A trigger image from Augmented Australia 1914-2014 – Minifie van Schaik, Caught Unawares, 2013, Sydney.

8 April 2014 — Augmented reality technology could lead to more sustainable built environment outcomes through lessening the need to physically build structures, the developer of a mobile app for the Venice Biennale has said.

The director of Perth-based multidisciplinary architecture practice felix, Professor Rene Van Meeuwen, said there were sustainability benefits to come out of augmented reality technology such as that demonstrated in the Augmented Australia app, which acts to revive Australia’s unbuilt projects as part of the country’s contribution to the 14th International Architecture Exhibition at Venice Biennale.

“When it comes to architecture, it’s a waste management issue – so augmented reality is a contemporary way of thinking about sustainability and architecture,” Professor Van Meeuwen said.

“A building’s footprint can be hugely reduced by not building it in full – it’s about looking at what parts we can turn into augmented reality. For example in the future, with the Google Glass technology, a meeting room could be designed in augmented reality that people from different sides of the globe could ‘sit in’ and have a meeting as though they are in the same room. [The room is] constructed in augmented reality rather than being tangibly built.”

Trigger image from Augmented Australia 1914-2014 – Harry Seidler, Olympic Stadium, Princes Park, Melbourne. Competition entry 1952.

The project, Augmented Australia 1914-2014, was created by felix along with architects Sophie Giles and Professor Simon Anderson from the University of Western Australia, and Professor Philip Goad of the University of Melbourne.

The app takes users on a virtual journey through some of Australia’s most compelling unrealised projects using 3D augmented models, images, voiceovers and animations.

Those who download the free app onto iPhone or Android can point their phones at images (pictured in this article) to trigger the virtual material. And those in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Perth will also be able to take their smart phones to a specific location and “walk through” a real-world scale model of an unbuilt cathedral.

A digital reconstruction of the 1958 Nervi Cathedral, GPS-located in Australian capital cities for an augmented real-world tour.

The exhibition at Venice will showcase 11 historical and 11 contemporary Australian projects from the past 100 years, which were never built for a multitude of reasons. Australia’s temporary pavilion for the exhibition, Cloud Space, will house trigger images of each project and form a physical portal to Augmented Australia, while real-world scale 3D models will be geographically positioned around Venice.

Professor Van Meeuwen said the exhibition was important as it was effectively pioneering augmented reality technology.

“It’s challenging though as there’s no precedent,” he said. “No one has done an exhibition of this scale with buildings of this scale – in a sense the exhibition is a precursor to the future.”

Australian Pavilion Commissioner Janet Holmes à Court said the exhibition provided a bridge between architecture and the public by demonstrating the process, time and alternatives behind significant public works.

“This is a groundbreaking exhibition that tells the story of Australia’s architectural heritage as never before through reimagining and hi-tech innovation,” she said.

Augmented Australia can be downloaded from the App Store (iOS) or Google Play (Android).