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Sweden: Second Life course at the Royal Institute of Technology

Sweden 12 May 2008, 00:00

Students at KTH, the Royal Institute of Technology, have done everything from lighting up the Ice Hotel to creating architecture in the virtual world of Second Life.

Students at KTH, the Royal Institute of Technology, have done everything from lighting up the Ice Hotel to creating architecture in the virtual world of Second Life.

One course in the track, entitled “Unreal central perspective,” looked at the representation of architecture in Second Life, a 3D virtual world. The 3D tools used by Second Life developers are similar to those used by architects, and Lindstrand wanted to explore the relationship between computer gaming and architecture, as well as between design tools and production.

In Second Life, architectural design is not constrained by the physical constraints of the material environment. This allows students to stretch their thinking about the possibilities of architecture, as well as to try to critically imagine their own future. “In Second Life, as an architect, you can build almost anything. And that’s challenging – and thrilling – to think about,” says Lindstrand.

The Second Life course at KTH served as a springboard for several students to launch their own architecture firm, studio un/real, founded by Michael Matèrn from Sweden and Daiki Kobayashi from Japan. Since completing the course, they have received commissions for several other projects integrating new media and architecture. This includes Virtu-Real, an installation at the Swedish embassy in the United States, which was part of a larger exhibition on innovation and technology. 

In May 2007, the Swedish Institute launched the Second House of Sweden as one of the first virtual embassies in Second Life. In January this year, Matèrn and Kobayashi, together with fellow classmates Kristin Gausdal from Norway and Markus Wagner from Sweden, traveled to Washington D.C. to build the installation at the House of Sweden. Virtu-Real linked the real embassy with the Second House of Sweden through the use of video streaming and voice technology – blurring the boundaries between the real and the virtual.

Visitors to the embassy entered a room where they saw a video screen projecting a simultaneous exhibition from Second Life. At the same time, Second Life residents, in the form of avatars, could see “real life” visitors. Video streams between the virtual and real worlds created the spatial experience of actually being in Second Life, and vice versa. Visitors to the embassy could look – not only into – but actually through the virtual room and back into real life. A giant red telephone also allowed visitors to speak with the avatars in the virtual world. 

“The Virtu-Real concept is basically about trying to merge second life and real life in a spatial way. When you physically move in real life, you also move in relation to the virtual world, thus creating a new kind of spatial interface,” explains Matèrn.

“We use Second Life in a different way than many other people who might use it as a communication tool. We use it as a tool to explore space and to do architectural experiments,” says Gausdal.




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