Saturday, November 26, 2005

Slightly Droog Homes

[Images Redacted]

The last couple of builds we've looked at are predicated on the use of pure color surfaces, devoid of texture or shading. The build is then perceived to be about the experience of space as much as it is about form. But what is space if it cannot be seen, the surfaces are not differentiated, and the space itself cannot be apprehended? This ambiguity can be of benefit in certain situations (enframing and or heightening its occupants vis-a-vis the unloaded Construct in The Matrix), but what of the obverse condition, where the experience is framed by a complete lack of ambiguity, and the goal is to establish not a juxtaposition but rather a perfect engagement with the surroundings?

The 'Slightly Droog Home' by RELIC (currently for sale in Sanctum Sanctorum 164,7) is an excellent example of the latter, where each surface in the build has been carefully articulated through the use of pre-rendered textures. The ability to 'bake' textures appears to be regarded as one of the traits separating the professional from the casual builder and the perceived value of this skill is reflected in the prefab's $5000L sticker price.

When compared to the majority of SL builds this home significantly raises the bar in terms of realism, presenting us with a very simple set of spaces and forms made incredibly rich by the narrative subtleties of the texturing, including all the distress, patina, and rustication one needs to create the perception of an industrial-style shed draped around a heavy timber frame.

That said, this degree of realism also raises the bar in terms of how the build is judged in terms of its relationship to site, and it is in this respect that the prefab is implemented to varying degrees of success. When consistency has been established between the two the result is magic. On the other hand, any inconsistency between with the surrounding context can be seen as somewhat problematic.

By way of example, let us consider the Slightly Droog Home in two separate instances. The build is simply stunning in its role as EX{POSE}URE on the water sim of Iris (55,35) and acts to make all of the surrounding builds seem either awkward or increasingly surreal by virtue of its presence. Speaking in relative terms, in Nova Linden's residence (Ambleside 115,20) one could suggest the potential inversion of this relationship, as an overscaled imposition on a quiet pastoral landscape that just doesn't seem quite right when taken as a whole.

Caveat Emptor.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Club Felix

[Images Redacted]

In RL, the gestalt that is the club experience usually involves trying to fill in the gaps in your conversation with the person standing right next to you on the dance floor, awash in drink, wading through waves of push from the closest bass bin. By the end of the night the experience is less heady and entirely more visceral, as one leaves for home with ringing ears, stinking clothes, and a bad taste in the mouth.

My first visit to Club Felix (Atis 185,82) was surprisingly similar. The air was stuffy with lag. There were only four other avs in the entire place, and one of them pulled a gun on me.

I guess it begs the question, if RL clubs are so disliked and my first experience at Club Felix was so negative, what reasons would one have for going back to either of them?

In RL, from the process of filling in those conversational gaps, making constellations from the stars as it were, usually shine moments of complete profundity and brilliance. As well, for every person you find in a club causing you grief you find ten who are smart, funny, and friendly. Finally, there is something truly compelling about the paradox of being somewhere to see and be seen, yet simultaneously deindividuated into a larger whole.

It is in this regard that my subsequent visit to Club Felix was also surprisingly similar. Of course the barriers to carrying on a conversation in an SL club are gone, unless one has trouble reading over the music and that constant clickity click sound. In this case it is the architecture of the club itself that is asking to be read into.

Like the Avalon Film Festival site, white surfaces are utilized throughout the club in an obvious attempt to appear 'fresh' and 'contemporary,' however the decision to do so reaches beyond merely stylistic associations in the manner in which it defines the overall experience. The interplay between those surfaces which are strongly expressed and those that lack in differentiation leads to spatial qualities that are largely in flux and open to interpretation. I found myself strongly connected to the spaces by virtue of this abstraction, leading to moments of strong introspection, and yet heightening the presence of the other avs in the club.

Among them were some of the club's VIP's as well as Detect Surface, the designer and builder of the structure. They gave me a warm reception, answered my dumb questions, and even took me down to the secret underground VIP room (that in contrast to the main structure is all black and decidedly sci-fi). Detect's background is in graphic design and illustration, and it shows in the strong graphic identity of the club and the consistency between the club's graphics and its architecture.

This consistency could stand to be a bit more rigorous, however, as there are a few objects around the area of the dance floor and main entry lobby that begin to feel either too gregarious or too spindly when compared to the majority of the structure. As well, when the place is empty the geometry does show a few seams, but overall this is a sophisticated build that is easy to navigate and generously scaled with lots of variety all under one roof.

On my second visit to Club Felix I stumbled home, like after any great club night, with my moments of profundity and brilliance.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Festival Site, Avalon

[Images Redacted]

Many of SL's event-driven builds such as Burning Life and the Relay for Life achieve added significance by virtue of their temporality. Once the event is over the structures and/or the sims themselves are blasted from existence. Part of what makes them out of the ordinary is the impetus to visit before they are gone to linger only in the mind's eye and become more ephemeral as time goes on. Contrast this with the myriad *ingo pads sitting forlorn until their next slot in the events schedule, ephemeral by nature of their transparent servitude to the programmed event itself, minimizing impositions by providing a level playing field for all participants.

The site of the Avalon Film Festival (Avalon 216,154) sits somewhere in between. Unlike the Relays for Burning Life etc. This build does not disappear once the event is over, and yet it is different from Tringo-poriums in that several of the spaces are closed to access once the festival is over. In this manner the build serves to heighten the significance of the event without dilution into the daily grind.

One of the larger components of the Avalon sim, it requires an increase in draw distance just to take it all in. This sprawling collection of plazas and pavilions threaded by a connecting circulation element provides a wide variety of potential circumstances in which to engage the content of the festival as well as fellow festival-goers, from small kiosk-like screens in transitional areas, to lounges intended for small gatherings, to the massive piazza and cerebro-esque dome that anchor each end of the site. Thus the playing field is decidedly uneven, giving the build the potential to significantly shape the nature of the event.

As much as I admire the builds and prefabs available in Avalon, in many cases their predominantly modular expression as rectangular boxes with rounded corners seem to feel on a purely intuitive level less like architecture and more like inhabitable graphic design. This influence is evident in the design of the festival site, but only as a jumping off point for a thoroughly varied articulation within this modularity that serves to nicely reinforce the basic intent of the spatial planning.

To this point many of my travels through SL have been solitary experiences, and I am sometimes tempted to question the value of 'social' or public spaces over and above simply using IM when so many of them sit vacant (and mostly lag-free). Here that temptation is quashed. In provoking me to reflect on the nature of film as a temporal medium and the nature of festival as a temporal interaction of avatars in relation to said medium, it could be suggested this build does as good a job of framing, amplifying and expressing an idea when sitting empty as it does when fully occupied. That, on a purely intuitive level, feels very much like architecture, not to mention a delightful imposition.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Please Stand By...

We are experiencing temporary technical difficulties as our image host, the amazing Snapzilla, moves to a new server.

Update: Thanks to some help from Cristiano Midnight we are back up and running. TY muchly :)