Mainstreet, Mall or Modem? The Digimart, and How Virtual Reality Impacts Retail Architecture

It was early in 2001, and I was (hopefully) about to complete my final semester of graduate school at UW-Milwaukee School of Architecture and Urban Planning. Everyone in my studio was busy putting the finishing touches on the carefully crafted basswood models they had been laboring over for months, and hand drafting their highly detailed plans, sections, elevations and site plans.

I, on the other hand, still hadn’t designed a building, didn’t have any real site to work with, and was sitting in the corner on my computer playing Everquest (Level 52 DE SK). Nick Blavat, my closest studio neighbor (and eventual band-mate in Jericho Web) would occasionally express concern that I should seriously consider what I’m going to present on Thesis day, given that no grand basswood model stood on my desk. My parents were equally concerned. At times, so was I.

But the truth is, I did have a project. I had a site, a program and a carefully chosen agenda. My Thesis presupposed the coming of a virtual world, which would have an extraordinary impact on real-world architecture. My position was that this coming virtual world would have such a magnificent impact on real life architecture, that architects should begin to take this environment seriously, and consider how best to take full advantage of this new medium.

Throughout my adventures in Everquest, I wondered how long it would be before architects and urban planners could import their models into this kind of virtual world, and invite clients and collaborators from all around the world to explore their projects, and literally inhabit projects far in advance of construction. I even (if rather naively) contacted Sony (makers of Everquest) to see if I could get someone there to join my thesis committee, and discuss the possibility of building an Everquest-like virtual world that enables long-distance collaboration on architectural projects.

I don’t pretend to imagine I’m the only one who was thinking on these terms at this time. Countless books had been already been written toward the architectural theory of virtual environments, and Linden Lab was already 2 years old. Moreover, now that I’m meeting so many other architects within the metaverse who share similar interests, I’ve discovered that many of us shared this same vision, at around the same time, and dedicated studies toward this end.

In the end, I’m learning that there existed a kind of mutual-emergence of like minded people. I have gathered 2 unique research documents written by architects I met in Second Life, and have asked permission to publish their papers here. Eventually I’ll begin posting these documents (along with my own). If you’re a metaverse-architecture geek, and have done research or have written papers toward this end you would like to share, please let me know!

2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I am kind of the opposite, since I am not good enough at maths to be a “real” architect, I now make architecture for games and such. But it would be nice to only make digital buildings for an architect company or so. But I wouldn’t know if that is possible

Comment by Matt

Bonjour monsieur jon brouchoud,
je suis un chercheur a l’universite laval et j’aime bien comprendre le montage de perspective seconde life avec une video realise sur un site reel dans le monde reel

Comment by tarek sahraoui

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: