Saturday, April 22, 2006

Little Sweden

[Images Redacted]

From an implied reference to the hyperkineticism of Japanese culture we now move to an overt and light-hearted statement on the home country of everyone's favorite assemble-it-yourself furniture merchant (and if you'll recall, their injurious Allen Wrenches).

Vava Vavoom's "Little Sweden" is one of a number of projects to be found on The Office (67,166,23 - view on map | direct teleport), and a part of LOL Architects, a design studio conducted by the Architecture School of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. Students studying to be architects in RL were given the task of designing and presenting a project appropriate to the context of digital space.

The build presents itself from the front as a chunk bashed off one of the ubiquitous blue boxes we are accustomed to seeing along our freeways, however it is obvious that something is askew here. At the end of a long red carpet one passes briefly through a compressed vestibule festooned in summer foliage before plunging into a rarefied volume of darkness, with only occasional hints of stars, dusky photographic scenery and a few text passages describing the Swedish winter. While perhaps intentioned, it is a nonetheless frustrating experience in this space to locate and to follow a camouflaged ramp that leads upward and finally spills you out onto the back of the build, anatomically correct in a full-scale doll house of compartmentalized exhibits, each containing a selection of representative and whimsical imagery.

Unlike the narrative power of Tetsuharu Nino's build, in this case the architecture itself seems to contribute little to one's understanding of Swedish culture. Instead it attempts through a composition of spatial sequence and scalar relationships to experientially frame a container for content. While the differences between summer and winter are none-too-subtly communicated, the skewed box form itself is among architects almost as ubiquitous as the undifferentiated prefab structures to which it responds. In addition, the metaphor of the doll house, while clever, also does little to help distinguish Sweden from other countries that place emphasis on domesticity as exile from a harsh Nordic climate. Hence the reliance on giant murals of meat balls, Uma Thurman press clippings and life-size cutouts of exuberant youngsters picnicking in a meadow. Aside from the meat balls, it was oddly reminiscent of a visit to Electric Avenue in Vienna's MuseumsQuarter where I was bombarded by an electro-kitschy collage of Smurf figurines, David Hasslehoff portraits, and outrageously expensive Curd Duca albums.

And yet, for all its problematic elements (add unexplained lag to the list) I couldn't help but enjoy my visit to Little Sweden, as evidenced by a rather sizable album of photographic souvenirs. Vava's effort is to be commended, and while this build does not necessarily take full advantage of its siting in virtual space it certainly reflects the potential of Second Life for architectural education, where one gets to actually 'build,' rather than merely represent what is to be built, where one gets to directly inhabit spaces rather than be forced to interpret static and abstracted imagery, and most importantly where ideas can be shared and meaningfully debated, escaping the vacuum of individual hard drives into the public realm of Second Life's residents, a degree removed from the typically insular cadre of academics, fellow students, and other designers.


At 4/23/2006 9:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dags att kontakta ngn som VILL ge en verklig BILD av Sverige.. Det var kul men hur MÅNGA? i SL kommer att vilja förstå - fatta detta ..

Time to contact the Swedish Tourist Board - It was of course fun as an installation (art?).. BUT how many in SL will ustand it .. want to travel to Sweden will ustand that we are serious.. sorry.. IF you not are into instalation/happening and similar use your time at another place in SL...


At 4/24/2006 4:12 AM, Blogger Chip Poutine said...

Hi Tina,

I agree, it was a lot of fun and as mentioned, I enjoyed the build, understood it on the level of a cultural artifact, and commended the builder for their efforts. As part of an architectural studio in RL it seemed to warrant a rigorous discussion of its conceptual clarity and consistency, hence some of the criticisms.




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