Building in a Virtual World

Second Life image
Architecture may be about design, form, and aesthetics; but in today’s tech-savvy world, Second Life, a virtual world created by Linden Lab in 2003 that allows users to communicate via “avatars,” highlights an aspect of architecture that is often forgotten. A Twitter post from @AIANational on Tuesday (August 24) points to a YouTube video that addresses how this software that is shifting the methods of modern architecture design.

In President Obama’s Cairo speech in 2009, he spoke about creating an online network to connect Muslim students with internships in the United States, so “a young person in Kansas instantly can communicate with a young person in Cairo.” Just months after this address, “Shopping Mall Reflections,” a collaboration between Egyptian architect Amr Attia and American urban planner David Denton exclusively was designed using Second Life. The two communicated and developed the project using their respective avatars, eliminating the inconvenient need to meet within the same physical space.

In the video, Denton also comments on the ease of presenting architectural materials to clients using Second Life. He discusses how many clients do not understand architectural drawings, and that the virtual presentation of architecture through Second Life is far more accessible.

With the success of Second Life thus far (multitudes of corporations have already experimented with its uses), it is easy to see how this virtual evolution will thrive in the world of architecture, an industry that is still slow to even fully adopt social media. But what’s interesting is that I see students more frequently are beginning to shift from traditional, chipboard model making and hand sketching to virtual building in Second Life, which is easier, cheaper, and most importantly, participatory. 

Could this be the way of the future for A&D? What do you think?

–Zoe Namerow

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