Pokémon GO Has Sparked a Global Wave of Urban Architecture & Design Exploration!

Jul 18, 2016

Lately ALL of us have been taken over by a storm from an unlikely source: Pokémon, the decades-old Japanese media franchise, which has hit the jackpot with its extraordinarily popular mobile game Pokémon GO. We’ve no qualms in admitting that we’re bit by the 90’s nostalgia bug with a gimmicky but impressive tech and social media share potential. In this era of staying put on one seat, this gobsmacking game finally has the ability to draw players outside to explore their surroundings through a virtual lens, raising their awareness of local interest points and prompting in-person socialization with other players they encounter along the way. This sensation also has the potential to connect everyday people to the architecture around them in ways never before possible. Read on to know how.

popular mobile game

Relying on augmented reality, the game employs an abstracted form of Google Maps for its interface, tracking the player as they move around to capture fictional creatures with an ingenious use of their mobile phone’s camera, further co-opting real places as virtual locations for stocking up on supplies or indirectly battling other players.

The game’s dependence on actual locations is perhaps the source of its brilliance: To make any progress, players are forced to travel to local landmarks in order to access primary features. These locations tend to be photo-worthy elements such as buildings or parts of buildings, and because they’re drawn from the user-submitted database of the publisher’s previous title Ingress, the selection of landmarks can provide a crowdsourced list of favorite architecture for almost any area.


tracking the player

Already-famous structures worldwide are heavily cited: The Worli Sea-Face, for example, is one, though a sprawling edifice like the Siddhivinayak Temple, can be littered with a dozen or more — one for each noteworthy piece of artwork, ornament or statue present. But beyond the game’s potential to bring a vast user base together near high-profile buildings, it engenders the far more frequent occurrence of discovering previously unknown architectural icons in a player’s own neighbourhood.

Houses of worship, little-known historical monuments and bizarre vernacular constructions dominate the list, and their presences in the game are causing players all around the world to gather around noteworthy buildings and monuments they might not have cared to notice before.

high-profile buildings

People have been tweeting their new architectural discoveries as they play; via Twitter

The game’s potential for educating players on the built environment is substantial, as well, as some landmarks are accompanied by elaborate descriptions highlighting a building’s noteworthy features or individual elements.

In more than one instance, they can be found named according to their architectural vocabulary: “granite corinthian columns” and “beautiful coffers,” for example, are landmarks picked from the façades of a few 19th-century buildings in Midtown Manhattan, with user-submitted detail photos to match. The usefulness of this game as a teaching tool, its popularity having landed it in the hands of many millions of young people, should draw the attention of at least a few savvy architectural history professors.

architectural history professors

23 Park Avenue as seen in Pokémon GO; via user SuzeMcGuff

Despite the positives coming out of this cultural moment, it has also incited its fair share of spatial disputes. Virtual stops and battle arenas appear at a large number of active businesses, homes and community centers, and even though players don’t have to venture inside landmark buildings to complete game objectives (they only need to be in a relative vicinity) it’s easy to see how someone might become a bit perturbed over small crowds consistently appearing in their front yard to wage virtual war against each other.

community centers

While clashes over territory in digital worlds may seem like a laughable concept today, it could portend a much more complex future if augmented reality becomes a common feature in our society. After all, in the early years of the internet, who could have predicted that URLs would one day be bought, sold and speculated over like real estate?

like real estate

The intersection of our online and offline worlds has increasingly been pushed into the physical realm, and this trend seems likely to continue. With Pokémon GO entering the fray as one of the first mass-market adoptions of Augmented Reality technology, it offers architects, as stewards of the built environment, a moment to consider the level of involvement they’ll claim over this new frontier. And like pokémon-hunters around the world have been doing feverishly over the last few days, they should catch it before it gets away.

And now, we’re off to catch some & explore our very own city. Wanna join?
Gotta catch ‘em all! :D

Augmented Reality technology

If you’re an architect, interior designer or home stylist looking for a platform to display your work, look no further! Email us at info@dezigngenie.com or call us at +918108583000 for more details.

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