About John Mars

Tangible Interaction Designer @ CMU


ArchiArchiZoomZoom is a virtual world accessible via website, where the user can attempt to build a city around them. Conceptually, it’s an exploration of a couple of things.

Duplitecture is a term relating to copying of architecture, most of which is currently happening in China. Every building on this slide is an example of duplitecture. There are entire Chinese communities made to resemble western cities — Venice and Paris, for example — and there are vast amounts of one-off copies and caricatures of western architecture. The buildings within my project are pieces of duplitecture, ripped from their place of origin, dropped on a blank canvas, and distorted just enough to make them uncanny.

ArchiArchiZoomZoom is also an exploration of the act of making digital copies, particularly bringing attention the the ease of creating unlimited amounts of things.

Finally, it’s an echo to the avant-garde, neo-futurist architects of the past, like Archigram, Archizoom, and Superstudio. These groups spent their careers combining technology and architecture, envisioning utopian landscapes, and criticizing contemporary architectural theory and practice.

When the user enters ArchiArchiZoomZoom, they are presented with a series of quotes from these groups. From these quotes, three key phrases are highlighted, each one a global rule enacted in the virtual world:

For those who, like ourselves, are convinced that architecture is one of the few ways to realize cosmic order on earth, to put things according to reason, it is a ‘moderate utopia’ to imagine a near future in which all architecture will be created with a single act, from a single design capable of clarifying once and for all the motives which have induced man to build dolmens, menhirs, pyramids, and lastly to trace (ultima ratio) a white line in the desert. ―Superstudio, 1969

The fundamental characteristics of futuristic architecture will be expendability and transience. Our house will last less time than we do, every generation must make its own city. ―Archigram

Today, in order to create a new architecture and new urban spaces … one has to plunge one’s hands into that vast planktonic soup of products, technologies, pictures, signs and data which make up the artificial universe in which man is completely immersed. … Design, bravely operating within the world of production and consumption, has gained its new found supremacy through being the only planning entity able to transform reality. ―Andrea Branzi, Archizoom, 1993

The project can be viewed in a browser, but is mainly meant to be explored using a virtual reality headset, in this case, a Google Cardboard.


Virtual Reality exploration of uncanny duplitecture

ArchiArchiZoomZoom is a continuation of the work put forward by 60s-era avant-garde / neofuturist architects like Archigram, Superstudio, and Archizoom Associati. Where those studios’ work centered around a theme contemporary to the time — communism vs. capitalism — ArchiArchiZoomZoom centers around prolific duplication in the internet age.

The user dons a VR headset, and enters a virtual city. They are allowed to freely explore, eventually discovering uncanny oddities the city has to offer.




The nuance of silence


I’m not a huge fan of talking. My thoughts are much clearer when I’m allowed to write them. I like the nuance of silence.

I don’t want a future where I talk to my AI partners, I want one where I communicate with them. Ideally, that communication would take an elastic variety of forms — talking, texting, typing, watching; personally, I’d like my AI to intuitively understand what I’m thinking, to be able to finish and flesh out my thoughts. I’d like my AI partner to understand me in ways I’m incapable of sharing, through some deep chemical connection.

Computers are not humans, and we should stop treating them as such. Computers are not tools, and we should not keep them enslaved. I see computers as a new kind of intelligence in the universe, and we need to develop the right way to communicate with them; I’m suspicious that way is the same way we humans interact with other humans.

Speculative Style

I’d like to discuss all of the things surrounding the ideas of design that are presented in fiction/speculatively: the style in which they’re presented, the fashion of the people that present them, the medium in which they’re presented with. Culturally, does that have an impact in addition to the actual ideas produced?

Looking at some of the videos from this week’s readings, the second thing that I’m assaulted with after the speculative technologies is the quality of the video and how the people are dressed/styled/talking. See Here:



Men in Gray


Religiously, I’d consider myself Agnostic; I can neither prove nor disprove the existence of a higher power. Essentially, it’s not even worth thinking about — there’s so many possibilities, infinite possibilities in fact, and the odds are overwhelming that I’m not going to be able to determine a concrete answer without divine intervention. The right answer is probably one I can’t even physically imagine in my current state of being and location in history. My brain has better things to do.

I experience Design Fiction in two distinct ways: one — the stuff that comes out of it is really cool and though provoking, and two — who cares? Why even speculate on it, if those speculations are almost certainly not going to come true? Now improvisation — I can get behind that. Being able to adjust and adapt to new information with conviction and agility is a much more useful skill than soothsaying.

Questions I was going to ask before we ran out of time:

It seems like you’re just developing a continuation of the world we have now; the biggest changes in history were not incremental changes, they were not things we had envisioned — they were things we formerly thought to be impossible, or things we couldn’t even imagine.

Additionally, why were you focusing on creating a collaborative future, if it was obvious that everyone involved would be unhappy with the finished product? Humanity’s past and present has been collaborative, but humanity’s past and present didn’t have access to the technologies we will have in the future. If collaborative worlds are undesirable, why aren’t we working towards making individual futures?


Blah blah blah workshops teamwork ideas synergy. Boring. What is the value in creating new speculative literature when the world is already rife with it? Nothing is new; everything is just a reshuffle and evolution of old. I like crowdsourcing. I like making.

The only thing I found convincing, human, about the scenarios outlined in The Power of 8 was the youth-hackery of rain-filled clouds. Everything else seemed like the academic, utopian dreams of architects, artists, and someone who reads the news. Maybe a pedestrian future is your future — it sure isn’t mine.

So, how do individual identities not get affected by collaboration? Should they? Why must my future world be invaded by the worlds of others? And, from the website, why does technology need to be humanized?


what would it take to make a movie of Bladerunner’s imaginative power, set in a positive future?” He paused for a second and said he thought it’d be very difficult, that catharsis is so important to people, and people are so terrified of the future, that you’d need some completely new vision of what the future will look like to even set the scene for a new narrative… and that is obviously no mean feat.

Is there such thing as a positive future? In cinema, futures usually are portrayed as dystopian, but they’re always filmed from the lens of the protagonist; a movie without an antagonist is boring. Real life without an antagonist is boring.

Utopia is a place that exists only in children’s movies and in religion. It doesn’t exist now and it hasn’t existed in the past, so it’s hard (if not impossible) to imagine it in the future. I don’t think we’re terrified of the future — I for one welcome our robot overlords — I think we’re unable to remove our minds from the past and present. Speculative design says it’s looking forward, but it’s really just looking around. Crowdsourced SD even more so. Very rarely does a piece truly move us beyond what we are now. And when it does happen, we’re too busy looking at the other stuff to notice.