The ARCH


Please help us build Main Street MMO!

Main Street MMO

We’re raising funds to launch Main Street MMO, and we need YOUR help as a founding supporter!      

There are so many incredible sci-fi, war games and medieval adventures available today, with amazing complexity, detail and realism.

Main Street MMO seeks to combine the fun and interactivity of video games with real cities to promote local businesses, showcase city initiatives, visualize architectural designs, and a lot more.

We need your help!

Here’s a link to our Kickstarter page where you can pledge your support for our project:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/keystone/main-street-mmo-real-cities-in-realtime-3d

As a founding supporter of Main Street MMO, we will engrave your name in a cornerstone, add your name to the credits, name an NPC after you, or even kickstart an MMO of your city (other creative award ideas are welcome! =)

Even if you can’t afford to back the project financially, please consider sharing this within your network to help raise awareness!  Your tweets, facebook updates, and blog posts are the stuff a successful Kickstarter project is made of, so please help us spread the word!

premiere city of Dubuque Iowa

We’re just getting started! For the past year, we’ve been partnering directly with local businesses in our premiere city of Dubuque, Iowa to determine which features they feel would be most useful in a technology like this, and have compiled a list of features and functionality we believe will take this project to a new level, but we need your help!

Please consider backing Main Street MMO! Your support is very much appreciated. If you think your city would be interested in something like this, or if you have ideas for new features we should add, please get in touch with us!

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/keystone/main-street-mmo-real-cities-in-realtime-3d

Thanks SO MUCH @openingdesign @epredator  @pbroviak  Derek Barrett @samdriver and @moirah for stepping up as our first backers!  We can’t thank you enough for your support! 



Announcing Architecture Days on Orange Island

“In our discovery of the aspects that influence the most the residents life, we decided to focus on a topic that is at heart of the our experience in Second Life: Architecture.

From Monday 17th to Wednesday 21st, join us on the Orange Island for the Architecture Days. We will have promising panels dotted with talk-show, show&tell, class and demo.”

Count me in!  Learn more here: http://www.orange-island.com/?p=1114



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…


Wikitecture 4.0: Re-Inventing the Virtual Classroom

New Wikitecture Project Kick-off event: October 23nd at 5:00pm Pacific (SL-time)

With so many universities and academic institutions from around the world using virtual environments like Second Life for teaching and research, many have started to wonder what, exactly is a virtual classroom?

In an environment where you can fly, and with no elements to protect from, what role does architecture play in a virtual university?  In what ways should a virtual classroom be similar to a classroom in real life?  How might they be different?  How can the virtual architecture best serve the students, staff and community who use it?

Because buildings are so expensive to build and modify in the real world, rarely are students and staff able to actively participate in the creation of the physical spaces they use.  In a virtual space, however, the tables are turned.  Anyone can easily prototype their idea in 3D, walk through it, and share it with others.   Given these new opportunities, why not let the students, staff and public community who actually use these classrooms design it for themselves?  Who better, in fact, to offer insight to improve a occupied space, than the people that use it on a daily basis?

These are the questions, the Studio Wikitecture group has been asking for some time now.  Composed of individuals from various backgrounds and open to anyone, the group has been asking whether new modes of production, as witnessed in the open-source movement, for example, can offer any clues into how we might improve the process of designing our buildings and cities, both real and virtual.  In much the same way Wikipedia enables a loose, self-organizing network of contributors to come together to create a surprisingly accurate encyclopedia, the group has been conducting a number of experiments and projects to explore ways by which a disperse group, spread around the world, can come together to share ideas, edit the contributions of others, and vote on the success or failure of an evolving piece of architecture.

Over the years, the group has conducted a number of experiments to flesh out the possibilities of a more decentralized approach to practicing architecture.  In fact, Studio Wikitecture was recently honored with the Founder’s Award for their collaborative competition entry in last year’s Open Architecture Challenge to design a tele-medicine facility in one of the most remote areas of Western Nepal.

As you can imagine, having a group collaboratively design a building is a daunting and difficult task.  In this light, Studio Wikitecture teamed up with i3dnow to develop a software prototype plug-in for the virtual world of Second Life that helped the group better collaborate on the collectively designed competition entry.  The plug-in, in it’s simplest form, is a kind of of 3d-Wiki.  The ‘Wiki-Tree’, as it is called, acts very much like a typical wiki, but instead of tracking versions of a text documents, it tracks virtual 3D models and unlike a conventional wiki that conveys submissions in a linear fashion, the ‘Wiki-Tree’ visual conveys, in a sort of 3-dimensional mind map, how the submitted designs iterations relate and ‘branch’ off each other over time.

To continue this exploration into open-source architecture, for the group’s 4th project, the University of Alabama has challenged you, its students and staff, to collectively brainstorm and design a virtual set of classrooms.  Through this project, you will be working in close collaboration with both your professors and/or peers to design a series of classrooms in the virtual realm.

Furthermore, you and your fellow contributors will be awarded at total of $250,000 Linden dollars, distributed based on a unique ‘Community Assessment’ method.  A method, whereby members of the community collectively determine the approximate percentage of credit each contributor deserves.

As with the last project, we will be using the 3d-Wiki versioning tool to keep track your and your fellow contributor’s design submissions.  Through the ‘Wiki-Tree’, you will be able to review the various designs submitted, as well comment and vote on your preferences (or dislikes).  As an overview, this video will give you a really quick sense on how the ‘Wiki-Tree’ works.

To participate, you’ll need to create a Second Life account HERE if you don’t have one already, then join the Studio Wikitecture group (in Second Life, click Search at the bottom).  Then visit the University’s virtual site HERE (UA ESPRMC sim, 186, 87, 26), and click on the base of the Wiki-tree in order to register your avatar and get a password.  This password will then give you access to the website component HERE, where you’ll be able to vote and comment on ideas submitted by the community.

For more information about how to use the Wiki-tree, visit this site:http://studiowikitecture.wikidot.com/how-to

In an effort to keep the project as open as possible and avoid hindering creativity, the following are the only guidelines to the project.

1.  The architectural style is open to the group’s discretion.
2.  We need six classrooms with ample space for student (30 avatars)
3.  The disciplines we may house in the rooms include: Science, Mathematics, Art, English, Social Sciences, and Music.
4.  No more than 800 prims total
5.  Occupy no more than 5,000 square meters

We will also be holding regular tutorial sessions every Tuesday at 5pm SL-time, and at times requested by the community, for anyone who has questions or needs help submitting their idea.

If you have any questions, we can reached at the following emails:

Ryan Schultz (Theory Shaw in SL): (ryan.schultz [at] studiowikitecture [dot] com).

Jon Brouchoud (Keystone Bouchard in SL): (jon.brouchoud [at] studiowikitecture [dot] com).

See you there!

Cross-posted from the Studio Wikitecture blog



UNIT 13

This video is now officially my favorite Second Life machinima of all time (not just because they mention Wikitecture 😉  Their use of hybrid machinima is incredibly well done, and the way they portray the architectural possibilities of virtual space is very inspiring; emphasizing a kind of virtual architecture not exclusively tethered to physical replication, yet navigationally familiar enough to prevent disorientation.

UNIT 13 is an informal unit of the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. It was organized to explore the capabilities of virtual worlds for architectural practice. Unit 13 is currently operated within Second Life.”

Outstanding work, Unit 13!  We can’t wait to see what you guys do next!

Thanks to Dusan Writer for the heads up!



S,M,L,XL, SL

Here we have Lebbeus Woods, who “continues to work at a small drafting table in a corner of his apartment here, a solitary, monklike figure churning out increasingly abstract architectural fantasies…”

Would someone please get this man a Second Life account?

He even has a show running at MoMA called ‘Dreamland’  (not to be confused with Anshe Chung’s virtual ‘Dreamland‘ empire in Second Life).

If ever there was an architect who’s work would benefit from virtual immersion, it is Lebbeus Woods.  His sketches are brilliant, and will always hold an important post in architectural expression, but they are just so many static portals into his imagination.  Wouldn’t it be better if the rest of the world could walk inside  living, breathing, holistic creations in a virtual environment instead of traveling to MoMA to see sketches?

We have seen several projects within Second Life that have this kind of ‘shake-up’ potential to challenge the status quo, and even some outward facing projects that challenge real life architectural norms.  But they’re still essentially off the industry radar, with very little uptake in mainstream discussion or education.  There is no doubt in my mind that native architectural talent already immersed in Second Life has the skill and wherewithal to achieve such great heights, but how and when will their work be counted amongst the industry’s FIC?  Will it ever be?  Should it be?

In my humble opinion, the vast, amorphous, virtual fabric of the Second Life grid itself is already worthy of inclusion and consideration as one of the most significant architectural achievements of our time.  The profound, the abstract, the literal, the silly, the corporate, the preposterous, the serious…the whole thing, every prim of it, ought to be considered a magnificent architectural manifestation on par with even the most recognized theoretical inventions.  To be sure, Second Life is the greatest singular manifestation of free, creative architectural expression the world has ever seen. Yet it remains all but ignored by our profession.

When will architectural giants of theory see the low hanging fruit of virtual environments as a tool for enabling people from around the world to more fully experience their ideas in an immersive and holistic fashion than sketches and illustrations offer?  Will they ever?  Or will it have to be born from within?  It seems increasingly clear to me that the architectural greats of tomorrow’s serious theory might not come from hallowed halls, but from avatars, and communities of avatars operating in virtual environments- not starchitects or solitary monklike figures.

Here are some other ‘food-for-thought’ quotes from this article about Lebbeus that I find very applicable to our collective work on the virtual frontier of architecture industry.

“During the 1960s firms like Superstudio in Florence, Italy, and Archigram in London were designing urban visions intended to shake up the status quo. These projects – walking, mechanized cities and mirrored megastructures that extended over mountain ranges and across deserts – were stinging attacks on a professional mainstream that avant-garde architects believed lacked imaginative energy.”

“By abandoning fantasy for the more pragmatic aspects of building, the profession has lost some of its capacity for self-criticism, not to mention one of its most valuable imaginative tools.”

And finally, a quote directly from Woods, “what interests me is what the world would be like if we were free of conventional limits. Maybe I can show what could happen if we lived by a different set of rules.”

Welcome to Second Life, Mr. Woods!

Quotes from “Lebbeus Woods: An architect who still explores the fringes of reality” in the International Herald Tribune.  Full article HERE.

Images from ‘Architecture My Ninja Please” post HERELebbeus Woods on Wikipedia.



Fake is the New Real – Mario Gerosa on Virtual Architecture

Check out Mario Gerosa’s interview, part of a Mission completed in the CheckinArchitecture project, submitted by Fabio Falzone and Jacopo Fontana.  From their YouTube description:

“But what about traveling in the virtual worlds today? During the 80s, it was a trend to refer to traveling in virtual reality like a physical voyage, where the use of a head-mounted display was inseparable from the trip itself. Today, it is more about eyesight than body experience: we stand in front of the monitor without moving. It is a non-linear trip, similar to an expedition through a Borges tale, 2.0. Nevertheless, there’s lack of “tourist” guides and research engines among virtual worlds. Are virtual travels still an elite form of tourism and knowledge or will they, in their cheapness, become the mode of vacation for those who simply can’t afford the real thing?”

Read more about their mission HERE.  Nice work!