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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Architecture in Second Life 

Second Life seems to me to be creating its own architectural forms already. There is a definite style to many of the more important buildings in the game.

I think this is actually caused by several factors related to the game itself.

  • Firstly the absence of many of the more annoying laws of physics and causality. Skyboxes are an obvious one here but many SL buildings would not survive in the real world with walls about 10cm thick holding up a 5 story building for example.
  • Conserving prims is another important consideration. This means many buildings are actually quite simple when they are analysed from an architectural standpoint. It also means that most architectural decoration is actually done at a texturing level in SL and often doesn't look quite right as it is a 2D image "plastered" onto a flat 3D surface.
  • The lack of inclement weather also has a huge influence. Every day is hot and sunny and a drop of rain never falls. Why bother with a roof in that case.
  • Different forms of avatar mobility such as teleporting and flying makes whole new architectural forms open up. Who needs stairs, they are just a waste of prims anyway. Let avatars fly or teleport to where they need to go.

Having said all that I don't think I have come across many buildings that fully exploit all of SL's opportunities for architects. Many use some of the new features such as teleporters and many save prims where ever possible but there are not many really novel buildings being created.

Perhaps this is because as humans we are comfortable in with architectural forms we recognise. Design Patterns were first recognised in architecture after all. Something feels right about a house that looks like a house rather than a series of non-interconnected "rooms" that are assembled in a way that would be impossible in the real world.

This has a parallel in the real world. How many modern "machines for living" to quote Le Courbosier actually turned out to be homes that people are comfortable with?

EDIT 20:08 28/02/07

I just found the Society for virtual architecture in SL. They have some great SL architecture resources for me to explore.

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