Loh Tze Yang Glenn
Totem: An Evolution of Spectatorship and Play

Thesis supervisor: A/P Joseph Lim

Site: New York City

The days of video games being played in computer rooms are over. Rapid growth in competitive gaming has brought these virtual contests to real, heart-racing episodes held in front of deeply passionate live crowds. Prize pools reach tens of millions of dollars, making them comparable to more “traditional” global sporting events. While this growing phenomenon presents an opportunity for media industries to expand, architecture of the Esports facility is only just starting to respond. Consequently, although more purpose-built Esports spaces are beginning to be built, its biggest annual events still tend to be held in retrofitted professional sporting venues. However, these facilities are not designed to respond to the new nature of screen-based spectatorship. 

Sited in New York City, Totem represents a new standard in the future of game spaces. The project demonstrates the creation of an urban event that draws upon the escapism of “Play”. The novel large-scale stadia typology serves as a convergence of industry agents – creators, publishers, gamers, spectators and the general masses – in the celebration of the Making, Playing, Watching and Living of games. With its distinct focus on screen and projection technology, the new hub illuminates the way forward in our increasingly digitalized society.

The Overall Project

Sitting on two plots in New York City, the project features a collection of new space typologies that cater to the rise of screen-based experiences. A retail fringe on the ground floor wraps around the Totem Towers as a transition space into the spillover “Beta Testing” podium. A few metres above, the continuous “Permanent Temporary Exhibit” ramp adjoins The Highline spur. This ramp showcases the cutting-edge work of the in-house R&D companies, while taking walkers in and around the site. As they walk, floating above them are giant holograms within the atrium of the boutique capsule hotel.

With a direct visual connection to the exhibition space, the seminar rooms become an extension of the events that are happening around them. The exhibition space itself occupies the first storey hall and can be expanded vertically with multi-storey booths, improving connections with the conference spaces on the higher levels.

The Totem Towers

A reimagination of the Esports Stadium, the Totem Towers represent not only a novel way to consumte gaming, but also immersive screen-based experiences. Its modular nature allows for efficient seating allocation, allowing for multiple smaller scale events to occur. Through stacking, seating capacity is also intensified while the small building footprint frees up the ground floor for the public podium.

The "Beta Test" Podium

One of the distinctions of game development is the importance of “testing”. From internal “Alpha” testing to external public “Beta” reviews, these processes are critical to debugging and game polishing. As such, the podium block incorporates the smaller scale Totem Pods to facilitate solo and group “Beta Testing”. These playtest spaces generate the Urban Event by activating the large arena ground floor spillover that is required to facilitate high spectator numbers.

The Boutique Capsule Hotel

The Hotel is broken down into the basic unit of a room. Each capsule room has 2 main full-height windows that double as projection screens. Like the “Beta Test” pods, the 3 room sizes all contain their own screen-immersion zones. The cores house hologram projectors that transform the central void into a “Hologram Atrium”, populating the space with larger than life projections. Sitting below the block is the Permanent Temporary Exhibit that warps around an anchor interactive virtual arcade space.

The Technology & The Site

Site is an existing postal facility that does not sit well in its context. Located right next to Hudson Yards and The Highline, thses highly commercialized places attract plenty of tourists and locals alike. Manhattan West is a future commercial development that will further increase the value of the area. Furthermore, train assessibility is also ensured by Moynihan and Penn Stations. A little further out is the creative arts and garment districts. As such, this highly valuable plot of land is wasted on a postal sorting facility.

View Zoom Critique here: