The driving concept behind this vision for the Starkville Mediatheque is the creation of virtual place. What characteristics are needed within the tangible space to allow for virtual place to form? in order to address this question a number a derivations were created to answer questions such as: how does one inhabit virtual space and if one can inhabit virtual space can one then dwell in virtual space? Virtual inhabitation occurs every time a user sits behind a screen. At that instant the mental projection of his or her self is transported from the tangible plan into the virtual and inhabits the projections of whatever act he or she is involved in on the other side of the screen. Therefore one may inhabit virtual space but may one dwell in virtual space? According to Martin Heidegger one can be sure that they dwell within a space the moment they begin to customize that space to his or her own personal desires. Therefore one may dwell in virtual space, because virtual customization is the very basis for contemporary digital technology, social media for a simple example and web-development as a more complex act of virtual space making. This dwelling, this potent desire for individualistic projection is based largely on one's personal perception of space, which in turn transforms that space into a specific place within that individuals psyche. therefore creating a space where one has the ability to tailor aspects to their personal preference may prove to be one way of creating virtual place, but how is this manifested in the tangible environment? What physical space is necessary to house these interactions? In contemporary virtual reality technology the physical space plays only its most basic functions, shelter and security. A dark hallway will work just as successfully as a lighted warehouse for containing the necessary equipment to transport ones mental self into the virtual realm. This proposal for the Starkville Mediatheque then seeks to engage the relationship between an architecturally dynamic, tangible space and a virtual one. The recent explosion of Mixed Reality technology makes this proposal possible. The world seen through a mixed reality viewing device may contain as much or as little of either reality as the developer or the user so desire. Basic computer vision algorithms employing graphical tracking markers allow ones virtual self to be placed within virtual space according to physical objects. These graphics became the motif for the development of the design as a means of encoding virtual way-finding systems within the architecture itself. As this concept began to take form it became apparent that the entire system could work just as successfully outdoors as in, thus creating the concept of the Landscape of Interactivity. This landscape is based on the same fiducial motifs as the architectural elements but the increased amount of space allows for one to engage in the act of dwelling in a way not possible indoors. Two examples:
A child arrives at the Mediatheque with his parents who will be attending a concert at the on-site theater. He is brought to the children's department where he meets his friends, the children of the other concert attendees. Each is allowed to check out a pair of glasses and pick a book for their entertainment and education (though he is unaware of its educational value of course). This is not a book in the traditional sense however but rather an outline of characters and plot to be sent to the glasses from the central computer. The children then run into the forest where they are greeted by their virtual companions. Jack with his enormous beanstalk reaching up past the branches. Rapunzel stares down at them from her tower window. The stories are enacted according to the book, only the children have the ability to become part of the story, interacting with the characters, fearfully hiding from the antagonist and celebrating at the success of the protagonist. When the concert is finished the parents enjoy the shade of the trees watching their children engage in a battle with a fearsome dragon which is, of course invisible to them.
A man is in town on business. He is stressed because his flight was delayed forcing his meeting back to the following day. Aware of the work awaiting him at the home office and the now large amount of unscheduled time available he enters the Mediatheque and for a short time wanders the grounds. A hot summer day with much more humidity that the man feels like he can bear he seeks out a refuge from the sun. Following a path along one of the reflecting pools he finds a place where the sun is blocked by a large concrete plane dissecting that part of the landscape. The air is heavy with the moisture and the smell of the Wisteria slowly devouring the wall behind him. In this place he is content however. The man polishes his glasses before placing them on his nose, removes his handheld device and selects the application he found on the website for the complex. He enters a number of variables and presses the start button. Instantly he finds himself among his co workers back at the home office though still very conscious of the fact that he is standing in that shade of the wall behind him, the heavy flower sent mixed with the tepidity of the air around him, and the sound of the steady trickle of water as it overflows its bounds to splash among the rocks at their base.
In this way the tangible form of the landscape and the architecture serve as a device, a viewfinder, through which one may actually dwell within the virtual space physically, not simply mentally.