Play: A Gaming & Virtual Reality WORKSHOP for Architecture

This four day workshop will borrow ideas and workflows from the gaming industry, and test their capacities as tools, mediums and perceptual devices for the production, representation and possible diffusion of architecture into a virtual reality.


Part design investigation, part technical workshop, participants will be introduced to a production methodology connecting standard 3D architectural packages with the Unity gaming development platform and the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Headset. Through lectures, demos and workshops, participants will be provided with the conceptual framing and technical knowledge required to assist them in the production of rich and interactive games that push the conceptual limits of virtual reality.

What new forms of activity can be envisioned for a virtual body, devoid of physical realities, or the burden of sensation? Where does the architectural object stop and its environment start, when one is tasked with the design of a world? What new forms of communication can be envisaged when publishing architectural projects through the medium of interactive games? And how does this all feel, if our exploration of this world is mediated by a Virtual Reality headset?

The workshop will culminate in an exhibition of the games developed by the participants, which will further serve as material for a panel discussion—to be hosted at the exhibition opening—about this emerging technological paradigm.

Dates: August 28-August 31 Friday-Monday (4 classes)
Times: 10:00 am-7:00 pm (6 hour sessions)
Location: The Bakery, Brooklyn
Price: Professionals - $500 USD; Students - $350 USD



  • Basic understanding of scripting concepts and techniques in Rhino 5 and Unity (Python and Javascript)
  • Experience creating complex environments in Unity
  • Ability to build and export games to Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset, for immersive interactions
  • Ability to integrate new skills into existing architectural design workflows

Prereqs & Preparation

No prior scripting or gaming experience is necessary. The workshop will serve as introduction to all key concepts and technical requirements. That said, patience, a logical approach and clarity of mind is enthusiastically welcomed!

All participants will need to bring their own laptops with Unity, 3DS Max and Rhino 5 already installed (all are available for free download or as one month trials). Oculus Rift headsets will be provided for use during the workshop.


Rhino, Python for Rhino 5, Unity, Javascript for Unity, 3ds Max, Zbrush

Unity: Unity is a powerful and flexible development platform for creating multiplatform 2D and 3D games and interactive experiences.
Oculus Rift: The Oculus Rift is a new virtual reality headset that lets players step inside their favorite games and virtual worlds.


The workshop will run daily from 10:00 am till 7:00 pm, with short breaks for coffee and a one hour break for lunch. Each day will begin with a theory lecture, which will introduce key design concepts and discuss relevant references. This will be followed by technical demonstrations. During the afternoon, participants will develop their individual projects with assistance from the instructors.

Fri Aug 28
Day 1: Objects
The first day will introduce the concepts and ambitions of the workshop. Participants will draw from databases of existing 3D models to create scaleless architectural objects.

Sat Aug 29
Day 2: Environments
Participants will create atmospheres and environments in Unity. Objects will acquire scale from their new contexts.

Sun Aug 30
Day 3: Interaction
Participants will port their designs to the Oculus Rift.

Mon Aug 31
Day 4: Mediation
Participants will demonstrate their projects for the public and invited panel at an opening event.

The Space

The workshop and exhibition will be held at The Bakery (, a co-working and exhibition space in Brooklyn, New York. All participants are expected to make their own daily travel and accommodation arrangements. For out of town guests, please feel free to contact us for our handy local tips on cool areas to stay.

The Bakery
325 Rutledge Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(google map)

About The Instructors

Thom Moran was raised in Chicago by boisterous tradespeople, Thom spent his formative years driving tractors, building brick masonry, and pulling engines out of 18-wheelers. Thom’s academic prowess, coupled with an almost clairvoyant sense of style, led to resounding successes as an architecture student at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the Yale School of Architecture. Thom has worked as an architect, designer, conceptual artist, and since 2009 an assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. With a profoundly critical understanding of how things are made and a childlike love for jokes and pranks, Thom can be described as a combination of iconic designer Ettorre Sottsass and notorious cartoon 10-year-old Bart Simpson. Thom’s design hijinks have recently been recognized with the 2015 Architectural League Prize.

Farzin Lotfi-Jam is the Principal of FarzinFarzin, a studio that designs spaces, software, and media. He received a bachelor’s of design and a master’s of architecture from RMIT University (Melbourne, Australia, 2006 and 2008) and a master’s of science in advanced architectural design from Columbia University (New York, USA, 2012). Trained as an architect, he has broad experience as a designer in professional offices and with individually directed design and research projects. He is currently teaching at Columbia University, and has held teaching appointments at the University of Michigan, the Pratt Institute, SCI-Arc and RMIT University. His work has been recognized in open competition formats and has been collected by the Centre Pompidou in Paris. His research has been funded by the Veski organization and Taubman College, where he was the 2013-2014 Walter B. Sanders Fellow. He is interested in the cultural logic of form and meaning as produced through complex systems, institutional processes and contested sites.

Previous Work

STACKENBLOCHEN: This simple game investigates the impact of physical laws on the design process. Here the Unity physics engines is used in conjunction with a 3D aggregation script that distributes a single block in space (designed and imported from Rhino). At first, all forms of physical laws are suspended, allowing for a gravity free architecture to emerge. Using Unity's collision detection capabilities, blocks are pushed away from each other until an equilibrium is found (kind of like a reverse sphere packing algorithm). After moving around and inspecting this object from the perspective of the First-Person-Shooter (FPS), we manipulate the aggregation by literally jumping on it and pushing and pulling the blocks with our body. We then selectively reintroduce gravity for certain blocks, producing an outcome somewhere between the logic of an algorithm, novel physical forces, and the desires of a virtual body. The aggregation script develops on work by Jose Sanchez.

POST ROCK ROLLY POLLY: A physically produced conglomerate of plastic/rock fusions is 3D scanned using the free and readily available 123D platform (a process which involves taking multiple photographs of an object from all sides and then uploading these photographs to the 'cloud,' which in turn produces a texture-mapped 3D model). This mesh is then processed in 3ds Max for optimization purposes and ported fully-textured to Unity. Here a simple game explores the translation of a small physical artifact to a large virtual environment, the previously plate sized conglomerate is now rendered as totalizing virtual word, an environment to be explored by a rolling ball, gaily rolling from peak to peak in search of an elusive mean curvature. Post Rock is a research project by Meredith Miller and Thom Moran. This game has nothing to do with that research.

GOOGLE’S WORLD HERITAGE LIST: This FPS style game appropriates 3D models of UNESCO World Heritage Listed sites that have made their way onto the Google Sketchup Warehouse. In this specific case, we walk around the site of Persepolis, as translated to Sketchup by Warehouse user Alireza Nessari.

In times past—prior to the Internet—‘slide nights’ hosted by returning travelers would serve as a social space to disseminate images of UNESCO sites to a local network of family and friends. These mythical gatherings were revered for the possibility of insights into exotic faraway lands, and equally feared for the more likely reality of banal holiday snaps of less than tantalizing subject matter. We miss these nights. These amateur photographs of sites runs contrary to their popular valorization by UNESCO. In contrast to the sanctioned set of photographs promoted by UNESCO, which privilege pristine, uninterrupted vistas of heroic structures, we are instead introduced to the demystifying reality of their daily operations, overflowing with the stuff of tourism: bins, ticket booths, buses, car parks, food stands, and hordes of people. We are also presented with fragmented, partial views of the sites, as opposed to cohesive monumental shots.

How does our understanding of the sites alter when mediated by user produced 3D models circulating on the Internet? In the spirit of translation, simply porting the model to Unity, and introducing physical laws, dramatically changes our experience of the digital Persepolis. Being pinned to the ground with gravity, able to walk on surfaces, and not through them, alters our perception of the digital model. Without the ability to instantly zoom, pan, or orbit from Point A to Point B, we understand scale and time in a radically different way. Also, being restricted to the human plane, and unable to occupy the domain of God, peering down from above, opens up a new appreciation for the narrowly focused vistas found on the site.

Walking around Persepolis in a virtual world takes a really long time, an agonizingly long time. This is not quite the reality of its daily operation as exposed by slide night, and it’s not quite the popular or unique social media capture, it’s also not the glorified and officially sanctioned monumental shot. This experience is something else.

FREE THE TEACHERS!: The workshop instructors, Thom and Farzin, are trapped in a monument of their own making. Cast as gigantic bronze statues, their future glory has been assured at the cost of present livability. The objective of the game is to get them out by shooting down the walls that enslave them. Bonus points for producing elegant piles of falling matter. The ray casting script develops on work by Jose Sanchez.

Registration & Contact

Please direct all inquiries to:

To register, please fill out the form below. You will be contacted with PayPal payment instructions and additional information about the workshop.