advances in emerging information technologies, particularly multimedia, virtual reality and internet technologies. This paper re-established the theoretical framework for participatory design evolved in the late sixties and early seventies as part of the movement towards a more explicit design methodology and attempts an explanation of why the concept failed to gain commitment from the architectural and urban design professionals. The paper then gives an account of two significant developments in the evolution of the application of information technologies with which the authors have been engaged. These are: i. a responsive and interactive interface to wholly immersive and realistic virtual reality representations of proposed buildings and urban neighbourhoods. ii. an intuitive and platform-independent VR modelling environment allowing collaborative evolution of the scheme from within the virtual world. The impact of these IT developments is demonstrated in the context of the design of a leisure facility for a community of users with physical impairment.