Designing in Caves: Using Immersive Visualisations in Design Practice

Laura Maftei, Chris Harty


This paper describes a study of the use of immersive Virtual reality technologies in the design of a new hospital. It uses Schön’s concept of reflective practice and video-based methods to analyse the ways design teams approach and employ a full scale 3D immersive environment – a CAVE – in collaborative design work. The analysis describes four themes relating to reflective practice occurring in the setting: orienting to the CAVE technology itself, orienting to the representation of the specific design within the CAVE, activities accounting for, or exploring alternatives within the design for the use and users of the space, and more strategic interactions around how to best represent the design and model to the client within the CAVE setting. The analysis also reveals some unique aspects of design work in this environment. Perhaps most significantly, rather than enhancing or adding to an existing understanding of design through paper based or non-immersive digital representations, it is often acting to challenge or surprise the participants as they experience the immersive, full scale version of their own design.


CAVE; design team work; immersive virtual reality environments; reflective practice.

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