The ARCH


The Architecture of Virtual Education

Here is a video of the presentation I gave last weekend at the VWBPE convention , posted by tree.tv, in both a streaming format and high-def download, available here:

http://www.treet.tv/shows/bpe/bpe2009_varchitecture_27mar09/ Other presentations captured by Tree.tv can be seen here: http://treet.tv/shows/bpe2009

Here is a brief outline of what I covered:

  • Comparisons of virtual and real architecture
    • Main ideas
      • Virtual architecture is less rigid, and far more flexible than physical architecture
      • Second Life is a ‘user-generated’ environment, and places that are built exclusively by professional content creators that do not engage the end-users in the creation process are often the most dull and lifeless places in all of SL – no matter how perfectly built or well designed they might be.
      • Virtual campus spaces should engage as many individuals – faculty, students, community members – as possible – not just one person who goes off to build everything… that’s just as bad or worse than hiring a content developer to build everything for you.
      • Architecture should be driven by the end-use, in an ongoing and constantly evolving design process that doesn’t have an arbitrary ‘end’.  Virtual architecture doesn’t have to shape us…we can and should keep shaping it.
      • People building virtual education spaces are building the foundation for their school’s future virtual endeavors, and have an opportunity to re-think what education means in a virtual environment – not just importing the way we do things in real life.
  • Best practices in developing virtual architecture – framework for approaching projects, borrowing and re-mixing some elements from the AIA’s Handbook for Professional Practice
    • Predesign
      • Gathering resources, use-cases, program development, construction schedule, context analysis, project budget, architectural style, replica vs. virtual, precedent studies
    • Schematic Design
      • Blocking diagrams, wayfinding, feedback, etc.
    • Construction
      • groups, permissions, building teams, etc.
  • Case Study: ‘Re-Inventing the Virtual Classroom’ with the University of Alabama
    • Wikitecture overview
      • Process
      • methodology
    • Description of the process
    • Brief and analysis of the end result
    • Concluding thoughts
      • Can students, faculty and community members design their own physical-world spaces in the future?  Can physical architecture be as dynamic and participatory as virtual architecture?

Many thanks for Gianna Borgnine for moderating, and to everyone who helped organize this conference.  Also, thanks to La Fundación Global Democracia y Desarrollo (FUNGLODE) for sponsoring this presentation.



ARCHviews: Kirsten Kiser, Editor-in-Chief of arcspace.com

Welcome to ARCHviews, a new podcast format where I take to the streets of the metaverse and talk with architects and designers exploring architecture of all forms – real or virtual.  Today I talk to Kirsten Kiser, editor-in-chief of arcspace.com about her experience bringing her online publication into the metaverse.  She celebrates her second year of virtual exploration this week, and has a lot of great insight to share.  If the embedded video doesn’t show up, you can find it HERE.  Enjoy!



The Future is Here: Full-Scale Architectural Model from Revit Imported into a Virtual World

For more information, visit the ARCH Network.

It happened exactly 1 year, to the day I first contacted Jani Pirkola former project manager of the Realxtend team. I heard rumors late in 2007 that they had goals to accelerate the development of the ‘opensim‘ platform, and one of their priorities was 3D model imports. The conversation continued until a few weeks ago, when I received an e-mail from Jules Vos, founder of Visibuild, a company he founded aimed at leveraging and improving the capabilities of Realxtend, specifically targeting his efforts at architecture and the built environment.

He asked for an exported file from one of my Revit models, and the next day he sent me a log-in and password to the Visibuild sim where the model was hosted.  Needless to say, after all these years of waiting, I was skeptical, yet hopeful. I logged in, and there I was – standing on the front porch of our client’s soon-to-be new home we had designed!  It was exactly as I had left it during my last Save As!  This was a dream come true, that had been 10 years in the making.  I was absolutely blown away.  My Revit model was virtual!  Here it is shortly after import:

Before long I had the model populated with tables, chairs, sofa, stove, a Jenn-Air appliances, Kohler fixtures and more – all imported from Google’s 3D Warehouse, most of which are exact or near-perfect matches to the ones specified.  Google’s 3d warehouse is very extensive, and carries one of the largest collection of free 3d models available.  Thanks to Peter Quirk for the Sketchup import tutorial!



I left parts of the design out of the imported mesh that we were still designing, and was able to enjoy the best of both worlds by building those pieces with primitive objects using the in-world building tools.  This way, I could make immediate use of the model as a collaboration tool with our clients by testing, for example, ceiling options in the living room, and trying out an alternate arrangement of the porch and entry area.  There is no limitation to the size of primitive objects here (the limit is 10 meters in Second Life), so it becomes much easier to model without always having to bandage the model to work around size limitations.

The client’s first reaction after seeing a teaser was “I want more!” so I think we can safely say the value of a virtual model was immediately evident.

Even a quick proof-of-concept study of imported buildings that surrounded a project site in Manhattan was fruitful.  When almost any model format can be imported, it feels like the whole world has opened up – and the possibilities are truly without limit.

The combined 3-part effect of being able to import contextual structures shared by others and import professionally built CAD or BIM-derived models and model bits and pieces using the familiar in-world building tools is a pretty astonishing new opportunity.  Of course there are still kinks to be ironed out, and some parts of the work-flow that would benefit from further optimization, but that’s where Visibuild’s value becomes most apparent.  They have the capability of streamlining that process for you, and serving as a one-stop service and hosting environment  for architects, urban planners, realtors, city governments and anyone else with a vested interest interest in architecture and the built environment.

 

Another key feature of this environment is the dynamic shade and shadows.  You need a decent graphics card to experience it, but its nice to know that the feature is available when you’re ready for it.  One common complaint for architects exploring the use of Second Life in professional practice was the plasticness of the builds, and the inability to convey the way light and shadow will effect the architecture.  The code for dynamic shadows has been available for some time now, but has yet to be implemented in any of the newest viewer releases. This is surely a key fundamental to an architect’s concern in design development, and experiencing a building without light and shade doesn’t as accurately reflect the experience you will get in real life.

Since most modern architectural software automatically generates 3D models anyway, the gap between your model and a virtual environment is no longer treacherous or time consuming – but relatively simple (or cost effective if you’d rather have someone else import it for you).  If you already model in SketchUp, for example – you’re only a few clicks away from enjoying the benefits of experiencing the model virtually and inviting others to experience it with you in realtime.  The bottom line is, most architects utilize 3D models at some point in the design development process anyway.  With Visibuild, you’re just one ‘save as’ away from leveraging the value of that model, and enjoying all of the many benefits a virtual environment affords.

These are some of the qualities of this environment I find most powerful:

  • The capacity to import 3D Models from just about any industry standard 3D package
  • Its accessible – there is very little mystery around how this works, and it isn’t terribly complicated or expensive.
  • It is built on an open source platform, and with a little experimentation you can roll up your sleeves and tinker with it.  You still have the option of hiring others to get everything set up for you.  The choice is yours.
  • User-generated content.  I can’t modify the imported mesh in-world, but I can leave off parts of the build that aren’t finalized and use the simple in-world building tools to test ideas on the fly.
  • Multi-user.  I can create an account for each of my clients and project stakeholders (builders, subs, etc.)  We can all occupy the building at the same time, from our own computers, wherever we happen to be in the world.  I can also customize their accounts ahead of time – so their avatars look good, and they appear right at the front door.
  • Realtime.  Unlike an prescriptive illustration or animation, you get to choose how, when and where your avatar moves.  This is much closer to the way people actually experience architecture.
  • Collaborative.  Multiple users can work together on a single group of objects to explore ideas – this capability is at the heart of what Studio Wikitecture is exploring.
  • Shade and Shadows, and the ability to cycle through any day/night setting and customize the sky to whatever settings you like
  • The incorporation of avatars.  I think this provides an enhanced sense of immersion and a feeling of actually being in the space.

This is truly a defining moment in the story of virtual worlds and architecture!

I’ll be working with Jules and the Visibuild team in the months ahead to help out with some exciting new projects, so if you’re interested in being an early adopter and want to be a part of the private beta, you can find contact information on the Visibuild website here: http://visibuild3d.com


COMMISSION #3: Opening and free workshop today! 1 December 2008

6.30-7.30pm GMT (10.30-11.30am SL Time), Monday 1 December 2008: join the workshop in reflexive architecture

8pm GMT (12 noon SL Time), Monday 1 December 2008: attend the launch

SLurl: teleport to 2ND LIVE (83, 171, 22)

The Project:
In physical reality, the architectural shell is a relatively static and 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 can become as fluid and dynamic as the communities of people it hopes to serve. The topic of this installation, ‘Reflexive Architecture’ is just one vector suggesting the emergence of a new language of virtual architecture, free from the habit of pure physical replication. In this way, we can shape our virtual buildings, and afterwards we keep shaping them.

The focus of this study is to utilize reflexive elements in the creation of a new Gallery of Reflexive Architecture. In keeping with the spirit of a user-generated environment, residents of the Second Life community are encouraged to create and exhibit their own applications of this concept. To encourage this process, a core set of ‘reflexive scripts’ have been open sourced that can be modified to create a wide variety of reflexive elements. Residents are encouraged to share their contributions to the gallery by contacting Keystone Bouchard. The scripts can be found here: http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=ddqzdng9_32dwrgxj


The Theory:
There is a polarizing tension emerging between virtual architecture primarily focused on replicating elements of physical reality, in contrast with architecture that explores purely virtual concepts not possible in any other medium. In an environment where avatars are free to create anything they can imagine, the vast majority of the architectural fabric created is still largely driven by very literal parallels to the physical world. This happens for good reason, as we have learned to visually organize the world around us, real or virtual, based on familiar cues and patterns. A roof may not need to protect us from the elements in virtual space, but it organizes a space. Even though you can fly, a ramp is still a strong wayfinding mechanism.

While we import these visual cues from physical reality with good cause, I think we also need to consider the native, inherent characteristics of this environment and build a new language of virtual architecture based on those characteristics. New architectural technologies such as steel, glass, elevators, and electricity have traditionally challenged architects and designers to explore new and unprecedented forms of architectural creation. The same will be true of virtual environments. What can we do in virtual space that could never have been done before?


In examining the differences between real and virtual environments, it becomes clear that physical architecture is relatively static and unchanging, whereas virtual architecture has the capacity to become far more dynamic; behaving more like a liquid than a static and passive artifact. I believe this seemingly simple distinction could serve as a core ingredient and driving force behind a new language of virtual architecture. In this way, the idea of reflexive architecture is not a new language of virtual design, but my hope is only to establish a simple diagram that I hope will inspire further progress and exploration of dynamic new forms of virtual architecture.

More about this concept can be found in these previous posts:

http://archsl.wordpress.com/2008/10/28/machinima-manifesto-we-shape-our-virtual-buildings/

http://archsl.wordpress.com/2007/07/18/we-shape-our-virtual-buildings-and-afterwards-we-keep-shaping-them/

http://archsl.wordpress.com/2007/08/15/gallery-of-reflexive-architecture/



Metanomics: Liquid Artifacts: Architecture in Virtual Worlds
November 13, 2008, 8:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

I’m honored to have been invited to the Metanomics stage this coming Monday, November 17th at noon (12:00) SL-time (PDT) to talk about architecture in virtual worlds.

To learn more, visit the Metanomics event page here: http://metanomics.net/Event111708



Machinima Manifesto: *WE* Shape our Virtual Buildings

In this podcast, I review some of the reasons I remain so optimistic about the future of virtual worlds, and describe the fundamental characteristics I believe make user-generated 3D worlds a game changing new standard every organization should be exploring – with or without a budget.

I also touch on another point I intend to write more about, which is the failing premise of expensive, polished, static and exclusive content creation handed down by professional developers as the only means for organizations to build a presence in Second Life.  If you want strictly developer-controlled content, buy an X-Box.  I think we need to focus more on enabling the community of people we hope will actually use these places in a more participatory, dynamic and ongoing design development process.  It’s about being less fearful of change, and more about creating architecture that is dynamic and reflexive, in a sense, to the community or organization’s ever-evolving needs.  It’s a tremendous opportunity we have yet to fully explore.

I’ll admit to the hypocrisy of that challenge, given that I’m a content developer myself, and frequently take on assignments to do the same.  For the most part, we haven’t seen a clear alternative (yet).  But I think there are emerging opportunities on the horizon, and I think we need to move away from this familiar tune:

  1. build it once (pay a developer big bucks – build something way too big, on way too much land)
  2. hope like hell that it works and people visit (calculating success using archaic ROI models)
  3. stand idly by as it stagnates (because the money’s gone…)
  4. shut it down or let it sit vacant, then blame the platform (or even the community) for that failure

This is a mentality we’re naturally dragging into virtual worlds from physical reality, where we have no choice but to be shaped by our buildings, simply because they’re too expensive to modify.  In sum, I think developer-centric practices ignore the fundamental paradigm-shift that user generated virtual worlds afford, and could stand to be re-considered, again and again until we finally do scratch the surface.

Allow me to digress further still, but I think the single, most significant difference between Second Life and other emerging platforms really isn’t all the stuff we hear about daily – I don’t think it will be things like ‘Nautilus‘ or Immersive Workspaces, imho, for lots of  reasons, though I do certainly respect those efforts.  It isn’t even just the idea of ‘user generated content’ – it goes deeper than that.  I think the killer app for Second Life and OpenSIM is lying in wait beneath that deceptively simply little ‘Modify’ button we so often take for granted.

You won’t find a button that works quite like this one in any other immersive, virtual world platform, and it is a significant point of differentiation that needs more attention.  This button is what keeps me from working in any of the competing platforms, and is certainly where the lion’s share of my future involvement with virtual worlds lies.

I hope to follow up on this meandering post and podcast with more fine-tuned thoughts, but wanted to put this out there as food for thought.  If you want to talk more about what I think this all means, how I think it can be done, or why you think I’ve got it all wrong, lets chat it up.  Leave a comment, send me an email (jbrouchoud at gmail) or meet me in-world (Keystone Bouchard).

Here is a summary of the podcast:

  • In real life, as Winston Churchill said, “We shape our buildings and afterwards, our buildings shape us” but does that remain true in a virtual environment where the community of people who actually use the buildings are able to modify them at will?
  • Second Life is the single, largest collective expression of creativity in a single location the world has ever seen – a cultural renaissance (three times the size of Boston?  five times the size of San Francisco? four times the size of Seoul?)
  • Realtime object creation, modification and sharing as a game changer – bigger than we can imagine now
  • Prototype just about anything you can imagine
  • Share those ideas with others, and see what the community thinks about it.
  • Barriers to cross disciplinary sharing and innovation eroding
  • Social component= glue transforming the creativity component from a solo experience into collaborative
  • Inverting the traditional top-down hierarchy of design development – engaging (empowering?) community – employees, or your customers, students, etc.
  • Collaborating in virtual space around 2D documents is overrated
  • 3D-Wiki technology, build the tools that will help take collaborative innovation to the next level
  • VW as arena where Wikinomics and Wisdom of the Crowds principles play out into 3D
  • Replicate physical buildings only if they have iconic value, or if you’re building it for training and orientation.  Different norms and expectations
  • Still need to build on familiar patterns and visual cues – not just floating in space unreferenced (read: ‘On Physical Replication…‘)
  • Virtual environments are more like a liquid than a solid artifact (See ‘We Shape our Virtual Buildings…’
  • Heavy up-front investment with no community input or subsequent updating leads to failure – don’t blame the platform or the community!
  • Lessons and opportunities from web 2.0 being lost in translation from 2D into 3D
  • VW feels more like architecture – habit of thinking it’s permanent, inflexible, expensive
  • Don’t drag that limitation into virtual worlds.  In Second Life, we can shape our virtual buildings and afterwards, we can keep shaping them.
  • We’re only dimly aware we are of the potential virtual worlds hold both now and into the future.
  • We’re just getting started…


Event Video Posted: Urbanism, Architecture, Planning: How Second Life Can Help Build the Urban Landscape of the Physical World and Vice Versa

I was absolutely blown away by the projects presented on this panel, and am relieved there seems to be consensus that we need to have more discussions like this soon.  Just when I think I’ve got my finger on the pulse of professional architecture and design work converging into virtual worlds, I’m introduced to several amazing projects I was only dimly aware of!

Luckily, I can cover all of these great projects with one link which contains an embedded video of our panel discussion, where each of the panelists gives a brief presentation about their work.

http://www.world2worlds.com/index.php/blogmenu/34-blog-entries/79-kim-smith-rissa-maidstone

Here is a summary from moderator Rissa Maidstone (Kim Smith in real life) from World2Worlds, without whom this event would not have happened:

“Reflecting upon the presentations and discussions given by the prestigious panel below, a few things occurred to me:

  1. Conceptual designs are being tested in Second Life and have resulted in significant cost savings to the engineers, architects and planners.
  2. The Second Life developer community is employing the same management tools that those of us who’ve worked in the engineering/architectural industry do for planning, scheduling, budget, resource management and manpower allocation.
  3. Community involvement programs and planning meetings are being or have been developed for specific physical world projects using the Second Life platform.
  4. There are ongoing technical issues that need to be dealt with through Linden Lab or third party application development.

Panelists included:




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