Metaverse Lessons

2006.07.12 (Wednesday, July 12)

In SL things change, move, rotate all the time. Even most shops that have been there for a while tend to evolve and change over time… my dream home is probably not yours. [comment thanks to Eloise Pasteur from the SLED list]

The built environment, whether in real life (RL) or in Second Life (SL), has a context. Cities, suburbs, geography, nature, even atmosphere are the substance of this context. For an architectural project, in this case, one whose intention is primarily pedagogic, the student comes to understand this context through analysis, so as to intelligently decide whether to :

1/ directly respond to this context by incorporating it into the process of creating new space… ie. form and space “emerge” from the textures, forces and the built surroundings of the build. They can be thought of as a continuation or an act of putting the site in “tension” through the newly built spaces. The great Frank Lloyd Wright could be thought of as working kind of like this (to use an obvious reference) ; or,

2/ conceive the spaces independently of this context, and then haphazardly, algorithmically, voluntarily or slyly “juxtapose” the two. In this case, the engagement of the project is to be found in the articulation between usages, the form and the context. A good, contemporary RL example of this can be found in the work of Zaha Hadid (amongst many others).

Of course, an architectural project is never simply defined by choosing (a) or (b), but rather is a complex melange of the 2 approaches.

But either way, both elements must be made to exist, first by the invention of a space and its material expression; and, the context is made to exist when it is identified, qualified, quantified, and incorporated into the representational medium of the project. What I am describing are specific acts of the architectural inventive process, and they must somehow be taught.

Which brings me back to SL, where accelerating change is obviously the rule. This will be a feature of the RL-2-SL School of Architecture, where we can analytically and sensibly perceive this change, and be forced to react to it in real-time. It is exactly this radicalization of state and transformation that I think SL can crystallize in a pedagogic setting.

Teaching a specific inventive process, in this case an architectural one, involves learning how to accompany a project from an idea in architecture, towards a spatial expression through force and materials. This does not imply space in general, but architectural space, to distinguish it from cinematographic, sculptural, photographic… spaces. These exercises invert the common architectural workflow that normally proceeds from program to plan, from material to architectural form;, in favor of the formula force> material> space.

Anyway, I’ve been teaching for a lot longer than I’ve been in SL and what will change is especially the communication, the interaction and the material, and these things are not negligible. SL will allow me to approach other types of experiences based on this change of context.

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