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The Reality Theatre: Shopping in the Ludic Century

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My Masters Thesis project, from June 2015 which looks into the future of shopping. The thesis was both a research project which led into a design proposal. I researched the evolution of shopping, urbanism and architecture starting with the Greek agora, where public life arose from the boundaries of the marketplace, to the arcades of Paris, department stores, shopping malls and the experience economy. At the same time, I followed new emerging technologies, the rise of the Ludic Century and the gaming industry. I combined this research to bring us into the future, to a new form of urbanism where distinct elements such as virtual architecture, the third place, the role of the customer/designer, and performance combine.


My thesis text and research curated as an interactive, non-linear reading experience in a website I built.

The Reality Theatre is more than a shopping machine, it materialises a world that encompasses elements of urbanism with contextualised dreams, inspired by the archetypical elements of the mall and store that look with an equal degree towards the future. It is a meshing of stories where the elements of the public life are not only revived through reengineering of architecture and urbanism, but also integrated with modern technology and new consumption economies, all in order to create a utopian future.

I designed an experience that allows you to visit this virtual world in the form of a VR play: a narrative that gives life to this fiction and lets one see how the Reality Theatre works. I use VR here as an interactive tool to transport you to my world. This play focuses on the new logic of shopping and the role of the designer and consumer.

For high resolution images in CMYK please download from here.

For high resolution images in web safe colours, please download from here.

Project Details

Date: June 15, 2015

Online: alicrank.com/realitytheatre/

Shopping is a public performance. Stores are theatres where you can be both performer and spectator. What if we designed stores as stages? What if shopping were a script for new stories? Shopping architecture is the most common form of ‘third places’: a space for public activities where you can see and be seen. However, with the rise of online shopping and cyberspace, shops and malls are facing rapid obsolescence. To counter this, I propose that stores should be transformed into playgrounds for experiences, where consumers become actors with the ability to perform, spectate, play and indulge themselves in the environment.
To reflect the wants and needs of people in this age of spectacle and play, this ‘Ludic century,’ I designed the Reality Theatre, a vision of the next urban shopping machine, an experience stager of limitless possibilities. The Reality Theatre is a new third place. Architecture, props, clothing and even movement are augmented and celebrate virtuality. Realms blend with other realms, linked by an escalator that frames the view. Virtual movement allows the visitor to consume the space as spectacle and animation. I also designed an experience that allows you to visit this virtual world in the form of a VR play: a narrative that gives life to this fiction and lets you see how the Reality Theatre works. You assume the role of Ms. Smith, who is shopping for a chair in the Reality Theatre, from the moment she enters, to her interactions with the designer, to when she leaves. I leave it up to the viewers to immerse themselves in the virtual stage and performance.


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