CRTKL 2021 Digital Evolution Lab: Meeting the Minds Part II

Clare Sausen November 11, 2021

The CRTKL 2021 Digital Evolution Lab is our second annual internal, virtual hackathon designed to inspire a culture of digital innovation by envisioning new tools and services. This year’s theme is – Reality Engine: Building architectural tools and services of the future using game engines. Today, we’re sitting down with some of the participants to discuss their ideas and experience in the lab so far.

The Pre-Lab is over and The Lab has officially begun! Participants have been split into 4 teams as they compete to develop a conceptualized tool or service using game engines. The Lab will take place November 8th through November 12th. All participants are highly engaged and will work full-time on the Lab over these four days.

They have full creative license to develop a new tool or service which they believe will benefit the AEC industry and beyond – connecting with Epic Games’ Unreal Technicians to strengthen their submissions. The submissions will be up for three possible awards – the Grand Prize, the People’s Choice Award and the Media Award selected by Amanda Silberling of TechCrunch and Jonathon Hilburg of The Architect’s Newspaper. Read on to hear from some of this years’ participants on their experience thus far.

Risha Na

The gaming world allows us the opportunity to create magical experiences for each other. As an architect, game engines are not just a tool for visualizing design, but another way of seeing the world.  Video games have changed the way that many other forms of media — from music to film — are produced and consumed. It happened in the AEC (architecture, engineering and construction) industry too — the development of Unreal Engine pushed architectural visualization and simulation to a new frontier.

In my entry submission to the Lab, I conceptualized a  map that shows CRTKL’s projects in Beijing, ranging from small-scale community museums to large-scale urban planning — covering the whole city. The work is meant to use Unreal Engine to develop a digital replica of the city, form a real-time preview and synchronize the huge project datasets with the highly developed cityscape. This medium enables new discussions surrounding our current cultural, practical and theoretical architectural framework.

This new digital platform is a multi-dimensional and complex construct for visualizing and understanding the relationship between people and spaces — giving us a unique and essential perspective in creating physical spaces. Ideally, by utilizing this platform, we would find ways to connect all the varied principles of design through the common ground of psychology and anthropology. We’re blurring the line between physical and digital realities.


Jun Jung

During the pandemic, I studied program languages for designing websites from front-end to back. I learned not only hard skills, but also that there are so many industries that can be better developed with programming.

Participating in this year’s Lab, I’ve most enjoyed meeting others who are interested in the same topic. After participating in so many interesting lectures and meetings, I realized that we are so close to the future. I think we already have a strong connection between the physical and digital world — there has been a bridge connecting those two worlds. Now, we are trying to make the bridge shorter to seamlessly transition between both environments.

In my entry submission to the Lab, I aimed to develop a 3D platform that clients and designers can use for feedback and adjust ideas in real-time using the game engine. By linking BIM metadata, we open the possibility of real-time updates and reviews — enabling faster and smoother project progress.


Ruben Rivas

Video games have been my favorite hobby since I was a kid, so the opportunity to learn more about how this industry works using a game engine like Unreal and blending it with architecture was particularly interesting. The organization of the event has been amazing — from the resources and support to how everything was facilitated for the discovery of the possibilities that these platforms offer — not only for video games, but for AEC. The lectures have made me realize the importance of this technology for the future, and the relevance of the work of these pioneers of their industries using a tool that helps us to explore different approaches for art and design.

Besides visualizing experiences, I believe that bridging physical and digital realities would help us bring the next level of communication to assist in delivering a design with fewer downtimes — and better results.

My entry submission, The BIM Arcade, is a concept to create a service platform to improve communication with stakeholders using a game engine to visualize, coordinate and save a project in the cloud for easy access at any time, anywhere. It results in an interesting and fun way for the stakeholders of a project to collaborate and share information.


Rodrigo Tarriba

I applied to the lab this year because I was jealous of all the cool ideas the participants developed in last year’s Lab! The focus this time is on game engines — which opens the door to a wide new array of possibilities in the computational design and visualization realm. I thought it was a great opportunity to learn new skills, meet other folks and have some fun thinking about the future.

Part of the Pre-Lab has included learning a lot about game engines, including their potential to shift the industry. What at first might seem like not much more than a playful rendering tool ends up shaping your idea of the future of design altogether. It has been very inspiring to learn that other architects or designers — like those at Space Popular, for instance — are already becoming leaders in the design and building of virtual worlds, where gravity is a feature, not a constraint.

If a major part of the conversation of the past 20 years has been about connecting people through technology, the next twenty will be about connecting spaces. Deciding what these connections look like, how you interact between one space and the other, how they share information and how they enhance the human experience could be our role as a new generation of spatial planners. My entry submission, Proto-lab, uses virtual reality to test built-space prototypes. It allows real users to test the features and interactions of an environment — providing tracking and feedback data that can be used to inform the design iteration process from a human-centered perspective.


Author Spotlight

Clare Sausen
Clare Sausen is a Content Writer for CallisonRTKL. Based in Washington, D.C., she leverages her personal and professional experience in journalism, radio, and nonprofit communication to serve as a valuable member of the global firmwide team. Since attaining her Bachelor of Arts degree from George Washington University in Communication and American Studies, she has honed her craft of architectural storytelling across multiple platforms. Her work appears in outlets such as Broccoli Magazine, Building Construction + Design Magazine, High Times Magazine, Medical Construction + Design Magazine, NORML Blog, The Lounge, You Are Here, and WRGW Music Blog.