Metaverse Architecture

2006.07.11 (Tuesday, July 11)

Studio, in a school of architecture, is a course where students develop architectural projects according to specific conditions : a location, a usage, and a MacGuffin. The MacGuffin, in this case, is the theoretical framework that orients the exercise by identifying, expressing and teaching the desired critical lessons concerning the how’s and the why’s of “making architecture.” The studio that I lead concentrates on the invention of intelligent spaces that are respective of an expressive media (both digital and material), a local and global context and the materials and constructive techniques (technologies) that the project’s forms engage. And the MacGuffin, which is the device with which these other aspects are taught. Beginning in the fall semester 2006, I plan to bring +/- 25 students from my studio into Second Life (SL) to participate in making architecture simultaneously in the real, material world and in a virtual one.

The main ideas behind this studio, and the reasons for it taking place in real life (RL) and SL are to :

  1. explore the thesis that SL (as well as other metaverse type 3-D environments) has the potential to develop singular, expressive spatial media;
  2. optimize and focus intended goals of the studio course by radicalizing its pedagogic content;
  3. innovate upon the formal, material and perceptive information conveyed by space (in both SL and RL) through precise exercises that concern the invention of architectural space.

A rough sketch of the planning organizes the semester into 3 parts…

  1. the analysis of a “territory.” [philosophy+territory] Students will develop tools that facilitate the extraction of both qualitative and quantitative information to evaluate land settlement, circulation and growth patterns in specific SL territories. The tools will also help generate graphic, expressive “language” to represent these patterns of growth and density, and generate spatial maps to facilitate an understanding of SL territories and contrast them to a RL reference (abetted by tools like Google Earth as a portal between RL + SL). The maps resulting from this analysis will be made to be experienced inworld, and will be graphical and animated (not spread sheets) ;
  2. a series of exercises begin by teaching how to build in the SL, progressively generate a complex network interior/exterior spaces. These spaces insist on spatial (scale and proportion), material, textural (density) and formal coherence (force) as it applies to SL’s (tweak-able) physics engine, and its existing social and economic structure.From these emergent spaces, usages will be deduced that are adapted to SL’s spatial, physical and social environments. This will be in direct opposition to the present, overriding and largely unquestioned assumption, that “if it looks like a house in RL, it can actually be used as a house in SL. ” Why does this assumption go unquestioned?What are the logical, intuitive and pedagogic mechanisms that can be put into place to allow new spatial archetypes to emerge, that are specific to SL-the-medium? ;
    and finally,
  3. Architecture students usually work alone or in small groups. The dynamic between student and teacher is based on frank, semi-public criticism of the student’s work, which he/she tries to defend, and then corrects based on that criticism, only to be re-criticized and re-corrected etc, etc… But still, the student essentially works alone.In SL, on the other hand, one builds in public. I personally have found this to be a formative experience. I’m not yet sure how to incorporate this into the idea of the project, but for me, this is essential.

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