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    more musings on the virtual world

    Quilian Riano
    Feb 25, '07 10:07 PM EST
    The Good- The Gross Point charrette is a pretty amazing example of the power of the internet. As I said in that thread this is the first time, to my knowledge, that an internet group has led to spontaneous action in the quality of built environment in the real world. It started with an innocent thread that led to real action by a group of committed and talented professionals, that is real power.

    It is also nice to hear about the Second Life resistance and satire. In other SL news it seems like someone has taken it upon him/her self to bring sustainability to Second Life. This place sells (not very interesting) houses with wind turbines and all the works. At least this can be a way to educate the public and as Heather Ring put it: "sustainable architecture in SL is an absurdity, but there's nothing inherently worse about an image of a McMansion than an image of something imaginative or responsive." You can find Crescendo Designs in the Architecture Island of SL.

    Virtual Sustainability:

    The Bad AND the Ugly- This previous blog entry and the feature from Bryan and Heather made me want to continue looking at Second Life. And since in Pro-Practice I had to write a paper on architecture as a profession I wrote about the profession in the virtual world. I did most of the reading recommended in the previous log entry for this paper, thanks for all your suggestions.

    Doing more research and flying around in Second Life I found out about a case study I find troubling and wanted to share with archinecters. The hotel chain Starwood Hotels hired Electric Sheep to take their new Aloft hotel into Second Life. They built the hotel on the website and with the help and feedback of Second Lifers they changed the design. Starwood recently broke ground for the same hotel in real life with the above mentioned changes.

    There is something about this democratic approach that appeals to me, but in none of the literature I have found I have seen anything about a real architect involved in the project. Although I am sure that for legal purposes there was in fact an architect at some point, that person seems to have been dropped from the design process. Judging by the design of the hotel a real architect's hand could have helped.

    It seems that Electric Sheep and other virtual firms are beginning to use the term "virtual architect" and "metaverse architect". Although the title bothers me (I think that not too long from now we will see a fight for the title of architect, even in the virtual world), I think I have a more fundamental problem with so called virtual architects making design decisions that are being translated into the real built environment. How long will it take for the AIA, NCARB, and others to react? Is a reaction necessary?

    Listen to the podcast

    Architecture without Architects:


    • amazingly funny.

      a challenge to people pretending to be architects in a virtual world would be so utterly absurd. it is a bit like reacting against people pretending to be architects in movies, isn't it? sure the metaphor is a bit weak, but still...

      personally i am anarchist (but not the hurting kind) enough to love the idea that architects are pulled from the design process in favor of group/consensus design. we are far too complacent with our professional hegemony as it is, so competition from any corner is i think a good thing.

      Feb 25, 07 11:33 pm  · 

      my premise is that they stop pretending once the changes they make get translated into the rel world. I don't think that the state registration boards would look kindly if while making "Click" Adam Sandler busted out some quick plans for a real building.

      In the podcast, they make it seem like they are the designers and since this will be built in the real world, their claim to be any type of architects comes into scrutiny. Even in the democratic approach this seemed to have there is always someone who makes the final decision. In other words I am skeptical as to how much real input people outside of Electric Sheep actually had. Now the Aloft case may be a welcomed event, but let us at least talk about it before the profession loses even more influence.

      Feb 26, 07 7:10 am  · 

      yeah, i get that, +q

      but a real architect does the real building in the end. so life safety and reality issues get covered, which is supposedly our justification for professional protection.

      not sure that is any different than what many corporate architects do nowadays (esp, for an extreme example, the architects who work for wal-mart, etc). Clients often have ideas about what a building should be and are adamant about seeing it happen. whether these ideas come from history, from an advisory panel (of architects and other professions), or from some kind of group in 2nd life does not seem to me to be that important...

      the cat is well out of the bag, from ages back. architects are sometimes the makers of content, and sometimes merely the folks who see that a certain kind of content happens. this looks to me like just another variation of the latter. not big news to me.

      as far as architects losing not so sure we have. maybe chris wren had a bit more power than rem koolhaas, but the kind of buildings they do are more or less the same, in terms of cultural positioning. only thing that has really changed since then is that an affluent middle class has taken a much larger position in cultural production and judgement...and architects have almost never designed for that level of society. not because we can't, but because they pretty much just don't want us...which i quite like, as an idea. ;-)

      Feb 26, 07 8:39 pm  · 

      I agree with you jump, especially on the your statement that the types of buildings architects are involved in have remained constant while the culture has changed. This is where we may differ (or maybe not as I read you as almost playing devil's advocate), I think that architects should get into the middle class ex-urban landscape. The spaces made to cater for the middle class are changing the environment and society in scary ways. Chris Wren's generation did not have those challenges. Maybe I am calling for a general re-evaluation of the architect's role?

      Feb 26, 07 9:50 pm  · 

      You also have to remember that I was doing this research for a paper on the professional practice. So in that context clearly defining who is an architect, etc... is important

      Feb 26, 07 9:53 pm  · 

      point taken.

      yah, i am playing lucifer's advocate somewhat...still not sure if there is a difference between wal-mart man coming to architect and saying "build me this", and someone coming to an architect with a design from 2nd life and saying "build me this". the role of the architect (of this type) has not changed. zero design, pure production. not a new thing exactly, just the source of inspiration/design has changed...

      i do agree, it would be nice if we could address the middle class as architects. but i am fairly convinced that the problems created by our more and more egalitarian-ish and wealthy society are not going to be solved by architects, unless they become politicians. we always end up proposing something not so different to FLW's usonian city, and noone ever buys into it. perhaps rightly so.

      Feb 27, 07 2:02 am  · 

      jump, I think you are in Japan, right? Do they have a similar situation with the role of the architect out in the suburbs (if they can afford the space to have any)?

      Feb 27, 07 6:41 am  · 

      yeah it is the same thing as in north america. remarkably so. it is the american dream here, pretty much the same dream we all know and love, just a bit denser...

      the major difference is that zoning laws are national, not local and there aren't very many, so it is possible to have mixed use in the suburbs...that is, people will pretty regularly set up a store in the middle of a row of houses...or a small health clinic, et cetera (this phenomenon is the theme of my research for phd).

      and there is perhaps even less attempt to creat harmony in a development cuz the whole "local controls to ensure property value" and all that somehow never caught on here. the result is something much more akin to the new urbanist dream, but ugly as hell, and totally accepting of the dross that comes with commercial/mall-based society.

      there is on top of this a legal classification called the 2nd class architect, who is able to design small buildings and houses, and these guys work for the big housing manufacturers. housing built in factories for the most part and very much prefab (but you wouldn't know it to look at it). very well built stuff, amazing ergonomic designs, totally ready for earthquakes and typhoons, but equally weird for looking like fake tudor schlock. and then, amidst all this, every now and then, a building by ando or similar. little gems all over the suburban landscape, completely unexpected, and hard to take in at first.

      same sort of problem though. architects are pretty much out of the picture. not sure if that is a bad thing. maybe is why i decided to research planning rather than architecture in japan. it seems that the larger (policy level) scale is where the real impact can be made.

      Feb 27, 07 8:51 am  · 
      vado retro

      in the future people will be able to implant chips into their brains which will allow them to feel/think/experience virtual worlds as if they were "real" the "real" world will only be needed to earn the "real" money that will allow people to live in the kind of world that they actually prefer.

      Feb 28, 07 10:44 am  · 

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