Thursday, 24 July 2008

Versailles Architecture

When I saw the name on the Second Life map, I would have sworn I'd been to this sim in the past. I know I've pottered around at least a fraction of a virtual Palace of Versailles. But on a whim - or may be that should be a hunch - I decided to take a look in any case. After all - it might have evolved since the rough and ready version I visited (but did not write about) last year. What I found was... well... a surprise.

I am not sure I can bring this sim to you in all its strange glory - but hopefully I can give you enough of a flavour that you will seek it out for yourself. First things first, though... the sim, Versailles Architecture, belongs to the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Versailles, or énsa-v. The website informs us that: "the énsa-v is one of twenty public schools that provides higher education in architecture. The pedagogical aim of the Architecture School of Versailles is to favor an intense experience in the architectural project while developing the questions of architecture in the fields of building, city and regional planning. The school prepares the students in methods of diverse professional exercises...Situated in the heart of Versailles, opposite the Palace, it is very close to the capital and its high cultural circles, but also close to the peripheral urban fabric, just between urbanization and the rural world." It has a little over 1000 students.

Second Life - with its strong emphasis on user generated content and object creation, free of many of the restrictions imposed by real world physics and materials - is a great place for budding (and practising) architects to explore their craft. They can unleash their creativity in ways which are currently not possible in the atomic world. I would cite, for example, Keystone Bouchard's wonderful experiments in 'Reflexive Architecture', which I discussed last year, or the Archidemo work by Hidenori Watanave, Associate professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University. Now énsa-v have discovered, and are exploiting, the creative environment offered by Second Life.

So what about the sim itself? As with many of these "architects at play" sites, it is very difficult to know where to begin, or indeed make any sense of what one has seen. At ground level the land is roughly divided into 9 parcels in a 3x3 grid. And all bar one of these parcels is... ummm... how do I put this? "Very busy". One parcel, for example, consists of a large "URL farm" - though at first sight you would be hard pushed to recognise it as such. Others parcels provide you with all manner of experiments using particles and scripted prims, including a Museum of sorts. The central parcel contains just a large shiny sphere. Touch this sphere and it will set you on a path that explores the rest of the build, which is constructed high above the ground. Again, links abound, and you will find student areas, dance areas, more information zones and links to other universities and colleges. And don't forget to take the rocket ride at the end of the exploration.

Actually, a large part of this sim is given over to information sharing - with various ideas being explored to bring new ways of accessing data and giving students links to web-based resources. In this respect, it differs from some of the other architecture builds, which are more focused on just exploring the medium.

I have no idea whether this description does the site any justice. I think it doesn't, since simply listing the features does not really impart the ambience of the place. But I also think you should go along and decide for yourself. Personally, I love its quirkiness, flair and imagination - though it is hard to translate all of that into a few short, stumbling paragraphs. Perhaps these photos make the case more strongly:

1 comment:

Abhishek said...

I like the way you write and i love reading your post.
Keep comming!!!