Second Life 3D Experience Architects:
Leading the Way on the Virtual Frontier

Tue, Jul 24, 2007


Some of the boldest adventurers on the virtual frontier are architects. These artists of the 3D experience are the cavalry of the “Age of Inspiration.” They lead the charge to liberate the world from the ravages of the industrial age.

“Go West Young Man, and Grow Up With the Country,” John B. L. Soule, 1851

Some 114 years later, the call to “Go West” has been converted to the call to “Go Virtual.” Second Life has effectively ushered in the next great migration into a New Frontier.

And, so ctrlshift07 – a New Zealand Architectural Congress announces – their virtual land rush competition. The grand prize is an island in Second Life (including 3 months of maintenance charges).

And, the winner is Keystone Bouchard! The runner up is Theory Shaw! These pioneers, and their innovative work in Second Life, had already caught my attention before the competition. I interviewed both for Ugotrade in June (see my earlier post). Then, Keystone explained an earlier version of Architectural Jazz which is now his winning entry. And, Theory talked about his vision for participatory city planning and the Studio Wikitecture experiment he has initiated with Theory on, Architecture Island, Second Life .

But the speed of innovation is so rapid in Second Life that, in the 6 weeks since I spoke to Keystone and Theory, much has changed both in Second Life, and in their work.

One month ago, the EOLUS One initiative driven by Implenia AG, a Swiss-based construction, civil engineering and facilities management company, in collaboration with SAP, IBM, Cisco, Siemens and others had not been unveiled.

Now, EOLUS has put the spotlight on Second Life/Real Life integrations as a doorway to a sustainable future. EOLUS, in Second Life, is creating a “think tank” for city scale technology projects – energy monitoring, preventative maintenance, building automation and management, as well as community based initiatives for a better planet (e.g. SODIS). And, in my mind, this initiative brings Theory’s interest in Wikitecture for city planning, and Keystone’s commitment to virtual architecture one step closer to serious real life integrations.

Not only can real life buildings be designed in new collaborative and participatory ways in Second Life. e.g., city planning through Wikitecture. But, once built, these cities can stream back into Second Life as data that is responsive, beautiful, and delightfully habitable. In virtual worlds we do not need shelter from the elements. We need refuge from the ugly and unmanageable data of real life. If we are to work and play all day in virtual environments we must create a palace of data bliss.

Keystone Bouchard is a Real Life architect who has recently transitioned exclusively to a virtual mode as a “3D Experience Architect” with Clear Ink. Keystone is interested in the future potential of purely virtual architecture and the dynamic, reflexive relationship between avatars, data and 3D experience.

He has started to blog up some manifestos about this new language for virtual environments. He explained his ideas through a series of three diagrams on Architecture Island in Second Life.


The diagram on the left is the physical model best exemplified by Winston Churchill’s statement, ‘We shape our buildings and thereafter, they shape us.” Physical buildings are artifacts – that are difficult and expensive to change – people and program flow through them like water.

So, in virtual worlds, we tend to do the same thing – that’s described by the second diagram. So, we try to build that artifact but, our minds, our avatars, and our cameras can just flow right through it so, it isn’t as effective its trying to be solid – when it doesn’t work that way here.

So, the third diagram describes a new kind of reflexive or responsive architecture one that is capable of shifting shape and changing – and being as liquid and changing as the community and people who use it.


Click on this image to watch a machinima of Architectural Jazz.

Keystone’s winning entry to ctrlshift07, Architectural Jazz, makes the visitor an active part of both the musical and archtectural composition. Keystone observed the movement and people visiting Architecture Island for several weeks then wrote a piano score loosely based on their movement. He recorded his real life piano playing it – just the keys moving and then imported that video into Second Life. Then he added “keys” in Second Life that get larger and change colors and play a not when you approach. So by their changing and dynamic composition, the viewer becomes an active part of it – no longer passive.


Reflexive ArchitectureReflexive ArchitectureReflexive ArchitectureReflexive ArchitectureReflexive ArchitectureReflexive Architecture


I think we’ve been approaching Second Life projects – for the most part – like we do traditional architecture. We spend big on the initial concept and build, then hope it will attract crowds of people. But I think the evolution of virtual architecture should be ongoing, never ending. It should be informed by the people who use it, ‘smart’ architecture. The future of virtual architecture lies in our ability to completely remove barriers between disciplines.

Theory Shaw and Collaborative Architecture


Keystone and Theory Shaw have teamed up to use virtual worlds as a tool for a collaborative approach to architecture in the Real World. Theory Shaw has outlined how virtual world can be used in the the planning of future cities.

And, the central build on Architecture Island is the Studio Wikitecture experiment – an open source approach to architecture that everyone is free to join – co-creating projects and participating in collaborative design.

Theory’s entry for the ctrlshift07 competition is explained in detail on The Arch. But the idea behind the nine floors of his Temporal Tower is collaboration across disciplines.

Since someone is able to hear conversations transmitted through walls as well cam out and view remote spaces at the same time, avatars can essentially be in two places at once. The Temporal Tower explores how this characteristic might facilitate a cross-fertilization of ideas between disciplines that rarely intermingle in the real world. The ascending floors in the Temporal Tower are dedicated to informal conversations in the following disciplines: Science, Psychology, Language, Society, History, Literature, Music, Aesthetics, and Religion. The ultimate idea being that a conversation overheard on one floor might spark a discussion on an adjacent floor and provide a new perspective to help solve an otherwise entrenched problem. To further facilitate these impromptu discussions, the building itself visually transmits an avatar’s presence to the rest of the island by changing the color and size of its ‘leafy walls’ when an avatar is near.


Wikitecture 3.0

Theory is deep into Wikitecture 3.0. He is working with scripters to make it less intmidating to the casual contributor.

One thing I want to accomplish in this next experiment is to develop a “wikitecture tree” that floats above the parcel…. where all the different iterations of a design can be saved in the different ‘leaves’ of the tree. This wikitecture tree will allow people to come by and ‘cycle’ through all the different iterations within the leaves.

Basically the idea in short is, if someone come by and ‘touches’ on of the leaves of the Wikitecture Tree, it will rez the design it ‘holds’ on to the parcel of land. They can then touch another leave and that design will unrez and another will take it’s place. As a person cycles through the designs, they can vote for their favorite design. The tree will also allow you to rez different branches and leaves, if the person wants to leave their own iteration of the design.

Arcspace comes to Second Life!


Photo: arcspace

More exciting news for architecture in SL is the arrival of arcspace. To read more about KK Jewell’s plans go to the Keystone Bouchard has taken his second SL office in arcspace. Roofdog Rau, owner of Vanilla, is setting up his video (arc)space. And the legendary architecture blog,, is working on their space, as is at MOCA.

Join and get an arcspaceSL Tshirt.

Email your avatar’s name:
Kirsten Kiser – arcspace
Subject: arcspaceSL – avatar name

Or IM KK Jewell in Second Life

categories: Uncategorized

1 Comments For This Post

  1. Villager Says:

    I just joined SL over the past weekend (Villager Barbosa). I am trying to figure things out at the moment. Your post about architecture is way over my head. I’m still trying to figure out how to get some L$ so that I can purchase stuff.

    Anyhow, I’m saving link to this post to come back in awhile to see if it makes more sense to me!

    peace, Villager

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