This is the third installment of a four-part series The New Creative Economy on homegrown professionals driving Singapore’s creative, innovation-based economy.
“We are at the nascent state of the technology,” says architect Yong Sy Lyng as she describes the metaverse.
As a result – and probably because of this – the founder and principal architect of OWMF Architecture, who dipped her toes into it, is passionate about working in this space.
She already has her name on two projects: the Crypto Art Museum for crypto exchange Matrixport and its virtual headquarters. She plans to one day turn the unused designs and drawings for these projects into NFTs.
Yong studied architecture at the prestigious Cooper Union in New York, where she developed an interest in non-linear parametric geometry and even teaches and researches in this field. The shapes she prefers are unconventional shapes created using mathematical equations or algorithms.
In the physical world, this often results in higher costs brought about by more challenging construction and, often, controversy over whether the finished building adds value to the environment. However, the metaverse has very few boundaries, so that’s pretty much the norm. That’s exactly why Yong is excited to stay on course.
“Most of my parametric geometry ideas haven’t been realized in the real world because there are too many practical constraints like functionality and budget, but I might just build them in the metaverse,” she says.
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Create ‘Open, Wild, Magical Fun’ in architecture
As Yong explains, she chose architecture because she was not interested in the other courses at university. “But I knew after the first week of class that it was for me,” she thinks. Drawing and model making were some of the things she enjoyed about homework, as well as the constant critical analysis and investigation that led to some innovative work.
After graduating, she worked for various firms in Singapore, China and New York, including Arc Studio Architecture & Urbanism, before starting OWMF Architecture in 2013. Her practice’s long-form name embodies what she stands for: Open Wild, Magical Fun.
“I tend to focus on the structure of spaces, the skeleton of a building, not just its skin,” she says. “I use transformable, nomadic structures to disrupt them and I like to explore and experiment with materials.”
As an example, she cites the financial advisory and investment firm Odyssey Capital’s office in a preserved shophouse near Raffles Place. Using copper pipes, porous, wave-like screens create a sense of space and privacy at the same time. The allusion to water is no coincidence – Odyssey manages a fund that invests in companies related to that industry.
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The whole new world of NFTs, metaverse and decentralized blockchains
It seems as if Yong unwittingly paved her own way to where she is today.
When she was introduced to Matrixport by a friend, she met all the requirements of a small firm willing to try something new and unconventional. “I was curious,” she admits. “Then the client came to our studio and introduced us to a whole new world of NFTs, metaverse and decentralized blockchains.
“I was sold, and I went down the rabbit hole from there. I thought I could finally build all my parametric ideas!”
As part of the process of designing the art museum and virtual headquarters, she had to learn how to convert or “voxelize” the buildings into the 3D pixel format recognized by the metaverse platform.
At the same time, she used the three unique qualities of the space to create the museum: the ability to change according to the requirements of the NFT artworks; the ability to navigate by flying or teleporting; and the lack of gravity. “Some of the schemes we’ve designed are floating — like a field of exploded rocks — and can’t exist in the real world.”
Despite all she had accomplished, Yong had barely scratched the surface.
As she continues, she points out how there are “new materials, new interactions, new economics” just waiting to be realized in the metaverse that cannot be replicated in the physical world. “The possibilities are limitless!”
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