The ARCH


Despite Cease & Desist Order, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Spirit of Innovation Lives On

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www.archvirtual.com

The Frank Lloyd Wright Virtual Museum, which was recently granted a licensing agreement with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation (and later attained official 501(c)3 non-profit status from the IRS) was served a cease & desist order by lawyers representing the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

This is a story that hits home for me, quite literally.  I live in Wisconsin, with Taliesen East just a few miles away, and I consider Frank Lloyd Wright to be one of the greatest architects that has ever lived.  I’m also a firm believer in the architectural potential for virtual worlds like Second Life, and the very pursuit of architectural innovation in these environments has completely changed my life and my career path in immeasurable ways.   When I first created my account over 4 years ago, I did so with the intention of using the virtual world in my own professional practice, but quickly realized that Second Life was so much more than a visualization tool, it was a place. Despite its quirks and clunkiness, it was (and still is) the single largest collective expression of human creativity the world has ever seen.

For me, Second Life represented a glimpse into the future of the 3D web (by any name..).  Whether or not Second Life would become the standard for the 3D web, (I doubt that it will) it doesn’t really matter.  I’m not invested in Second Life, I’m invested in the premise and potential of the 3D web – a paradigm that’s only growing stronger each day, and I’m more convinced now than ever before that the 3D web will soon turn all things architecture inside out and upside down.  Second Life is a place to dream about how that might happen, and to start prototyping and experimenting with it.  Even though most architects won’t adopt virtual worlds for several more years, there is near unanimous consensus throughout the industry that realtime virtual models are the future of online architectural visualization.

This is precisely why I was impressed and inspired, and even a little surprised, that the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation was so forward thinking and innovative in its support for the Virtual Museum through its licensing agreement.  Even if a virtual tour of a Frank Lloyd Wright design is only able to capture a tiny fraction of what its like to experience the real thing, and not every detail can be faithfully reproduced – at least its something.  Even if the graphic quality is still lacking because the technology is still young,  its still so much more immersive, experiential and social than looking at a picture or floor plan in a book.  Plus, it was a step in the right direction.  As the fidelity of virtual worlds matures over time, Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy would be right there with it, and I thought that was great.  When Frank Lloyd Wright was alive, he lived ahead of his time – incorporating futuristic and innovative new technologies at every turn.  He was always focused on the future, almost to a fault.  Yet, for all outward appearances, the Foundation seems focused on the past with this move – perhaps out of short-term necessity, more interested in the profitability of branded merchandise.

Fortunately, we don’t need a licensing agreement to carry on the *spirit* of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work in virtual worlds.  Nobody holds a copyright on that, and I think that futuristic spirit of innovation is already alive and well all throughout the virtual frontier.   In fact, Mr. Wright may have been somewhat disappointed in our attempt to bring heritage from the past into this new frontier, in much the same way Americans were building Victorians in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  One of the very first orders of business in Mr. Wright’s career was to systematically dismantle that blind adherence to the past, and to find a new language of architecture for a new country, rooted in its inherent characteristics – not in an arbitrary past.  He looked to the innate qualities of the environment within which he was working (quite literally, the prairie’s of the midwest) and came up with an altogether unique and distinctive vision for a new architectural language.

I wish the Virtual Museum could stay open for its historical and educational importance, and I think its a short-sighted mistake for the Foundation to demand its closure, but I would argue that its far more important for us to find ways to build upon Mr. Wright’s legacy through his spirit of forward-thinking innovation, and discovering new languages of architecture that are specifically suited to the unique characteristics of the virtual frontier.  If Frank Lloyd Wright could experience virtual reality today, do you think he would start replicating buildings from the past?  I highly doubt it.  I think he would look to the future, and proceed to systematically blow our minds with conceptual breakthroughs and futuristic ideas that even the most visionary among us would struggle to comprehend – just as he did when he was alive.

Here’s how the rest of the metaverse reacted to news of the closure:

Shame on You, Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation: http://www.johncartermcknight.com/blog/?p=1031

Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Lawyers C&D Virtual Museum: http://www.secondtense.com/2010/12/frank-lloyd-wright-foundation-lawyers-c.html

Frank Lloyd Wright Museum to Close Sunday: http://primperfectblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/frank-lloyd-wright-virtual-museum-to-close-sunday/

Frank Lloyd Wright foundation Lawyers Reverse Position Cease and Desist on Previously Approved Second Life Content: http://dwellonit.taterunino.net/2010/12/02/frank-lloyd-wright-foundation-lawyers-reverse-position-cease-and-desist-on-previously-approved-second-life-content/

Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Forces Closure of Virtual Museum on December 10: http://www.betterverse.org/2010/12/frank-lloyd-wright-foundation-forces-closure-of-virtual-museum-on-december-10.html

Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Withdraws License to Virtual Frank Lloyd Wright Museum in Second Life – Then Sends Cease and Desist:  http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2010/12/frank-lloyd-wright-cease-and-desist-second-life.html

Frank Lloyd Wright Museum to Close: http://music-island.blogspot.com/2010/12/frank-lloyd-wright-museum-to-close.html

A Sad Day for Virtual Frank Lloyd Wright Fans: http://brideswell.com/content/sci-tech/a-sad-day-for-virtual-frank-lloyd-wright-fans/

 

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Introducing the Architectural Beginner’s Kit for Unity3d: Prefab Resources and Tutorial for Architecture and Design Visualization Projects

This site has moved to www.archvirtual.com

No doubt about it, Unity3D is a game changer for realtime, online architectural visualization.  Illustrations, animations and renderings are great, but online realtime 3D is better, and no other platform comes even remotely close to providing the level of flexibility, sophistication and ease of use that Unity offers.  Import your Revit model, publish the file to your website, and walk through the design in realtime from within your browser.  Its a killer app for architectural visualization, and best of all, its free.

You can download it HERE and start importing your models right away.  But if you’re an architect or designer with limited experience, even the simplest functions like doors, lights and cameras can be time consuming to master.  To help speed up your learning curve, we developed an ‘Architectural Beginner’s Kit’ designed specifically for architects and designers getting started with Unity3d.

This kit combines detailed tutorial documentation within a Unity package that contains some simple prefab items you can put to use right away.    You can drag and drop these items into your scene, but you also read the documentation to understand how they work, and how you might customize them to suit your project’s specific requirements.  Check out this preview build, showing off some of the kit’s elements.

This kit is only intended to serve as a beginner’s guide, to help get your architecture or design visualization project started with some very simple elements.  Some of the prefab elements included may be immediately useful in your projects, while others may require additional customization to suite your project’s specific needs.

Here are the elements you will receive with this kit:

  • Switch between lighting scenarios
    • Users click a button on the User Interface to switch tagged lights on and off
    • Example Use Case: Turn on or off different lighting scenarios – daytime, nighttime, etc.
  • Camera / Player Options
    • First Person Player – prefab and documentation describing how to setup a ‘player’ for your model, that visitors will use to explore the design
    • Click and Orbit Camera – allows visitor to click a button on the interface to get a distant, orbiting view of the design
  • Materials Changer –  2 setup options
    • Select an object, then click on different texture options displayed on the user interface.
    • Click on object -> Material Changes – multiple-clicks on the same object cycles through all textures
  • Doors
    • Door automatically opens whenever visitor approaches it – automatically closes when visitor leaves
    • 2 Door Types
      • hinged door – rotates 90 degrees
      • sliding door – slides X distance right or left
  • Crosshair setup
    • interaction with the design
    • Reticle setup – for highlighting objects
We’re really excited to make this kit available, and are already started on the next phase – which will include more advanced functionality.  If you have any questions, bug reports, or requests for functionality to include in future releases, please email info (at) archvirtual.com  Stay tuned!
The kit is available for $45.00, and can be downloaded here:

Unity3d architectural beginners kit



Realtime Architectural Visualization with Unity3D
October 22, 2010, 4:26 pm
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This site has moved to www.archvirtual.com

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The list of demos and samples of architectural visualization with Unity3D can be found here: http://archvirtual.com/?p=2832



Real life construction completed on innovative homes prototyped in Second Life

Read the whole story, and more about architecture in virtual worlds at The ARCH Network http://www.archvirtual.com

The Alley Flat Initiative - prototype real life design in Second Life virtual world

If you have any interest or curiosity whatsoever about using Second Life or any other online, 3D, collaborative virtual environment for architectural prototyping or education, this is a must read success story.

Construction has completed on designs first prototyped in Second Life by students at the University of Austin School of Architecture.  The prototypes were the result of a collaboration between Professor Sergio Palleroni’s students and the students of Dr. Leslie Jarmon’s “Communicating Across the Disciplines” graduate course.   Sadly, Dr. Jarmon, who was responsible for orchestrating the virtual presence for the entire University of Texas system, passed away last year.

Second Life prototype of real world design

Professor Palleroni first described his vision for using Second Life in architectural education during a talk with Autodesk VP Phil Bernstein in an event held in Second Life in late 2007. He had this to say to his students,

“I want ideas (from my students) on how we’re going to use this new Second Life to actually expand our exchange in our community.  Becuase, I thought, ‘my God, what a tool – I was so ignorant.’   I was thinking, if I can get people connected,  there might be opportunities for these clients that we’re serving, to actually participate in forums here, where I could get some world class people here, and in Second Life we would all be inhabiting the same realm, I think its fantastic.”

Construction completed on homes prototyped in virtual reality

2 years later, the project became a virtual reality in Second Life, with several Alley Flats homes prototyped.  Upon launching the project, and using it to engage community members, students were equally enthusiastic,

“There’s something extremely ‘right’ about having Alley Flats in Second Life, since Alley Flats is about building community through great design, and the clever use of technology, and that’s what Second Life is all about.  I think we’ve achieved something special, and I really hope that it will live long beyond today, and be useful for many communities all around the world.”

“This will bring people together from from different disciplines, and one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from this project was how relevant Second Life is in both commercial and non-profit markets, and I think its going to be the next huge thing in the industry.”

A Phd student in molecular biology added this,

“Working with this class was a wonderful experience, very different from working in a lab.  It was enjoyable to work across disciplines, and working on this project has provided many opportunities to engage and adapt my communication skills, and because of this, I have gained new perspectives on diversity and teamwork.”

During the launch, Sergio added some insightful remarks,

“I never thought that I would be building in a virtual world, and though I was skeptical, I’m now beginning to become a believer.  I think that at the heart of this, and what unites the real and the virtual world, is the idea that we all share aspirations and ideals that we cannot make possible within any other construct, and so the fact that we are able to, here in Second Life, see how  a city can begin go change, and we can actually show people.. and its fantastic, because we can begin to let people understand what the future might look like.  So I would almost propose that Second Life is not some unreal realm, but in some ways is the future, or a projection of where we’re heading, and a way to dream about the future.”

Dr. Jarmon said,

“Since we started working on this project, so many people have said ‘can we get one, can you build this for us?

Someone asked the students what it was like working in a virtual world.  Here’s what they had to say about it:

“We didn’t know what the possibilities of Second Life were, but now we’re standing here, its just amazing – its not something anyone in the group could have imagined, so I think working in a virtual world like this shows us that the possibilities are endless.”

“I thought Second Life, at first, was going to be difficult, but I learned to use it as an adjunct to our ‘normal’ communication.  You can’t just show up in a virtual world and expect to get work done.  You need to have an agenda and things to do, just like in the real world.”

“I’m a much better salsa dancer in Second Life than I am in the real world – which counts for something. (laughter)”

Sergio added to the student’s comments by saying,

“I can imagine in Second Life we’re going to be able to push this all much more, and actually model, what kind of city can we get form this.  I actually see this as a tremendous opportunity, and the kind of space that we all share – so I think we’re going to start using (Second Life) right away.”

Dr. Jarmon concluded with a wish for an ongoing collaboration,

“You know, you teach a class, and your grad students want to keep working after the semester is over – c’mon, that just doesn’t happen very often, so we hope this will continue, Sergio, because this is just a marvelous team.”

Read the whole story, and more about architecture in virtual worlds at The ARCH Network http://www.archvirtual.com



The Next Generation of Virtual Visualization: Vray Rendering + Dynamic Shade and Shadow

Check out this Vray rendered model uploaded on the ArchVirtual grid by Jules Vos.  The rendering quality, combined with the dynamic shade and shadow create a visually stunning and comparably low-cost way to experience an architectural design.

We added finishing touches and entourage directly from SketchUp – via Google 3D Warehouse (row boat, landscaping elements – really anything you can imagine).  See more screenshots HERE.

Cross posted from the ARCH Network



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