Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Ethnographia








One of the builds in the queue for a review was Tom Bukowski's home in Dowden dubbed 'Ethnographia', currently serving as headquarters for the RL political campaign being waged by RL architect Brian Ulaszewki. For more background on the campaign see Hamlet Au's post in New World Notes.

As for the build, I'm happy to discover that Trep Cosmo already has it covered on her blog SL Explorer in an entertaining post with lots of pics (including those you see above) and a slurl that will take you there.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Little Sweden








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.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Tetsuharu's Castle

Tetsuharu's CastleTetsuharu's CastleTetsuharu's Castle






Taking a little time out from Infohub development to examine Tetsuharu Nino's intriguing build on the Japanese sim of Yanagi ((251,34) Note: Typical teleport links have been omitted due to the nature of this sim. I'll let you figure out how to get there). This 'Castle' as it has been referred to is a dynamic interplay of traditional and contemporary Japanese influences that seems to oscillate between symbiotic and parasitic qualities.

The traditional structure forms the base of the build, with a solid concrete framework bursting out from it, scooping volume out from air space above to infill with transparent floor slabs underneath, as well as supporting a quiet rooftop penthouse which further reflects the overall gene splice. In some areas the traditional structure creeps up the concrete framework, the concrete responding with angles that respond to the shingled roofs of the presumably 'original' form. The end result is a heightening of the tension/harmony inherent in this build, and a narrative sense of 'organic' growth that would only be possible through the utilization of two distinct stylistic expressions.

Functionally, this is clearly an avian structure. It turns its back to the adjacent roadway, and the staircase leading up from ground level is the least interesting way to access the build. That said, the property must still be under construction, as while the upper levels are accessible and sparsely populated with items for sale, access is denied as of yet to the ground level.

If this is the case, then Tetsuharu's Castle is off to a great start. Appropriately on edge, it suggests a certain thematic response to a virtual version of the Japanese culture (not to mention sending the mind reeling in a whole other direction on what this might mean exactly), and yet takes advantage of its siting in virtual space to do itself one better than your typically atypical Tokyo landmark. The best part is, you know its only a matter of time until the real thing catches up, if it hasn't done so already.