The gallery, as virtual architecture, exists "in" the computer and is experienced with the interfaces of that computer. While the gallery can be explored best with advanced virtual reality hardware and software for real-time simulation, it also exists on the Internet, accessible on-line to any machine with access to the World Wide Web (see Appendix B). A VHS video tape of a real-time simulation of the gallery can also be viewed (see Additional Material).
The gallery itself is composed of several interlocking elements which creates a composition of various spaces (figures 4.1 through 4.3).
There is a single entry point into the environment, at an entry vestibule. One has a view of the gallery from this vestibule, and is directed to approach and enter the gallery spaces by environmental cues of forms and elements (figure 4.4).
One moves from the vestibule along a circulation spine, passing through a slit in the planar threshold to the interior (figure 4.5). Within the circulation spine, one interprets symbolic signage and directional cues from the environment to orient oneself and move into the galleries (figures 4.6 and 4.7)
The galleries themselves are arranged as four "rooms" around the spine. They feature the work of the HIT Lab’s PolyShop project (figure 4.8), the GreenSpace project (figure 4.9), the CEDeS Lab (figure 4.10), and the work of students in the University of Washington’s College of Architecture and Urban Planning, or CAUP (figure 4.11). The galleries are relatively dark rooms, with spatial proportions and an orientation different than that of the circulation spine. This was done to enhance the sense that these spaces serve a different function than the others. Each is given a different color, red, violet, blue and green, starting with the warmest colors near the entry and the coolest farthest from the entry to aid in their differentiation for orientation purposes.
Each gallery features a thick display wall with deep-set images representing various worlds (figure 4.12), and creating the illusion of stained glass. These images, or texture maps, serve as hyperlinks to the worlds they represent.
When the hyperlink is activated, the world signified by the texture map is downloaded to become the environment in which the participant is immersed. The time it takes to download the new environment is represented spatially as a tunnel which one moves through until the new world is ready for real-time rendering (figure 4.13). The tunnel is again displayed when one leaves the environment to return to the gallery.
Secondary to the main galleries, there is an archive space for storing virtual environments that are no longer actively demonstrated at the HIT Lab. It, too, has an orientation different from the circulation spine and the galleries, as indicated by its spatial proportions. The entry to the archive space, while accessible to all participants, is de-emphasized to the casual visitor by use of dim lighting. However, in recognition of the fact that informed participants will need to interact in the archive space, additional lights turn on upon entry into the archive, enabling them to navigate throughout the space (figures 4.14 through 4.16).
Finally, there is a main hall at the end of the circulation opposite the entry vestibule (figure 4.17). This main hall serves as a gathering place for multiple participants who wish to meet and interact. The program for this space is ambiguous, as the presence of networked multiple participants in three dimensions is sparse and relatively new. Additional functions will be added to the main hall as the interaction among on-line participants increases in three-dimensional environments realm.
As the circulation spine passes through the main hall, some of its elements continue and terminate in an enframed view of the blank void in which the virtual architecture of the gallery lies. This is done to enhance the participant’s awareness that there is no physical context for the site (figure 4.18).
There are also long corridors extending out in all directions from the main hall (figure 4.19). These are expressions of hyperlinks to other virtual environments not related to the HIT Lab or its virtual environments. In time, as other examples of virtual architecture are designed and built, these corridors would lead to those worlds.