Rationalist Virtual Architecture, Giuseppe Terragni Inspires

Transcript of Gioacchino Laryukov’s presentation is below.  Transcript of the entire discussion can be found HERE.

“Giuseppe Terragni (1904-43) was an Italian architect who worked in the ’30′s during a period when others such as Sartoris, Cattaneo, Figini, Lingeri, Pollini were active; an era known as rationalism.  His best known works can be found in the city of Como, where he lived and worked during his brief life. You can find a listing of rationalist buildings in Como here:   The main works are: Edificio ad appartamenti Novocomum (1927-29), Casa del Fascio di Como (1928-32), Monumento ai caduti (on a Sant’Elia drawing, 1931-33), Asilo infantile Sant’Elia (1935-37)” all of this in Como; and Casa ad appartamenti Rustici (1933-35) and Lavezzari (1934-35) in Milan.

Looking at his buildings, you can identify some aesthetic analogies with the house I have built here.  I have choosen to use some of same style characteristics (like the white walls) and materials (like the glass blocks) to emphasize the reference to 1930′s architecture and in particular, the Modern Movement.  My reference to Terragni’s architecture is not so much about the appearance, but rather, the manner in which the building is constructed and the way you move through it. The appearance is the result of the process.  I will try to explain further:

Buildings in SL start with the prim…  its finished volume. A prim could be in and of itself a house.  Only you must create the internal space by emptying it.  What I mean is that a room  is not a space limited by four walls, a floor and a roof, but rather it is the internal space of a volume, therefore of a prim.  We can also say that the walls, roof and so on, are not single elements, but are parts of that volume.  You can better understand what I intended by looking at the ground floor of my house.  There is a cube or rectangular box that is an emptied prim and is therefore a room. The rest is only virtual and open space defined by the grate.  I want to highlight that the single elements cannot really enclose the space on their own, they don’t create a room, instead the interior of the volume can do it, likewise when two sides are opened.

The construction of the architecture is a work on volumes, and the space between those volumes.  Working with some architects on the lineage of Terragni, you will often hear the term “equilibrio fra pieni e vuoti,† which is to say “balance between fullness and empty†.  If you look at this house you can see three main volumes:  two big cubes (10x10x10mt) to the sides, and a central cuboid that is a 10x7x5mt which is transparent at the side opposite of the stairs.  Looking at the side where the stairs are located, you can see the building as a unique volume, a cube that measures 30x10mt that has been hollowed and cut to obtain the space needed.  The central volume has beed reduced to create a place for the stairs, but also this is the first step towards the development of the project.  I built this house working on these three volumes, not on the single walls themsleves but based on the relationship between these three elements.  I have rezzed the main prims and moved them near each other.  The shape, size and character of the main prims then become the foundation for the modification of another prim…. and so on, until a situation develops which I consider to be balanced.  In this way, the side of the central cube, which is only 7mt, is used to create the place for the stairs, and this has determined the second level and the upper windows of the main cube.  In this manner, the cube has become the structure for the internal development of the main cube.   This is more evident in the other 10x10x10mt cube, which was hollowed and cut to the level of the roof of the cuboid.  Also, it was divided in two different spaces by the measurements of the cuboid and this is visible in the external walls by the glass blocks.

The central message here is that the building develops based on the relationship between simple prims in a succession of steps, in which a prim dictates how you will modify the next and that one will impact the next…. and so on… Going back to Terragni:  it is clear – especially in the Novocomum and in the Casa del Fascio – that his projects are, above all, a play on volumes.  The Novocomum is a simple cube and the edges have been first hollowed and then that space has been occupied by cylinders.  These cylinders become the foundation for the continous taper of the first floor and for the development of the balconies. The single elements like walls, balconies, roof are the volume’s children.  More complex is the construction of the Casa del Fascio which is a perfect half cube (33x33x26mt). it has been partially hollowed and in this way you have other volumes, new relationships and new spaces which become the seeds for others to be developed in a succession of filling up, emptying, and cutting in spaces which are then born and take form.

The exterior appearance is the mirror; the result of the work on the volumes.  This is rightfully called rationalism because all the parts of the building have a precise connection with the other parts, and all the parts of the building are elements of the procedure from which the building emanates.  that’s alll what I would like to say..

Gallery of Reflexive Architecture

Visit the new site: The ARCH Network, to stay informed of the latest in virtual worlds and architecture!

To expand on the idea of ‘Reflexive Architecture‘ in virtual environments, I’ve been experimenting with several installations that explore it’s potential. This video is a composite of several machinima pieces each describing a different installation in the gallery, such as Rippling Prims, Prim Decay, Sudden Space, Restless Spheres, Carvable Prims, Visible Traces, Moving Tiles, Interactive Glass, and The Cacoon. Some include sound as an integral part of the experience, which is best experienced first-hand (SLurl … subject to change).

In physical reality, architecture is a static and relatively motionless artifact. The occupant plays a passive role, observing but rarely impacting its composition. Winston Churchill’s statement, ‘We shape our buildings and afterwards, our buildings shape us,’ illustrates this point well.

In a virtual environment, the architecture is capable of transcending the limitations of static buildings, and become as fluid and dynamic as the communities of people they hope to serve.

The concept of Reflexive Architecture is only one of many branches of opportunity for a new language of virtual architecture to emerge, free from the habit of pure physical replication.

Many of these installations are the result of conversations, brainstorming sessions with Theory Shaw, Far Link’s post on ‘Swarm Architecture,’ Dancoyote Antonelli’s work, posts by Kliger on Metaverse Territories, and intense scripting collaboration with Fumon Kubo. Thanks!!!

These installations will be on display in the new Gallery of Reflexive Architecture on the new Architecture sim (SLurl …subject to change), and will be exhibited on Info Island by the artslib group in the Library Gallery, opening later this month (more details on this will be posted soon).

Rendering Space, an Essay by Designer Dingson
August 13, 2007, 9:56 pm
Filed under: designer dingson, virtual architecture

This essay was submitted by Lester Clark. ‘Designer Dingson’ in Second Life. August 2007.


I’m trying to explain ‘it’ – I’ve yet to classify ‘it’ in my head – to someone who knows nothing of this world. I suppose I’m finding it hard to classify because it’s still so fluid, it’s changing by the minute and you can see it evolving into something more mature, more powerful.

The ‘it’ to which I refer, is the emergence of virtual architecture, structures of all shapes and sizes, formed and shaped by the intriguing characters that inhabit a variety of virtual worlds. My mind drifts, I see a catwalk parade of outlandish clothing and accessories, of stick thin models that exist in what seems like a parallel universe, and it seems similar somehow… the garments that no one will ever really wear, the work that went into these items being worn for that brief moment on the catwalks of Paris and Rome. What I find similar, is that what you see on those catwalks – when you look and think – is more than just an outfit; it’s a display of creativity and that’s what it’s supposed to be, the hat that no one will really wear is amazing purely and simply because it’s the product of a creative mind, it’s outlandish, it defies convention, it exists as a momentary sculpture and it inspires clothing manufacturers and designers worldwide to create something similar that contains just a little of the spark they’ve just seen but this time its about something that can be sold and used by real people, leading real lives.

The virtual architects that inhabit these worlds are visionaries, they are the emerging prophets of a new age. The structures and spaces they create, the hours of work they put into them, the new ways they find to express what they have in their minds – it’s intruiging, but it’s fascinating nonetheless. And I’m not talking about the people that create a box with a roof, I’m talking about the one’s who truly understand the medium in which they create; actually it’s more than an understanding, it’s a compulsion, a drive to create something different, something exciting, something that doesn’t conform to any laws of physics, some virtual place that both exists and doesn’t exist, all at the same time.

The architects and designers that create these virtual structures give us the chance to experience pure creativity again, an art being lost to some of the real life architects today. There was a time when architects were seen as visionaries, where their input was paramount to creating something amazing, something special. Today, sadly, many architects have simply become part of the process, their involvement and input is controlled by many other factors, budget constraints and the need for profit mean that many of the structures that start out as exciting designs, are value engineered by assorted parties to become dull. The finest architects – both real and virtual, those with the passion that you can literally feel when you meet them, are amazing people, they value life and how we live it, they strive to create nice places to live and work, they should be admired and encouraged because they exist solely to impact positively on our lives.

I think sometimes that we have lost the ability to rejoice in architecture, to value it as a fundamental sensory addition to our real everyday world. There was a time where even the gates to a building were works of art, where the columns, door handles, chairs, light switches and ceilings were objects of awe. I worry that today’s reality means that most of us grow up constantly travelling through the all too familiar faceless urban landscapes where ‘there is no there, there’ and that this has dulled our senses somehow and muted our desire for greatness. As someone connected to architecture, I wonder sometimes about what our generation will leave for our children, will the children of the future still hark back to the structures created by Le Corbusier, Mr Wright or Mies or the Bauhaus? Will we have contributed enough, apart from the iconic, to add to this timeless collection? And is it not conceivable that maybe some of our legacies on an architectural level, will ultimately exist as structures in a virtual world? History has given us so many architectural gems, and yes, of course a few are still being created, but we live in a modern world now, in a world of MMC and planners, and codes for sustainable houses, of thermal loss calculations and developers boxes. I accept that these rules, these conditions, these practices all have their place – but within these boundaries, within the limits of what is deemed architecturally acceptable in this ‘tick box’ world, it’s inevitable that the architect’s compulsion to bring into being something special, will find another route.

That compulsion is being played out, in part, with these virtual structures, in the virtual worlds that will be become part of all of our lives over the next few years. Ask yourself whether in 5 years time we will be scrolling up and down 2D web pages when you go online for information? I guarantee that you will find yourself in a virtual world sooner or later – whether you like it or not, the technology that drives these worlds will inevitably weave itself into the very fabric of our lives.

The responsibility for how these virtual worlds are rendered, rests squarely on the shoulders of the designers and architects that populate them, and in a very real sense are helping to ‘create’ them. In one sense, virtual architecture and its disciples must push at the boundaries of what is possible in order to create structures that amaze and inspire. Like the Paris catwalk creators, the challenge here for the virtual architect is to continually learn how to find innovative ways to render space. Where there exists such a new world with only imagination and technology as your limiting factors, then you have a duty to create what is, in this real world, quite impossible. You have a duty to learn how to use the medium of the virtual world to shape your designs and deny all rules and conventions that are attached to structures and buildings in the real world. You are sculptors, tasked with bringing into being radical and visionary works of virtual art.

In another sense, virtual architecture must remain aware of the fact that residential communities are being formed and the halls of virtual corporate business are being laid. In these scenarios, one must remain true to the function of the space/place being created, if it’s a retail environment then avatars must be able to shop with ease, wayfinding must be intuitive, product selection and trial should be easy and available instantly. The architectural response to these questions is critically important – as a corporate you will only ever truly distinguish yourself in the virtual world by a reliance and insistence upon outstanding creative design, both in exterior form as well as interior design. Corporate institutions need to function effectively in the virtual world but they need to enter these worlds with an acceptance of a new world order, they need to strive to maximize the client experience on a visual and creative level at all times.

For residential structures it becomes much more an issue of personal taste, if we are to provide a welcome to all those who visit these worlds, we cannot demand of them that they live in a particular style of residence. I see no scenario where creating a traditional family home would be the best answer to the question, and the true architects of this virtual world don’t typically engage in this type of building, nonetheless it may well be suitable for the person who creates it. In my opinion it doesn’t have a lasting place in the future and practice of virtual architecture, but it does surely have a place in the virtual world as someone’s home, should they choose it to be so.

The youth of today’s mature economies are growing up in a world where digital communication and high speed internet access are their ‘norms’, not being able to get online for today’s youth would be unthinkable, they expect it, but more importantly to note, they accept it as part of their life. We are a generation that has been given the opportunity to create, and spend time in, fast emerging new worlds. We all have a choice as to what we use these worlds for and how we see these worlds develop. The scope for architectural inspiration, for cross cultural communication, for educators, for information sharing and globally collaborative events is immense, its an opportunity that we, collectively, should not squander.

When we move to populate another planet – which I have no doubt that we will – we will have the very same opportunity again, maybe what we learn about ourselves with the formation of these virtual worlds will inform our decisions about how to tackle building a new real world from scratch. Who knows, if we could learn, in this world, to accept and appreciate the differences between ourselves and our neighbours, in the same way as we are learning to in the virtual ones, we may even find that this real world becomes a nicer place to live in.

Princeton University SL: Scope Cleaver, Architect
August 13, 2007, 4:28 am
Filed under: princeton university, scope cleaver, second life, virtual architecture

I can’t express how refreshing it is to see Scope Cleaver’s work recognized for the masterpiece it is. Scrolling through, you’ll find IM Pei, Norman Foster, Coop Himmelb(l)au, Zaha Hadid, and now… Scope Cleaver.

The [Princeton] Gallery of the Arts is distinguished by its irregular profile, a soaring superstructure that supports and defines the light-filled interior.”

Full story HERE.

Way to go Scope! Making SL look great, and continuing to raise the bar even higher…

DIY Shopper, IBM and Kingfisher Team Up
August 9, 2007, 11:53 pm
Filed under: architectural resources, IBM, Kingfisher, virtual architecture

Fascinating news via Idea City – read the full story HERE.

“they [IBM and Kingfisher] have designed DIY Shopper to integrate with Second Life so that a shopper’s avatar is able to view materials available in store on his/her virtual house.  Let me write that again.  Products from the real world will be available in a digital, 3D format so that customers can see what they look like prior to purchase.  Here’s a screen shot:

Transcript: ExtraMedium
August 9, 2007, 11:11 pm
Filed under: architectural resources, architecture group, architecture island

Find the transcript of today’s meeting HERE.

Much better turnout, excellent conversation.  As usual, we were meandering, but always inspiring and interesting.  We started with scale, and ended with scale – and arrived at some interesting conclusions.

The most interesting result was that most of us agreed on the need for 1.) A standard standard and universal scale that translates real life architecture into SL better than the current meter.  2.)  A new ‘Architecture SL UI’ client-side user interface with more architect-friendly camera locations, Field of View toggle, etc.

We agreed that perhaps we should co-create a proposal – using a public Wiki, to define what it is that we would like to see out of a new architect-friendly user interface.   We could then use this proposal to try to win funding or research grants.

Does anyone have experience setting up a public Wiki that would be willing to organize this for us?  Any other thoughts or ideas we should explore here?

ExtraMedium: Scale and Relativity in Virtual Environments
August 7, 2007, 11:09 pm
Filed under: architecture, architecture island, virtual architecture

Join us on Architecture Island (slurl) this Thursday at 2PM SL-time (PDT) this week, as we address the troublesome concepts of scale, perception and relativity we all face in Second Life.

What does scale really mean in SL anyway? Is the meter arbitrary? Is it all relative? Is it all about perception?

Then, on the 16th, Gioacchino Laryukov will be describing his architectural work inspired by Giuseppi Terragni. On the 23rd, we will be discussing ‘Digital Density,’ tackling some of the urban design challenges facing the architectural fabric of Second Life.  Ideas for future topics?  Let us know!

Architecture Competition Gets Results
August 7, 2007, 2:47 pm
Filed under: frank koolhaas, mario gerosa, meltori editore

Quite a few quality entries in the Meltori Editore architecture competition, recently organized by Mario Gerosa (Frank Koolhaas in SL).

Via Virtual Architecture Heritage

Weekly Architecture Meeting Thursday at 2:00 PM SL-time (PDT)
August 6, 2007, 3:38 pm
Filed under: architecture group, architecture island

This week, we’ll be trying out a meeting at 2:00 PM SL-time (PDT) on Architecture Island (last week’s 6:00pm time wasn’t very popular). I’m in the process of verifying a guest presentation, and will provide more details as soon as I know more.

Hope to see you there!

Architecture and Design Competition in Second Life
August 6, 2007, 3:30 pm
Filed under: architectural resources, sl-award

Spatially interesting and aesthetically independent pieces of architecture are sought from the inhabitants of the digital parallel world that has almost five million participants. The competition is open for all.

The aim of the competition is to explore new trends of architecture and design on the electronic soil of the MMOG (massive multiplayer online game) of Second Life.

The Austrian artist Stephan Doesinger has begun the First Annual Architecture and Design Competition in Second Life in the virtual world of “Second Life.”

Apart from inworld-Second-Life the competition will also “happen” in the “first world” at the International Ars Electronica Festival in Linz 2007 and at Zollverein Essen with jury discussions, partys, and a great prize ceremony.

Projects will be chosen from five categories:
1) Private Home
2) Corporate Architecture and V-shopping
3) High Rise
4) Landscape Design
5) Freestyle and Special Projects

But there will also be two extra-prizes:
The Prize of the Jury and the Prize chosen by the Second Life online-community.

The winners will receive a worldwide exposure!
1) The projects will be presented at the Ars Electronica festival 2007 (Sept. 5th – 11th, 2007) in Linz Austria, where the jury will be publicly held.
2) The winners will be honoured in an official prize ceremony at the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Zollverein Essen a few weeks later.
3) The results of the competition will be documented in a book which will be published by Prestel publishers in spring 2008.
4) The winning projects will be promoted worldwide and presented in a Hall of Fame on the internet – and of course in Second -Life.

Submission Deadline:
September 1st, 2007

Learn more at


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.