Architecture and the internet: Designing places in Cyberspace

  • Kalay Y
  • Marx J
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Cyberspace, as the information space is called, has become accessible in the past decade through the World Wide Web. And although it can only be experienced through the mediation of computers, it is quickly becoming an alternative stage for everyday economic, cultural, and other human activities. As such, there is a potential and a need to design it according to place-like principles. Making places for human inhabitation is, of course, what architects, landscape architects, town planners, and interior designers have been doing in physical space for thousands of years. It is curious, therefore, that Cyberspace designers have not capitalized on the theories, experiences, and practices that have been guiding physical place-making. Rather, they have adopted the woefully inadequate document metaphor: instead of web-places we find web-pages. 3D environments that closely mimic physical space are not much better suited for making Cyber-places: they are, by and large, devoid of essential characteristics that make a place different from a mere space, and only rarely are they sensitive to, and take advantage of, the peculiarities of Cyberspace. We believe that this state of affairs is temporary, characteristic of early adoption stages of new technologies. As the Web matures, and as it assumes more fully its role as a space rather than as means of communication, there will be a growing need to design it according to place-making principles rather than document-making ones. By looking at physical architecture as a case study and metaphor for organizing space into meaningful places, this paper explores the possibility of organizing Cyberspace into spatial settings that not only afford social interaction, but, like physical places, also embody and express cultural values. At the same time, because Cyberspace lacks materiality, is free from physical constraints, and because it can only be inhabited by proxy, these places may not necessarily resemble their physical counterparts.

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