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/

 



Construction of Hurricane Katrina relief project ‘The Porchdog,’ prototyped in Second Life, now complete

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This site has moved to www.archvirtual.com

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Here are several before and after images of the ‘Porchdog’ residence, prototyped in Second Life by the Architecture in Virtual Worlds community.  We built a virtual replica of this original design by Marlon Blackwell Architects, which was published to Open Architecture Network under Creative Commons licensing for an event with Architecture for Humanity founder Cameron Sinclair’s appearance in Second Life.

Second Life prototype and real world construction

During the presentation, Cameron Sinclair described the project:

“The idea is, can we work collaboratively online, in places like Second Life, to respond to issues like Hurricane Katrina.”

He also described some background behind the project:

“…we starting in 1999 basically using email and a web page – and as we’ve progressed and as technology has progress, we’ve embraced new technologies.”

Hurrican Katrina relief - construction

As the fidelity of virtual worlds continues to improve, online virtual environments like Second Life are now capable of producing much higher quality prototypes than ever before.  With realtime shadows, and the ability to import existing 3D architectural models just around the corner, we can expect that quality to improve dramatically in the months and years ahead.

posted on Open Architecture Network

Below is a machinima clip I made of the virtual replication process:

Here’s a machinima by Kiwini Oe, showing a discussion between Cameron Sinclair of Architecture for Humanity and John Gage of Sun Microsystems:

For more information about this project, visit the project’s page on the Open Architecture Network here: http://openarchitecturenetwork.org/projects/232?ob_bw=0

NAME: The Biloxi Model Home Program
PROJECT LEAD: Architecture for Humanity
LOCATION: Biloxi, Mississippi, United States
START DATE: December 02, 2005
CURRENT PHASE: In construction
COST: $138000 USD (Estimated)
SIZE: 1500 sq. ft
BUILDING TYPE: Residential – Single Family

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



Construction of aLoft’s flagship hotels, first prototyped in Second Life, now complete

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

prototype now built in the real world

The headline-grabbing aLoft Hotel project, first prototyped in Second Life before construction started, can now be visited in the real world (and has been open for quite some time now).  Starwood Hotels was the first to take their hotel’s architectural concept into the virtual world via Electric Sheep, and even used the virtual prototype to invite feedback they eventually used to modify the design construction started in real life.

Business Week (among others) covered the project, and had this to say about it,

For Starwood, opening aloft inSecond Life is a way to test-market the hotel’s design and rapidly prototype the evolving concept. For instance, staffers will observe how people move through the space, what areas and types of furniture they gravitate towards, and what they ignore…. The project is also an effort to tap consumers for ideas. “

Second Life prototype of real world architecture

“This is the first time the company has created a complete mock hotel—digital or physical—to serve as “a laboratory,” says Starwood Vice-President Brian McGuinness, adding that they’re already building a second physical prototype for an extended-stay hotel under the Westin label in the same White Plains warehouse.

“This is unusual for the industry. Hotel prototypes usually don’t amount to more than a single-room model that might be shown at a trade show. But the company says that both prototypes made financial sense.”

As you can see, it can be difficult to determine which shots were taken of the real world building, and which were from Second Life.  Just imagine the possibilities for architectural prototyping that will become possible with mesh imports in Second Life, or importing models into gaming platforms like Unity.

This time-lapse machinima shows the creation of the project in Second Life:

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



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



Welcome to my home: first attempts at using Unity3D for architectural visualization

Cross posted from The ARCH Network main site!  http://www.archvirtual.com

unity2
Chez Keystone! Come on in…(plugin required).

This isn’t multi-user (yet), and navigation might take some getting used to, but this is an Autodesk Revit ‘as-built’ model of my home, imported into the Unity game development platform I wrote about last week.  If I make a change in Revit and save it, the Unity build dynamically updates. With the exception of the trees, this is pretty much a raw output from Revit without any optimization (which is why it looks so crude). If I spent a few hours on it, I could add dynamic lighting and even import lightmaps to really enhance the model.   I can also export it to Nintendo Wii, iPhone or a variety of other platforms if I really wanted to, but at this point, I don’t have the necessity or resources to do so.

I should add a disclaimer that we didn’t design this house, but we are planning a green make-over in several stages in the months and years ahead, so we’ve been using this model to test master plan ideas.  I haven’t built or enabled access to the interior spaces, but I will soon.   This is just a starting point for design exploration, so even though I don’t have much to demo yet, I wanted to share some of my initial progress and publish updates with more thoughts on what I’ve learned about using Unity in professional practice.

unity1

What I like most about Unity so far is the ability to quickly and easily embed the virtual model on a web browser, or to a stand-alone .exe application if need be.  This makes it much easier to share design ideas with long distance clients that might not have the time or patience to deal with a registration process, large client downloads and orientation of larger virtual worlds.  Once they get the hang of using their mouse and arrow keys, just about anyone, even on lower end machines, can be walking around inside of a design concept within a few seconds.

When the time comes to add additional details and entourage, I simply save most raw file-types in their native format to the Assets folder of the project.  Unity then automatically finds updates if I change the model in its native application (Maya, 3DS Max, Photoshop, etc.).   What I find doubly enticing about this work-flow is that I can transition my assets into any platform I choose without being locked into a proprietary format.  For example, if/when Second Life enables mesh imports, I should be able to take these same raw assets and use them in SL, or Blue Mars, or on whichever platform I wish – without having to rebuild everything from scratch.  I will then be able to choose which virtual platform is most appropriate for the project’s requirements.

I also like the fact that the indie version of Unity is free to download and use.  Plus, its relatively easy to learn – much easier than any other 3D app I’ve worked with.  Also, there is a rapidly growing community of Unity users and support forums to find answers to just about any question you have, and lots of in-depth tutorials to help you get started.

With several companies building MMO’s or virtual worlds on Unity, it probably won’t be long before I can drop this model into a virtual world for multi-user, and avatar-based experiences.  However, I don’t think we will see realtime, in-world building tools in Unity the way we have in Second Life, or OpenSim.  Unity wasn’t designed or intended to be used that way.  I also think that any Unity worlds that do surface will likely be smaller, niche communities.  For those reasons and more,  I really don’t see Unity as any threat or comparison to Second Life or OpenSim.  However, for online, realtime, virtual architectural visualization, Unity is definitely a platform worth exploring.

Be sure to check out this thread in the Unity forum about architectural visualization in Unity: http://forum.unity3d.com/viewtopic.php?t=33684&highlight=architectural

Also, check out a recent post by epredator on his Life at the Feeding Edge blog regarding the combined application of Unity, OpenSim, Evolver and Smartfox to create the next generation of virtual worlds.



$900 million facility prototyped in Second Life now under construction

Cross posted from The ARCH Network main site!

These are the latest construction progress photos I could find of new Palomar West Medical Campus in San Diego, which is currently under construction – scheduled to open in 2011.  When the virtual architectural simulation was completed in early 2008, it attracted the attention of The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Forbes, as the largest and most comprehensive architectural prototypes of a construction-bound project ever built in Second Life (aLoft and Dedato’s build were big too, but Palomar is much bigger- weighing in at 775,000 square feet).  The virtual prototype was used by Cisco to showcase the facility’s communications features through immersive simulations in Second Life, and was built by Millions of Us.

If you know of any more recent construction photos, please let me know!



Steelcase in Second Life
July 1, 2009, 2:51 am
Filed under: architecture | Tags: , , ,

For more information, visit the ARCH Network.

I will be posting more soon, but wanted to share a slideshow from today’s tour of Steelcase in Second Life.  Fascinating stuff!

steelcase3