It is now common wisdom that the concepts of “authenticity” and “experience-driven lifestyle” have been reduced to stale and meaningless buzzwords from the less creative mid-2010s commercials. The quest for authenticity was sharply called a hoax as far back as 2011 by a Canadian philosopher Andrew Potter. He points out, that though people who search for authenticity reject the consumerism and spectacle of contemporary culture, they in fact participate in conspicuous consumption of goods branded as authentic. The experience itself became a commodity, something to own rather than live through. A good illustration of this change is a trip to an expensive resort in a faraway place that is not yet plagued by mass tourism.
But does it mean that the qualities that we call “authenticity” or “experience-driven” have also lost their substance? Or do they still represent feasible trends and demands of the modern human?
Illustration: a stay at a luxury resort is about owning rather than living. "Kudadoo Maldives Private Island" by Yuji Yamazaki Architecture.
Psychologist Erich Fromm was one of the first to spot the difference between active living and the passive owning of things and experiences. In his famous book “To have or to be” (1976) he argues that the problem lies with how we treat objects and experiences rather than the objects and experiences themselves. “Being” comes from aware contemplation, an active seeing of the world that we perceive with all our senses rather than through a screen.
The value of this mode of communication with the world became obvious during the Covid pandemic. The lockdowns prevented people from leaving their homes, engaging in social activities, and seeing their relatives and friends. People who saw one another only in Zoom sessions and the nature in the Netflix videos felt strongly alienated from the universe. This is why there was so much talk about slowing down, being mindful and content. Many saw the lockdown as an opportunity to make their life less digital rather than more digital, cure the burnout caused by the constant flow of digital information, and reconnect with reality.
Architecture has been at the forefront of both the digitalization trend and the quest to reconnect with the physical reality. Buildings can be tailored either to living in or looking at on the screen. They become “authentic” not only because their construction requires unique craft and skill, but also through their design. The mass and texture of such buildings, the air, atmosphere, and nature around them produce strong emotion and sharp perception.
Illustration: hyperreal visualization supports atmospheric experience-based design. "Lennik" by Iddqd Studio.
But even the most tangible architecture requires a digital visualization, which by its nature alienates the viewer from the space it represents. However, the principles of hyperreal archviz allow abolishing this contradiction. Quasi-multisensory, atmospheric, sophisticated images highlight similar qualities in the buildings they depict. And the buildings that have those qualities (textures, mass and tangibility, atmosphere) look better in hyperreal visualization. The architecture and the visualization support and strengthen one another.
Hyperreal visualization reminds us that we are able to perceive any space – real or imaginary – with agency, awareness, and engagement. And this is the moment when true experience manifests.
Header illustration: "Lumos" by Iddqd Studio.