In my College, “We commit ourselves to the changes required for a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment to better reflect all peoples who share this space.” In a School of Architecture, this space is real, it is physical, and the experience of real environments is the foundation of an inclusive, equitable educational experience. But is immersion in real environments an experience that is available to “all peoples”? The search for an answer reveals that poor, urban, and minority students have traditionally been underserved by environmental education. Can higher education create a more inclusive environmental education experience for all peoples? This project argues that it can, and it proposes innovative educational strategies and technologies to test that argument. As a pilot for the Nature-based Extended Reality (NXR) educational experience, our team will integrate XR experiences and technologies into the College of Design a graduate seminar. In this course, students work in teams to develop resilient community design strategies and building technologies to mitigate the effects of hurricanes, rising ocean levels, and other adverse climatic conditions. For Fall 2022, the project will be to design a “hub” that will allow the community to collaborate and exchange ideas both in a physical space and a virtual one. This integration of real and virtual environments provides the ideal design challenge for a course experimenting with extended reality tools and concepts. The design and educational challenges of engaging students virtually with a real, remote client and site is an ideal testbed for testing inclusive, immersive NXR tools and strategies. The logistical and financial challenges of working with a remote site and client are challenges facing nearly all design students. This NXR pilot project proposes to use NXR tools and strategies to simulate immersion in real environments and make that experience available to “all peoples”.
George Elvin is an Associate Professor of Architecture at North Carolina State University, where he explores Architecture for Extreme Environments. In 1981 he founded his own design-build firm, and in 1998 received his PhD in Architecture from the University of California at Berkeley. He has delivered lectures and workshops in over 25 countries. And he has been an Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Visiting Fellow at the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities.