How the not-too-distant future of shopping will look like? Designer Allison Crank tries to answer this question using, besides her imagination, a virtual reality headset. Her vision of the evolution of shopping, urbanism and architecture for 2020 involves an immersive, mind-bending virtual reality shopping centre, where clients represented by avatars can co-design and order bespoke objects.
„The Reality Theatre: Shopping in the Ludic Century”, a Masters Thesis created earlier this year by Allison Crank at Design Academy Eindhoven, is based on an assumption that shopping architecture is the most common form of ‘third places’, which are the social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of a home and a workplace. It is a space for public activities where people can see and be seen.
The designer started her research with the Greek agora, to the arcades of Paris, department stores, shopping malls and the experience economy. Despite the rich history of shopping architecture, with the rapid growth of e-retail, material shops and malls are facing the threat of obsolescence right now, burying a the same time the social aspects of doing shopping among other clients.
Besides having the knowledge about history of shopping architecture, Crank also follows news about the gaming industry and emerging technologies, including virtual and augmented reality. Combining all her interests, she suggests that physical stores should be transformed into virtual playgrounds for experiences, where consumers become actors with the ability to perform, spectate, play and indulge themselves in the environment.
Shopping is a public performance. Stores are theatres where a client can be both performer and spectator. What if stores were designed as stages? What if shopping were a script for new stories? Designing tools for a play allows for new stories to emerge.
Watch the video interview embedded below for the better understanding of the designer’s idea. I met Allison Crank and asked her few questions at the Design Academy Eindhoven Graduation Show 2015, which is one of the must-see events of annual Dutch Design Week.
One of the main features of The Reality Theatre, described as „urban shopping machine in the form of a VR play”, allows the consumer to have an active role in the creation of bespoke objects they are willing to order.
In the demo mode, visitors assume the role of Ms. Smith, a customer in search of a new chair in The Reality Theatre, from the moment she enters, to her interactions with the designer, who in this case is a giraffe, to when she leaves.
How the role of a designer will change in such digital environment? In Allison Crank’s opinion, designers will become directors who sell their know-how, experience and style, helping clients in the process of designing new personalised items online.
Clients who wear a virtual reality headset on their heads, navigate through the virtual shopping mall full of psychedelic graphics, neon signs, escalators, free-roaming animals and avatars of other people (the question is: why there are only women?), using a game controller that they hold in their hands.
Allison Crank is a designer and filmmaker working at the intersection of technology, media and architecture. Her work ranges from illustrations, animations, virtual reality and spatial design. She was born in New York, now she lives in The Netherlands and Denmark. If you have any questions regarding „The Reality Theatre: Shopping in the Ludic Century” project, please contact Allison directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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