You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘virtual architecture’ category.

It’s coming on 2 weeks since our first organizational meeting, and we’ve come a long way. Looking forward, we have 5 weeks before the deadline for submission to OAN. That seems like a good chunk of time, but things can be deceiving. Depending on who has the right skills and available time, we’ll probably need the final week or two just to transfer the final SL design into the RL files required by OAN. So we really only have three or so weeks left to come up with our consensus for the winning design.

I want to emphasize as much as I can that although our final design entry will be entered into a traditional design competition, the process within the Studio Wikitecture group is not structured primarily as a competition. The whole point of Studio Wikitecture is to discover and demonstrate how collaboration among a global cross-section of individuals (non-architects as well as architects) can combine their varied skills to produce a design that is superior to one done by one or two professional architects working in isolation.

What does this mean for the process? We certainly need people to submit their original ideas to the Wiki Tree, as many have and I hope more will. But just as important is for all the group members to consider those designs, discuss them, and then offer feedback, be it positive of negative. The quickest way to offer feedback is by voting. If you see a design that has something you like, click on its leaf in the Wiki tree to make it active (if it isn’t already) and then click on either of the thumbs-up prims near the top of the trunk. If you see a design you don’t like, click on the thumbs-down prim. Don’t wait; start doing that now. These votes are not expected to be your final opinion. As design refinement progresses, you’ll vote for or against other leaves. Each person only gets 3 positive and 3 negative active votes, so once you have reached 3, your oldest vote will get removed when you cast a new one.

Voting is quick, but by itself it can be ambiguous. When you vote for a design, you’re not saying that you think it is perfect for submission. What is it you like about it? Is it the grand concept? The sensitivity to the environment? The builder’s skills in presenting their ideas? Are there things you would like to see changed? Without augmenting your vote with comments, it is impossible for the submitter, or others, to know what aspects caused you to vote, and to take that into account in the next design iteration.

And then there is contributing by creating and submitting a design to the tree. Here, please don’t feel constrained to the submission of “original” work. If you have the building skills, the best way to give feedback on someone else’s design is to take a copy, modify it and submit it back to the tree. This is not plagiarism, it is an integral part of the collaborative design process. For some, this is a hard concept to get comfortable with. But think of how Wikipedia has come to be the greatest encyclopedia the world has ever seen. It would never have become what it is if individuals had each written their own version of an article, and then there was a judging to see which article would become the official one.

In summary, regardless of your particular skills, you can contribute right now. Please do. And don’t forget that we’ll be having a meeting on Monday at 1:00PM at 2nd Live for a synchronous discussion.



Greetings team Wikitecture!

We are pleased to announce an exciting new Wikitecture project, in collalboration with the entertainment network Treet TV (formerly SLCN), to design a master plan and architectural framework for their virtual headquarters.  With 200,000 unique viewers per month, this is sure to be a great way to raise awareness, and introduce new contributors to the Wikitecture process.  Better yet, Treet TV will be producing a high definition mini-series documentary following Studio Wikitecture in these formative days, for release in early 2010.

Stay tuned for more details, but in the meantime – here is a press release announcing the project.  Feel free to spread the word!

San Francisco, CA (July 05, 2009) – Winners of the inaugural Linden Prize, Studio Wikitecture, have formed a partnership with Second Life’s leading virtual television network Treet TV to create a collaborative building environment for bringing new life to Treet’s studio islands. The innovative Wiki Tree collaborative approach will be used to implement improvements to the aesthetics of the space and to foster community involvement.

“Studio Wikitecture’s groundbreaking community-driven system for the selection of designs and ideas fits perfectly with the Treet TV mission.  Our network is built by us and our producers as a cooperative effort, and the idea of extending that effort into the design of the spaces we share is exciting new territory.”, says Gary Wisniewski (Wiz Nordberg in SL) CEO of Treet TV.

Studio Wikitecture founder, Jon Brouchoud (Keystone Bouchard in SL), says the project presents challenges that will be a great test of the the wikitecture collaborative approach. “We are are thrilled to have been invited by Treet TV to help design a master plan and an architectural framework for their islands. The fact that there is already an active and vibrant community using the islands means it’s going to be a lot of fun to develop according to the wishes of a large group of stakeholders..”

Brouchoud and Wisniewski expect the development to extend and compliment the existing synergy between the several popular shows that are filmed on the Treet TV islands including Tonight Live, Designing Worlds and Fabulous Fashion.

The development process is set to begin immediately and proposed elements will be open for review by late July.  As work progresses, Treet TV plans to create a documentary about the process and its outcome for release early in 2010.

About Treet TV
Treet TV is an entertainment network that serves virtual worlds viewers and producers. Established in March 2007, Treet TV uses a collaborative production model which has resulted in more than 3000 hours of broadcast quality content, all targeting the emerging phenomenon of virtual living. Shows are broadcast live to audiences inworld on Treet TV enabled television screens, as well as live onto the world wide web. Large scale live events in the past include the Transformers press event, Philip Rosedale SL6B Opening Ceremony and the Best Practices in Education conference.

About Studio Wikitecture
Studio Wikitecture is a collaborative design group that enables public participation in design projects through voting, commenting, or uploading their own ideas to a ‘3D Wiki,’ technology they developed.

In June, 2009, their award winning technology and process won Architecture for Humanity’s overall ‘Founder’s Award’ in the Open Architecture Challenge to design a medical clinic in Nepal.  In May of 2009, they also won the inaugural $10,000 USD Linden Prize for  “demonstrating how individuals and organizations are using Second Life to improve the overall human condition.”

[update: Kick-off transcript posted HERE Wiki-tree tutorial will be held Tuesday, October 28 at 5pm PDT (SL-Time).  However, anytime you’re ready to submit an idea, just IM Keystone Bouchard and I’ll walk you through it!]

With so many universities and academic institutions from around the world using virtual environments like Second Life for teaching and research, many have started to wonder what, exactly is a virtual classroom?

In an environment where you can fly, and with no elements to protect from, what role does architecture play in a virtual university?  In what ways should a virtual classroom be similar to a classroom in real life?  How might they be different?  How can the virtual architecture best serve the students, staff and community who use it?

Because buildings are so expensive to build and modify in the real world, rarely are students and staff able to actively participate in the creation of the physical spaces they use.  In a virtual space, however, the tables are turned.  Anyone can easily prototype their idea in 3D, walk through it, and share it with others.   Given these new opportunities, why not let the students, staff and public community who actually use these classrooms design it for themselves?  Who better, in fact, to offer insight to improve a occupied space, than the people that use it on a daily basis?

These are the questions, the Studio Wikitecture group has been asking for some time now.  Composed of individuals from various backgrounds and open to anyone, the group has been asking whether new modes of production, as witnessed in the open-source movement, for example, can offer any clues into how we might improve the process of designing our buildings and cities, both real and virtual.  In much the same way Wikipedia enables a loose, self-organizing network of contributors to come together to create a surprisingly accurate encyclopedia, the group has been conducting a number of experiments and projects to explore ways by which a disperse group, spread around the world, can come together to share ideas, edit the contributions of others, and vote on the success or failure of an evolving piece of architecture.

Over the years, the group has conducted a number of experiments to flesh out the possibilities of a more decentralized approach to practicing architecture.  In fact, Studio Wikitecture was recently honored with the Founder’s Award for their collaborative competition entry in last year’s Open Architecture Challenge to design a tele-medicine facility in one of the most remote areas of Western Nepal.

As you can imagine, having a group collaboratively design a building is a daunting and difficult task.  In this light, Studio Wikitecture teamed up with i3dnow to develop a software prototype plug-in for the virtual world of Second Life that helped the group better collaborate on the collectively designed competition entry.  The plug-in, in it’s simplest form, is a kind of of 3d-Wiki.  The ‘Wiki-Tree’, as it is called, acts very much like a typical wiki, but instead of tracking versions of a text documents, it tracks virtual 3D models and unlike a conventional wiki that conveys submissions in a linear fashion, the ‘Wiki-Tree’ visual conveys, in a sort of 3-dimensional mind map, how the submitted designs iterations relate and ‘branch’ off each other over time.

To continue this exploration into open-source architecture, for the group’s 4th project, the University of Alabama has challenged the Second Life community along with its students and staff, to collectively brainstorm and design a virtual set of classrooms.  Through this project, you will be working in close collaboration with both your professors and/or peers to design a series of classrooms in the virtual realm.

Furthermore, you and your fellow contributors will be awarded at total of $250,000 Linden dollars, distributed based on a unique ‘Community Assessment’ method.  A method, whereby members of the community collectively determine the approximate percentage of credit each contributor deserves.

As with the last project, we will be using the 3d-Wiki versioning tool to keep track your and your fellow contributor’s design submissions.  Through the ‘Wiki-Tree’, you will be able to review the various designs submitted, as well comment and vote on your preferences (or dislikes).  As an overview, this video will give you a really quick sense on how the ‘Wiki-Tree’ works.

To participate, you’ll need to create a Second Life account HERE if you don’t have one already, then join the Studio Wikitecture group (in Second Life, click Search at the bottom).  Then visit the University’s virtual site HERE (UA ESPRMC sim, 186, 87, 26), and click on the base of the Wiki-tree in order to register your avatar and get a password.  This password will then give you access to the website component HERE, where you’ll be able to vote and comment on ideas submitted by the community.

For more information about how to use the Wiki-tree, visit this site:

In an effort to keep the project as open as possible and avoid hindering creativity, the following are the only guidelines to the project.

1.  The architectural style is open to the group’s discretion.
2.  We need six classrooms with ample space for student (30 avatars)
3.  The disciplines we may house in the rooms include: Science, Mathematics, Art, English, Social Sciences, and Music.
4.  No more than 800 prims total
5.  Occupy no more than 5,000 square meters

We will also be holding regular tutorial sessions every Tuesday at 5pm SL-time, and at times requested by the community, for anyone who has questions or needs help submitting their idea.

If you have any questions, we can reached at the following emails:

Ryan Schultz (Theory Shaw in SL): (ryan.schultz [at] studiowikitecture [dot] com).

Jon Brouchoud (Keystone Bouchard in SL): (jon.brouchoud [at] studiowikitecture [dot] com).

With the network effects of the digital age, combined with the principles of non-exclusive, ‘copyleft’ licensing, the world is starting to see the beginnings of a more decentralized method of production—a method producing a surge in innovation and creativity not seen since the advent of the industrial revolution. Projects such as Wikipedia and open-source software are examples of how a loose and decentralized group of individuals can come together in a more bottom-up fashion and create something greater than the sum of its parts. Recently, it has been demonstrated through companies such as Crowdspirit ( that this more ‘open source’ method of production is not just limited to information goods, but can be applied to physical products as well.

How can these more decentralized approaches be harnessed to improve the quality of architecture and urban planning throughout the world?

Last month, Jon Brouchoud and myself (Ryan Schultz) gave a presentation at the annual convention of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS), which tried in part, to shed some light on how virtual worlds might provide the platfrom for a more decentralized approach to architecture in the future.

The presentation was broken down into two sections. The first Slideshare gives a quick overview of some of the more significant architectural projects currently going on in the Second Life.

The second Slideshare outlines a broader perspective—trying to answer ‘why’ these virtual worlds will become more important for architects in the future.

As is always the case when trying to paint a picture of the future, there’s some level of speculation here, but as Jamais Cascio says “with enough minds, all tomorrows are visible.” So please, if you see another storyline emerging, let us know what you think.

Part One:

Part Two:

Had a very revealing conversation with David Harrison, a PhD at Victoria University, about the prospects of potentially using Second Life as a tool for architectural collaboration in the very near future. His current PhD is entitled ‘Building Digital Bridges’, where he looking at “exploring the means of encouraging digital conversation and collaboration by insular organisations associated with the building during its lifecycle.” He’s chronicling his work among other insightful observations of how architects work across the digital divide on his blog: I took the general stance that Second Life is poised, in my opinion, of being ‘the’ Metaverse in the future and the go to platform for architectural collaboration. He, however, differs and brings up some very salient points that i thought I’d share…

Ryan Schultz wrote:


I hear you. My fascination with SL is that more than any other burgeoning platform out there, it seems Second Life is in a better position to become the next 3D Web or Metaverse. The main reason being: The community. There’s just too much invested development from such a large and diverse community for them to flippantly jump ship to another platfrom. Even if there was a better platform out there, with better tools and interface, the community due to their entrenched economic interests, would go to the ends of the earth to try and figure out a way to make SL’s more user-friendly.

I would disagree with this presumption simply because online communities are very fickle until development of the underlying technology has plateaued.
Scalable 2D web technologies (like HTML/Javascript) have plateaued in their development and as a consequence the communities built around them are becoming entrenched and very large (e.g. MySpace, Facebook and Flickr).

In contrast the world of 3D is still developing at such a rate that the communities are relatively small and not deeply entrenched. For example the number of active users of SL is dwarfed by these 2D communities and small compared to gaming worlds such as World of Warcraft. Then there is the forthcoming release of Sony’s Playstation3 3D world which, even given its poor sales, will be bigger than Second Life in terms of potential users (i.e. every PS3 owner).

I can’t help but feel the online 3D market is at the same place as the 2D online world was between 1990 and 1995. Back then we had walled gardens like Compuserve, AOL and even Microsoft Network (which originally shipped with Windows 95). Whilst these communities had a lot of money behind them the rapid adoption of open HTML and HTTP concepts quickly usurped them. When this occurred participants were more than prepared to transfer or write off their investments in these old, established communities in order to be on the newer and more widely adopted one.


This is of course contingent on SL opening its server code. Furthermore, If SL was solely occupied by a mass of renegade amateurs, the likelihood of it becoming ‘the’ Metaverse would be lessened, but since there’s already an impressive list of corporations using the world, they themselves would be hard pressed to abandon ship even for a better alternative.

I haven’t seen any examples of big business investing serious money in SL. What I have seen is a lot of experimentation and jumping on the bandwagon for the sake of publicity. When big business is prepared to spend millions on SL development in the same manner in which they do with the Web then it becomes difficult to change. The day this happens within a 3D environment I think we can say its reaching some level of maturity.


They would of course die to leave if they could export their developments to a non-proprietary world that was compatible with Second Life. Which is only a matter of time, with the growing number of open source metaverses out there such as: Croquet, Open Source Metaverse Project, and Ogoglio project to name a few. So with this threat looming on the horizon, I feel SL has no other choice than to open source its code lest they loose their population. They will just have to figure out other ways to make money such as becoming a developer on their own platform and provide services similar to those provide by companies such as Millions of Us, Clear Ink or The Electric Sheep Company… or becoming ‘the’ lending institute.

Therein lies the problem for SL, for it to succeed as a technology/community it must eat its parents (Linden Labs). If Linden don’t let this happen it will no doubt wither and die on the vine, but if they do open it up they become a bit player in something that is now much larger than them.
Tim Berners-Lee and the others behind the Web weren’t driven by profit and as a consequence this decision was easy.
Unfortunately for Linden Labs and SL this decision isn’t so clear cut.


Even if Google, Microsoft, or Adobe came out with a platform similar to Second Life tomorrow, I feel those companies that have invested in Second Life would stay because the prospect of Second Life becoming an open platform is more attractive, and a better bet than a proprietary platform with a better user-interface (with no history of open source initiatives) that could potentially, one day, create a restrictive monopoly. Why are they there at all then if Second Life is still proprietary? For the same reason, people paid for the use of roads before there were public interstates. And like interstates, since so many diverse markets are using metaverses (like they did the internet) to expand their markets, it would be foul hearty to allow any one company to gain control.

Perhaps the most intelligent thing Steve Balmer has ever said is ‘Developers, Developers Developers!’.

Communities rely on their developer community, be it the people that write the software through to the users that take part within it.
Adobe and Microsoft aren’t in it to build the highways, they are in it to own the tools others use when making the highways.
Google on the other hand is in it to make the highways but they’ve illustrated in the past they are more than willing to give those highways away in order to own the billboards on the side of the road.


Back to your thesis, the reason there is not the level of conversation and collaboration between insular organizations in the building industry is the fact that they all don’t speak the same language so to speak—of which I know you are aware. I feel because the market expansion in so many diverse economic sectors would be improved with an open platform in 3-dimensional communication, the market as a whole, will eventual just bypass proprietary CAD/BIM software as it is currently being developed, and opt for a more open platform.

The users of CAD/BIM aren’t interested in ideas like open standards just like Joe/Jane Average doesn’t care or know about Net Neutrality.
Architects want to get buildings built and to do so they will use the tools that make it easiest for them to do this.
It then becomes a battle of user interfaces and in such a conflict the well established and proprietary CAD vendors hold a huge advantage.
Formats such as Industry Foundation Classes (IFCs) are intended to enable open interoperability but it is a very complex industry and as a consequence its adoption rate is slow and the format complicated.

I’d argue that in the office productivity world the most important enabler of the OpenDocument format was not the establishment of the standard but Sun’s gamble to open source the StarOffice code-base. This made available to the open source community a set of user interfaces that could realistically compete with Microsoft Office. Personally I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes a similar event in the CAD/BIM industry for an open format to not only be established but taken seriously. Unfortunately the CAD/BIM industry does not yet have a company which has established a Microsoft-like monopoly and until that happens there is very little financial incentive for the existing vendors to undertake such a radical action.


I’m of the mindset promoted by Adam Smith that the more people gravitate toward those systems that allow for the expression of their own self-interest, the better we all are both socially and economically.

Nice, don’t know much about Adam Smith.


I think one of the more exciting indications of SL’s potential, is that people are still a little confused on what you can do with it—its use is still somewhat nebulous. Similar to how the uses of such disruptive technologies as the radio, telephone, and internet were not immediately known, SL’s potential is just beginning to be tapped. And similarly, if these technologies were proprietary and not open to the public commons, one could easily argue the level of innovation seen thus far would not be half of what it is today. I’m not ultimately saying that if the uses for a burgeoning technology are somewhat nebulous, they will automatically be a platform for innovation, but, I feel, the fact that millions of people have flocked to SL to explore it’s potential is a good sign that Second Life will become such a platform.

I would say a 3D Internet-based world is complimentary to existing technologies and services rather than disruptive.
Most of the discussion around environments such as SL are more to do with how (if it all) it can be used to assist with conventional processes rather than replace them. For example the most interesting things I’ve seen in SL are 2D Internet browser and video windows arranged in a 3D space. This isn’t disruptive but it does make you think how can the third dimension improve on an existing message.

The value of SL is not attributed so much to how useful the tool is, but more the fact that masses of people use it—the barrier for entry is low. Similar to the argument that Andrew Hinton uses in his slideshow ‘Architectures for Conversation’; of how AK47’s are more prolific than M-16’s because they are ‘Open’, ‘Inexpensive’, ‘Simple’ and ‘Close Enough’—so too does SL share these characteristics and the reason, I feel, people will use it as ‘the’ platform for innovation in the 3-dimensional world.

I disagree that Second Life is the AK47 of the 3D Internet world.
In fact I think one could argue it is the M4A1, a relative of the M16 used by the special forces:

This is because:
Open – SL is currently proprietary and it is uncertain what an ‘open’ SL would look or behave like

Inexpensive – Virtual land costs real money in SL. In contrast the Web is theoretically free but of course there are attributed costs involved depending on your participation but these are distributed (e.g. domain name registration).

Simple – The user interface and the underlying data format is far from simple when compared to an Internet browser and HTML.

Close Enough – To what? The Web enables us to exchange textual (and now 2D visual data) easily. Due to its open, inexpensive and simple properties we have been able to build all sorts of interesting applications on top of it (e.g. search). I don’t think we have established the properties of a ubiquitous 3D environment to say anything is close enough just yet.

Anyways, as usual, I’ve spent way too much time on this reply. Would you mind if I posted this conversation on my blog? I feel other people might benefit from this dialog. The internet is a wonderful thing.

I don’t mind as I’ll probably reference back to it myself 🙂



—–Original Message—–
From: David Harrison
Sent: Thursday, June 07, 2007 6:14 AM
Subject: Re: [Get in touch…] just introducing myself…

Hi Ryan,

Thanks for the email and blog comments, but as you can see I’m a bit

slow when it comes to email as the business related stuff during the day

usually burns me out.


You might be a bit disappointed to learn I am not a fan of Second Life.

It maybe because I’ve play too much World of Warcraft but I think it is

more to do with the often self-manufactured fanfare that surrounds it

and Linden Labs.


Personally I think Second Life is going to be usurped by Adobe and

Microsoft on the Web when it comes to 3D environments on the Web.

Adobe is doing some really interesting things when it comes to Acrobat

3D and Apollo which suggests it won’t be long before we start to see 3D

concepts traditionally associated with Second Life begin to show their

heads in other places.

Likewise Microsoft and Autodesk are teaming up with the XPS/DWFx to

create 3D technologies that can be used in partnership with Silverlight

to do very similar things. This isn’t even taking into account Sony with

their Playstation3 digital world which will no doubt be followed by

Microsoft, probably leveraging some or all of the aforementioned


Then of course there’s Google who seem to be doing their best to model

and photograph the real world to the extent that we will all be able to

experience it virtually in a manner very similar to Second Life. The

advantage they have with this approach is that people understand the

real world and can immediately associate themselves with its digital



So while Second Life is forging a trail I don’t believe it will be long

before it gets some serious, more solution specific competition from a

number of big players.


Open sourcing their server infrastructure would certainly help ensure

‘Second Life’ as a concept remained valid in a competitive world but how

Linden Labs would continue to make money if this would occur would be

difficult to say.


On the Second Life/collaboration front I don’t believe it would take

hold as the average person off the street doesn’t want to go through the

effort of signing up for a Second Life account, learning the UI and

navigating through the world just to checkout an architecture project.

From a real-time collaboration perspective products such as Adobe

Connect (formally Macromedia Breeze) are more relevant within the

industry because the technologies they are based on are ubiquitous, have

a broad installation base and everyone understands the PDF/Flash user


When you mix products like Connect with formats such as 3D PDF and DWF

you get a very powerful, real-time collaboration tool that business can

grasp much faster than Second Life.


Also just from a tools perspective Second Life is lacking a level of

deep interaction within CAD packages that would be needed to take hold

in a business environment. At the moment I would say its less of a

struggle to digitally collaborate using Google Earth as a

3D-collaboration medium than Second Life simply because it feels like

every CAD vendor is jumping over themselves to deliver a seamless

import/export plug-in for that platform.


So I am afraid to say you won’t find me on Second Life anytime soon.

That is not to say I don’t think 3D collaboration will not take off

sometime soon, I just feel the bigger vendors out there are going to do

a better job of providing what businesses want when compared to the

consumer-focused Linden Labs and their Second Life community.





David wrote:

> Ryan Schultz sent a message using the contact form at



> David, Love your blog. Considering the subject matter you cover in

> your blog,

> you might be interested in this ‘Wikitecture’ experiment we (RL

> Architects

> in Second Life) conducted in SL that is exploring how feasible a

> collaborative approach to architecture might be for the profession.




> Unfortunately, mostly due to a lack of monetary incentive I’m sure, we

> did not have many participants throughout it’s month long duration. We

> however are still hopeful that future experiments will garner further

> participation.

> I guess another reason I’m writing, is to ask if you’ve given any thought

> of using ‘Second Life’ as a platform for “encouraging digital

> conversation

> and collaboration by insular organisations associated with the building

> during its lifecycle”? Although the technology is quite rudimentary

> compared to the tools AEC professionals typically use, it is

> considered by

> many to be the burgeoning foundation for the 3-dimensional web. There is

> pretty strong speculation as well that SL plans to open source its server

> code in the near future. They have had their client(viewer) code open

> for

> quite some time now.


> Anyways, just thought I’d say hi and show my support. If you have an

> Avatar in SL, look me (Theory Shaw) up and I’ll give you a tour of the

> Wikitecture experiment. I’m also participating in this competition,

> hosted by,, of which you might be

> familiar.


> Regards, Ryan


(There will be 2 kickoff meetings on Thursday, April 19th. One at 9am & one at 6pm PST on Architecture Island. The experiment will run from April 19th – May 19th. The following document is posted at the following Wiki: Wikitecture 2.0: Program and Protocol… here’s the pdf)


Like any new burgeoning idea or philosophy, a number of words start springing up to capture its essence with greater accuracy. The growing excitement around Web 2.0 is no different. The following have been sighted in trying to describe this new phenomenon: Mass Collaboration, Social Networking, Wikis, Folksonomies, Open Source, Prosumers, Networked Intelligence, Crowd Sourcing, Crowd Wisdom, Smart Mobs, Peer Production, Lightweight Collaboration, Emergent Intelligence, Social Production, Self-Organized Masses, Collective Genius, Loose Networks of Peers, and Collaborative Infrastructures. But to use Wikipedia’s definition, which is fast approaching the voice of authority, Web 2.0 refers to a ‘perceived second generation of Web-based services that emphasize online collaboration and sharing among users.” My personal favorite portrayal is ‘a shared canvas where every splash of paint contributed by one user provides a richer tapestry for the next user to modify or build on.’


The ideas behind the online collaborative spirit of Web 2.0 have been successfully harnessed in a wide array of disciplines, such as: Wikipedia, Linux, MySpace, InnoCentive, Flickr, Second Life, You Tube, and the Human Genome Project to name a few. With books such as ‘Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything’ fast approaching the New York Times best seller list, it seems as though peer production could provide alternative ways of working for a growing number of other disciplines as well. The question is: Can a field as subjective as architecture, or design in general, benefit from this collective intelligence paradigm?


To help answer this question, ‘Real Life Architects in Second Life’ (RLASL) will be conducting a ‘Wikitecture’ experiment on Architecture Island in Second Life over the next month to determine just how feasible a collaborative approach in design might be in the architectural profession. Not only will we aspire to create a noteworthy building design in the process, we want to use this experiment to explore and flesh out the specific measures, protocol, and tools necessary to make collaborative, asynchronous design in architecture a reality. I guess it goes without saying that since this is an experiment around open collaboration, we need contributors—we need you. You do not have to have any experience in Architecture or building to participate. We actually believe the more diverse the pool of contributors, the better. Whether you contribute to the design of the building or offer suggestions on how to improve the process of open-design, we welcome and need, any contributions you may have; no matter how big or small. Help us work out if there’s an Architecture of Architectural Design Collaboration?


Since RLASL revolves around using Second Life as a professional and educational tool, we would like the contributors to pretend as though they are designing a real life building and try to address, as this building design evolves, not just design’s ‘delight’, but also its ‘commodity’ and ‘firmness’ as well. Make Vitruvius proud as they say.


When designers are given cart blanche to design anything their imagination can muster, the possibilities are so numerous, finding a direction can sometimes prove difficult. In this vain, we wanted to provide a program for this Wikibuild that would give designers an initial direction, but vague enough, in turn, not to restrict any sense of innovation or creativity.

The Program Catalyst:



The project, located somewhere outside San Francisco, will be conceived of as an artist retreat to host any number of educational and social activities for the ‘RL Architects in SL’ group. Of the few stipulated functions, the building should accommodate an internal courtyard. Since the courtyard will mostly likely be the main gathering area, a large viewing screen, ideally incorporated into the architecture, should be located along one edge of the courtyard. In addition, to play off the burgeoning sustainability movement, a green roof will be located on top of the surrounding building(s). The program, however, in the encircling building can evolve into whatever the community of designers deems appropriate, but an entrance, classrooms, workshops, a library, a kitchen, or offices might be potential candidates and of course, per code, restrooms might be a good idea as well.

Since there are quite a number of students that visit the island, we thought it might be educational if the design of the building itself acted as an exposé of a few basic architectural principles; namely those principles outlined in Francis Ching’s book Architecture: Form, Space, & Order. We ask, as you develop the design to try to incorporate some on the architectural principles outlined in the following table. Do not feel, however, that you have to incorporate every single concept exhaustively; the design would most likely run the risk of becoming a little too chaotic. For those principles that cannot be accommodated within the architecture, we ask that the community designs small simple garden follies within and around the rooftop garden to demonstrate these missing principles.If you do not have access to Ching’s Book, the following PowerPoint lectures, although not exhaustive, cover a majority of the principles outlined above:

Primary Elements Form and Shape Transformation of Form

point elements

linear elements

planar elements

volumetric elements

visual properties

relational properties

primary shapes and forms









dimensional transformation

subtractive form

additive forms

centralized form

linear form

radial form

clustered form

grid form

Manipulation of Form Horizontal Elements Defining Space Vertical Elements Defining Space

formal collisions of geometry

-circle and square

-rotated grid

articulation of form

-edges and corners


base plane

elevated base plane

depressed base plane

overhead plane

vertical linear elements

single vertical plane

L-shaped planes

parallel planes

U-shaped planes

four planes: closure

Openings in Space-Defining Elements Qualities of Architectural Space

Spatial Relationships

opening within planes

openings at corners

openings between planes




degree of enclosure



space within a space

interlocking spaces

adjacent spaces

spaces linked by a common space

Spatial Organizations


Ordering Principles

centralized organizations

linear organizations

radial organizations

clustered organizations

grid organizations

circulation elements

building approach

building entrances

configuration of path

path/space relationships

form of the circulation space








If you do not have access to Ching’s Book, the following PowerPoint lectures, although not exhaustive, cover a majority of the principles outlined above:

The 1st experiment, Wikitecture 1.0 was not really a true Wiki in the sense that contributors could not modify or delete the contributions of others. What resulted, although interesting in its own right, was an amalgamation of ‘stuff’ with not no overall coherency or unity.
Image of Wikitecture 1.0

Image of Wikitecture 1.0

This next experiment however, we want to ask all the contributors to turn on their Prim’s[1] permissions so their fellow contributors can modify and evolve the design over time. Obviously the quick answer, to allow your fellow contributors modification rights, would be to grant them permission by checking the ‘can modify my objects’ box in your friends list. Although this would be ideal for collaborating on this Wikibuild, we run the risk of a rogue ‘griefer’ deleting a fellow member’s creation somewhere else in SL’s world. So until SL allows citizens mod-rights to certain people in certain places, we have to take a few additional precautionary steps.

In order for all the members within RLASL to modify their fellow member’s contributions, all the prims within the Wikibuild must have the following permissions turned on in the‘General’ tab of their ‘Build’ window.

The following image illustrates:

‘Group:’ should be set to ‘RL Architects in Second Life’

(A newly created object will take on your ‘Active’ group name. —i.e., if you make ‘RL Architects in Second Life’ your active group it will be the default group with every new prim created.)

Check on ‘Share with group’

(Do not however click on the ‘Deed…’ button and deed the object to the group. If there are scripts associated with group owned objects there’s a chance they may not work properly, considering most scripts rely upon the object to be owned by a singer owner.)

Turn on ‘Modify’ and ‘Copy’ under ‘Next owner can:’

Turn on ‘Resell/Give away’

(In order to allow others to copy the Wikibuild (or past achieves) into their inventory and rerez them somewhere else to work in private, ‘Resell/Give away’ needs to be turned on.)

Unfortunately, and I may have missed a way of doing this, you cannot set these permissions as the default mode and have all new prims take them on initially. —i.e., newly created objects will default back with no permissions. To get around not setting these every time, you can either copy the permissioned object and change it while still preserving the permission settings or when done building for the day, select all your objects and change the permissions at one time. Whatever is easier for you.

Unfortunately, although contributors will be able to copy the objects of their fellow designers, they cannot use the object’s associated texture on a newly created prim—since they do not have the texture in their inventory. If you find yourself in this situation, do one of the following: either copy the prim with the desired texture and change it’s ‘building block type’ into the prim shape you want or just ask the person who made the prim originally and see if they can send you the texture.

Prim Conservation:
To insure that all the stuff in SL uploads and downloads evenly for all users, SL puts a limit on the number of Prims you can have on your property. As a result, all builders in SL are faced with the challenge and art of trying to convey the most, with the least amount of Prims. Employing a wise use of textures can sometimes substitute for the need to physically model the object in SL. For instance, a transparent texture with mullion patterns could be used instead of actually modeling the mullions in world or instead of using 4 prims to outline a typical window, use one box prim with the middle hollowed out. Other areas that might benefit from a judicious use of textures might include: fences, siding, and roofing patterns. As a general rule: Anything that’s small and repeats often is a prime opportunity for a wise use of textures.

In the 3,456 sq. meter area allotted for this Wikibuild, SL allows for a maximum of 790 prims. Yes, this is a very tight number, especially if you’re used to the seemingly infinite number allotted in any other modeling programs. Although I’m sure as bandwidth increases in the future this number will only go up, but for know please be conservative with your prim use.

For those who want to create transparent textures this tutorial is very helpful:

An image of the building site:

Dimensions of the land plat.


Building with an Off-line Modeller:
Many have asked the question whether it’s possible to import third party models such as Maya, Blender, and Sketchup into Second Life. The answer is yes, but the elaborate conversion process you have to go through, with the few beta programs out there, is sometimes more work than its worth. The following is a list of the current conversion programs under development, but unless you have a warm affinity for the programming code you’ll have to cut and paste from one program to another, you might be better off learning to model in SL proficiently.

From Maya:

From Blender:

From Sketchup:

From Max:

If you do, however, use an offline modeler, make sure you approach the building process as though you are building in Second Life, —i.e., avoid curvaceous nurbs and surfaces; stick with primitives.

A Tool to Rank and Build Consensus around the Design:
So by what means do we, as a community of designers, determine how the community feels about the contributions of its members and as a result what design direction would make the most contextual sense? Ultimately in later phases of the Wikibuild experiment we would like to write a LSL script of some sort that would allow contributors to quickly rank and comment on what aspects of the project are working or not, but in the meantime let’s develop a rudimentary ranking system with the technology that’s currently available—a mashup of sorts. RLASL has set up a Flickr account called ‘Studio Wikitecture’, where contributors can upload snapshots of certain locations of the Wikibuild and be able to comment on what aspects of the project, in their eyes, either work positively or negatively. In addition to posting comments under the images, contributors can ‘post a topic thread’ to argue more specific points as well. Along with acting as a forum for comments, individual designers can elaborate on the logic behind their designs as well—in an effort ultimately to bring their fellow designers around to their way of thinking. And finally, to help the community quickly access what aspects of the design are either working or not, RLASL will periodically divvy up the individual posts into the following Flickr sets:

(=)Debated Topics(=)

(-)Negative Comments Overall(-)

(+)Positive Comments Overall(+)

If you do not want to give any textual feedback or even in addition to, a good way for us to tally quickly what design direction the group favors, would be to use the ‘Add to Faves’ button on the upper right of any Flickr image (see the following image). Along with positive comments, favoring images would help RLASL determine with more confidence which images should be moved to the (+)Positive Comments Overall(+) Flickr set.

Using the ‘Add to Faves’ button


Uploading the snapshots to the ‘Studio Wikitecture’ Flickr account:

Option #1: Sending Snapshot via email:
(because Flickr does not accept BMP files, you cannot send the snapshots via the ‘send a postcard’ function in SL. You have to download them to your hard drive and convert to a JPG before sending them off to Flickr.)

  1. Take a snapshot(s) of whatever portion of the Wikibuild you’d like to comment on and ‘save [the] snapshot to hard drive’
  2. Convert the snapshot file from a BMP to JPG format. This can be done with a number of programs; such as Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Paint. Use XnView if you’d like to batch covert a number of BMP files all at one.
  3. Attach the JPG file(s) to an email with the following address: (This is the email address Flickr has assigned to the ‘Studio Wikitecture’ account.)
  4. Use the ‘subject’ and ‘body’ of the email to write a little blurb explaining the rationality behind your design—as exhaustive or as brief as you want.
  5. send away.


Option #2: Sending Snapshot to Flickr via
(This method might be a little more cumbersome on the front end, but once setup, it avoids converting from BMP to JPG format. In addition, since your posts will not only go to the Flickr account, but the main Bloghud feed as well, Wikitecture 2.0 might garner a little more interest from the outside community—potentially bringing in additional contributors. One drawback, however, is the images come in rather small (258×345) in Flickr.

  1. Go to and create a Pro Version account, which will cost you around US$ 3.70 (L$900). (Unfortunately you cannot send images to Flickr with their free account.)
  2. They will ultimately send you to the following slurl link to pick up a HUD (Heads-Up Display) called blogHUDPRO:
  3. After you follow their not so friendly setup instructions and have a fully operable account, go to ‘manage my profile’ on their website and enter in the ‘Studio Wikitecture’ Flickr address: (Unfortunately, Bloghud does not remember multiple Flickr addresses so if you already use Bloghud to send photos to another Flickr account, you’d probably be better off using the first alternative and sending snapshots via your email.)
  4. After all is said and done you can finally send snapshots via the ‘send a postcard’ function in SL to the Flickr account using Bloghud’s email address: Got that?… me neither.

As you can tell, this is not the most ideal method for tallying the thoughts and opinions of the group, but it’s a start. As hinted at before, please use this Wiki to offer any suggestions or ideas you may have to improve this process, such as other mashups or possibly even a ranking script.

As a contributor, we ask that at the end of your work day, that you save a copy of the entire Wikibuild (with your modifications, of course) to the Archive Kiosk that’s near the foot bridge to ‘Crescendo Design’s Eco-friendly Neighborhood’. In this way, if the community, via a demonstrable Flickr Forum consensus, decides to ‘roll-back’ the design or if individual contributors would like to elaborate on an old idea, they have onsite access to past iterations of the design.

Image of ‘Archive Kiosk’


If you’re not familiar with how to save prims inside other prims, the following steps should help. Here’s the short version: Take a copy of an existing ‘archive plate’ and rerez it anew onto the next rung of the ‘archive kiosk’. Replace the previous contributor’s archive with your newly updated Wikibuild design. Replace the texture image attached to the ‘archive plate’ with an updated image illustrating your work. If so inclined, please leave a little blurb explaining the rationality behind your modifications within the attached notecard called: -Notes on the Design <don’t rename>.

Here’s a longer version of how to archive at the kiosk:

1. SELECT all the prims and objects that make up the Wikibuild

2. Right click on any of the prims to display the pie menu… click on ‘More>’ and then click on ‘Take Copy’. A copy of all these prims and objects will be sent to your inventory under the ‘objects’ folder and simply named: ‘object’.

3. Right click on the ‘object’ to rename. Pick any naming convention that you like; including you name and date might help.

4. ‘Upload a snapshot(s)’ of either the entire Wikibuild or the areas that you modified. It will be sent to your ‘Photo Album’ folder in your inventory.

5. Go over to the ‘Archive Kiosk’ and right click on the most recently dated ‘Archive Plate’ to display the pie menu and click on ‘More>Take Copy’. A copy of the ‘Archive Plate’ will be sent to your inventory.

6. Drag the ‘Archive Plate’ from your inventory into the world and reposition on the next rung of the ‘Archive Kiosk’. (note: The script that gives the UTC date and time only works when the ‘Archive Plate’ is rezzed in this manner.)

7. Right click on this newly rezzed ‘Archive Plate’ and go to ‘Edit’

8. Go to the ‘Content’ tab in the ‘Build Window’ and delete the last contributor’s Wikibuild Archive, do not, however, delete the following script: ‘Date Archive Prim was made’

9. Drag the Wikibuild Archive that you made and renamed in steps 2&3 into the ‘Content’ tab.

10. Optional Step: Open the Notecard in the ‘Content’ tab called: -Notes on the Design <don’t rename>. Within it, please add on to the running dialog with a little blurb explaining the rationality behind your design. See following example. In addition, send this little blurb with some pertinent snapshots of the Wikibuild to the Flickr sight dedicated to this Wikitecture experiment—as mentioned in the previous section. Upload blurb and images via your email with this email address:


**(Because Flickr does not accept BMP files, you cannot send the snapshots via the ‘send a postcard’ function in SL. You have to download them to your hard drive and convert to a JPG before sending them off to Flickr—as mentioned in the previous section.)**

An example of the running dialog within the Archiving Notecard:


–Theory Shaw: (4/11/2007 – 2:52 AM)

example text:

but i really think…

i agree that was a weakness…

i like Indie’s…. so i…


–Indie Nyle: (4/11/2007 – 2:48 AM)

example text:

well i thought this…

i modified your…

i deleted… because

why theory… why?


–Theory Shaw: (4/11/2007 – 2:42 AM)

example text:

I was trying to…

I was playing off…

I did this because…

I think…

wouldn’t it be nice…



11. Go to the ‘Texture’ tab and replace the previous contributor’s snapshot with the one you made in Step 4.

12. Done.

Building in a location off-site:
If you prefer to take a copy of the Wikibuild somewhere else, such as a Sandbox, to work on it in private, please, before you update the ‘live’ build, make sure someone hasn’t modified the live build during your absence. If this be the case, please try your best to incorporate the other contributor’s modifications into your own. If by some remote chance, the two (or more) designs are too different to merge together nicely, please document your design via images and comments in the dedicated Flickr account and archive your design at the ‘Archive Kiosk’. In order to get the community to weigh a judgment as quickly as possible between the two (or more) designs, ‘Create [a] New Notice’ within the RLASL’s ‘group information’ window and explain that a conflict has arose and you’d like the community’s assessment as soon a possible. As you can see, from the amount of jockeying this might cause, it might be safer to stay onsite to make your design modifications.

What if this process of collaborative design does ultimately lead to a viable way to design architecture? How will you get paid, if the criteria for establishing the weight of one’s contribution is somewhat subjective? Although finding the criteria for logically dividing the work is almost impossible, especially in creative fields, we believe if you allow the community to vote on each other’s perceived contribution, however subjective their individual assessment might be, when averaged out, a fair and balanced assessment will most likely result. Although a small gesture, RLASL would like to put forth L$80,000 Linden Dollars (US$300) as a payout for design services rendered by the group; the distribution of which will be determined by group vote. The final vote will occur at the end of the month long design charrette. Since it would appear that the community will consult the ‘Studio Wikitecture’ Flickr Forum to help inform their votes toward the payout percentages, it would seem advantageous to document as much of your work within this forum as possible.

(I’m sure this is relatively simple as programming goes, but if anyone would like to offer up a website that would automate this task of taking votes and tallying the results, please let me know. If not, I will most likely just request the vote through email and I’ll tally the results manually. Ideally I would like to avoid any manual tally to prevent any perceived conflict of interest. )

Forking the Design:
What if, as the design evolves, factions form that cannot reach a consensus in the project’s continued design direction? In that case, not unlike open source software, the project can fork off into two separate divergent designs. Obviously we would like to avoid this since it would take a substantial amount of momentum out of the project, but on the other hand we do not want to squelch what could very well be a viable improvement of the design as well. Unfortunately, due to available land restrictions, Architecture Island can only host one ‘live’ built at a time. If the project does indeed fork, someone will have to offer land to host the additional project. The determination of what project goes where, will be left up to group vote. To give further incentive to stick out the evolution of one design, the payout can only be divvied up amongst the contributors of the one project that wins the community’s vote.

Adjusting the Scale of Your Contribution:
Although this will be hard to regulate, we ask that the magnitude and scale of modifications to the design become less and less as we approach the end of this charrette. —i.e., if we are three weeks into the design, reconceptualizing the schematic layout of the building might be counterproductive. The community will mostly likely self-regulate this from happening however.

Open Questions:
The following are open questions that this experiment will look to answer. And as mentioned initially, as this experiment evolves, if you have any other questions you’d like to post, or modifications to the program in general, that you think might help inform this and further Wikitecture experiments, please do so at the following Wiki pages.

Wiki for this Program and Protocol:

Wiki for Refining the Tools for Building Design Consensus:

Wiki for the Questions this Experiment Poses:

Open Questions:

Will the aggregate of a diverse pool of contributors, with their varying view points on design, produce a final project of any aesthetic worth or will it just be an amalgamation of stuff with no overall coherency?

Since computer code or encyclopedic entries can be modularized into bite-size pieces it’s easier for individuals to make small contributions, that when aggregated, are more than the sum of their parts. Since the act of designing cannot easily be divided up into bite-size tasks, will an open collaborative approach to architecture even work?

What if this process of collaborative design does ultimately lead to a viable way to design architecture? How will you get paid, if the criteria for establishing the weight of your contribution is somewhat subjective?

How could using the Flickr account to log the history of the communities viewpoints be improved upon? What other types of ‘mashups’ would better convey the community’s design intentions?

This project is strictly community driven—i.e., the community determines the design will evolve. When, however, you have a client driven project, where the client is calling out the design direction, will the community be less apted to participate? Or could they possibility be more willing to participate knowing they are not at the whim of a ever changing landscape of design criteria?

Will architects, who historically have been individualistic by nature, even want to participate in a process where their contributions could potentially be watered down?

Will this be quicker than the conventional way to develop a design?

Would RW clients be open to a community of designers designing their projects?

With so many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak, will the design evolve into a lowest common denominator of conservative mediocrity?

If this experiment results a project worthy design, can you continue utilizing a Wiki approach in later phases of an architectural project; such as DD (Design Development) and CD (Construction Document) phase?


One Last Note:
I sincerely hope that this approach to designing architecture creates a project more than the sum of its parts. If so, could small neighborhoods, or even municipalities use this approach to bring their residences further into the design process—creating an environment that, as the great urbanist Jane Jacobs coined, “is multidimensionally diverse— one that does not just cater to a single industry or a single demographic group but that is full of stimulation and creative interplay.”

And finally, if this experiment does prove itself on some level, we would like to extend an invitation to any real world clients who would like to offer up their next real world project as the centerpiece in the 3rd Wikitecture experiment? The design, of which, will be more client driven, verses the community driven approach this experiment illustrates. If so, please contact either Keystone Bouchard or Myself (Theory Shaw) via an IM in Second Life. We would be excited to have a real world setting to demonstrate the potentials of a Wikitecture approach in architecture.

We would like to thank the community in advance for their contributions and we hope, if at the very least, this experiment reveals in some small fashion the potential uses metaverses, such as Second Life, might have for not just architects, but any for anyone affiliated with the building industry.

[1] “Prim”= primitive. A primitive is a basic shape: cube, sphere, torus, and so on. Everything you can build in Second Life is made up of primitives.

Studio Wikitecture Portfolio