The SLENZ Update – No 63, April 2, 2009

A lesson in architecture

‘Bar-raising’ Frenzy on Auckland U sim

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Described by  Jon Brouchoud (SL: Keystone Bouchard), noted blogger on architecture, a freelance virtual architect and founder of Crescendo Design, as set to become a bar-raising effort for demonstrating the benefits of using virtual worlds in architectural education, Auckland University senior tutor, Judy Cockeram’s (SL: JudyArx Scribe) Putahi prototype “Frenzy”  March 30 was definitely something to talk about.

That was despite being a little confusing, sometimes uncomfortable and at times difficult to  find one’s way around.

But  architects, students and others who attended – about 100 in all – described the event  as “extraordinary,”  “inspiring” and “fascinating”.judyarxfrenzy_0091

And the nine Auckland University third-year architecture students who had burned the midnight oil preparing the “Frenzy”, exhibited simultaneously in real life on a large screen, also were “rapt”, according to Cockeram, a senior lecturer in architecture and pictured as JudyArx Scribe at right.

The students had spoken in-world with real life architects, academics and “expert”  Second Life builders/designers, receiving  both advice and feedback.

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Cockeram   had invited her students  from the University of Auckland to explore architectural and urban strategies within the “existing and vibrant” Non-Profit Commons archipelago in Second Life, through building in their living sketchbook , allowing the effectiveness of their “urban intervention”‘ to become immediately evident.

The students, none older in-world than 40-days, let it all hang out  – the good, the bad and ugly –  asking the general SL public  to play with and talk about their ideas.

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Cockeram said, in her invitation to Brouchoud, who attended, “As an Architect in SL you have a unique perspective on the role of the crit in our education.

“In SL a traditional crit makes very little sense so we are trailing a different way of engaging in the process of exchanging and debating the ideas and fit of proposals and projects. The students are working on a project for the Non Profit Commons, a group who host a large number of RL Charities – the issues are most like those of a small town needing an urban intervention. But importantly because this is SL the students are still in a building phase so they can hear and take on ideas to improve their project before they have to walk their peers though.

“We hope the students of Tab Scott (noted SL architectural writer and academic) and the students of the Living Sketchbook will meet up for an in-world (and i dont know what to call it) debate/crit/party/presentation/ but a sharing of architectural ideas and ideals a couple of days later. We need your help to invent a format that stands the test of the Architect’s and Academic’s stare. As someone who has helped set those standards we want you to come and talk and push ideas and continue the climb to a an even more extraordinary world and Second Life.”

As she requested  visitors did “come and run, jump and fly through the thoughts of the first group of nine students to venture into the Metaverse from the University of Auckland’s Architecture and Planning School.

“Because they are the first this event will be on the big screen with nine others computers in front of the whole school over the three hours – we would love to have the metaverse wave back to the physical world.”

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After the event Cockeram described it as “absolutely fascinating for a first time. As a teaching event it was extraordinary. The level of student enrichment was far higher than expected and well outside the normal criteria.”

She noted that both academic and architectural students from around the world had visited and discussed the “projects” with the students involved.

Among the lessons learned, Cockeram said, however, was the need to determine how better to interface and present Second Life or virtual worlds  to people in  real life (even with the big screen most watched the students at the keyboards, rather than SL on the screen) to allow more real life interactivity and participation even if one is not in world.

The frenzy is now in the process of being dismantled.

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