As 2015 comes to an end, I thought it would be interesting to check what different builders and architects in Second Life have brought to us during the year. With that in mind, I visited a number of stores and selected a few buildings that called my attention. This is not an extensive review of the buildings, and I certainly could not check all the creations out there. Also, it’s important to clarify that I’m not a specialist either in architecture or in building for SL – so the somewhat informed impressions that my readers will find here cannot be compared to an expert analysis at all.
To start with, I went checking the latest creations at Botha Prefabs and Landscaping, by Sergio Botha, whose buildings I’m a fan of. There, I could find the Nevada House, a contemporary design of straight lines that incorporates some of Botha’s sinuous sculptures.
The Nevada House relies on a clean, elegant and beautiful conception. It has two floors made as rectangles, with a pool, a deck and a garden on the front part and a small water way on the back. It’s as simple as that: no baroquism, no deconstructivist fragmentation, no revivalism. I’m not implying that those characteristics are necessarily bad, but the Nevada House doesn’t incorporate any of those – I would say that it exhibits its links with modernism, rather than with a post modern aesthetic.
With some large glass walls, the house integrates its internal space and the external landscape. It provides a great view and promotes the idea of open spaces, which one can also observe in the organization of the building itself. On the first floor, for instance, there is no separation between the living room and the dining room, and the kitchen has some counter-like structure on one end and a glass door on the other end (and only a small portion of a concrete partition wall at a certain point). Thus, all areas are visible from a variety of angles. On the second floor, openness dominates too: we can find a big bedroom and a bathroom which are separated by walls made of wood and glass, combining transparency and (some) privacy. An amazing touch is given by the smaller pool above the kitchen.
The straightness of Botha’s design is defied only by the sculptures which he incorporated in the building. We can see them in the garden, in the living room (where they also have a function, working as lamps) and in the bedroom (where they mix with the structure even more extensively). They are all worked on curved lines, in a way that evokes a certain flow. (On a side observation, I noticed a physics distortion in the bedroom that may be caused by the sculptures there. It’s a minor problem that doesn’t prevent a normal avatar from moving around, but it may affect your camera, depending on the angle that you use as the default one, while you walk or run).
Another approach to a contemporary architectural conception, somewhat different from Botha’s, can be found at Maven Homes – and particularly on the Monterey house, that also appeared in SL in 2015.
The Monterey house, by Cain Maven, combines a saltbox roof (the central double-sloped asymmetrical one) with two shed roofs (the lateral single-sloped ones) – and that combination is its most prominent characteristic. Such a façade reminds me of some aspects of mid-twentieth century modern architecture, from which that Maven’s house draws some inspiration, I would risk to say. The single-floor building is not as open as Botha’s one, but it also cultivates some openness. As the roof structure indicates, the house is divided in three sections. The central one holds the living room and other social areas. On one side, we can find the kitchen and the dining place. On the opposite side, the bedroom and its bathroom. The structure is big without being a mansion, but it also carries some coziness.
At this point, I’d like to mention an element present in both Botha’s and Maven’s houses: they do have bathrooms! I know, we all know, that avatars don’t need bathrooms. But our virtual selves in SL don’t need houses either, right? In Second Life we have no necessity of a shelter to protect us from bad weather and other dangers. Still, many of us have houses in SL, because, with them, we create a symbolic, emotional environment in which we can express ourselves in the way we decorate and landscape it. So, even if many Second Life residents just don’t care about bathrooms, I do, for I think they contribute to that ambience. So, kudos for Botha and Maven for having incorporated bathrooms in their buildings. The only problem I found in their projects is that those spaces are located in the intimate part of their respective houses and there are no toilets for visitors – but ok, that’s my obsession with details.
Moving away from modernism, I’ve also found, during my researches, two interesting cases of what I’ll call here, loosely, decorative buildings. I’m referring to those structures that, even more than houses in which we can emulate our atomic world routines, are made for decorating our parcels or sims. They can be, for instance, solid cubes with textures and other elements on their faces, just made for occupying space in a sim while creating a certain atmosphere (urban apartment blocks with no interior are a good example of what I mean). The buildings that I’ve encountered are a bit different, though – but still decorative.
I saw both buildings at 22769 [bauwerk] (one can find other kinds of structures there, but I’m concentrating my observations on those specific buildings). The first one is the Tower of Light – which, not being part of a fortification or any other bigger work, becomes a typical case of a monumental piece. It may even have, let’s say, ritual purposes in role-playing sims, but, apart from that, it’s much more like what we commonly know as a monument, with its distinctive mark but little or no practical use. It doesn’t diminish the tower at all. Actually, such a tower is, in my opinion, an outstanding example of what a monument can be.
Another decorative building at 22769 [bauwerk] is their Garden Atelier – but now, for the opposite reason: not because it’s a monument, but because it’s a small place that cannot be used for many purposes other than to decorate a parcel. It’s an atelier, what justifies its size – but no avatar actually creates art works in an atelier in SL. Paintings and statues are made outside the virtual world, not inside it. Some sculptures may be created with the native Second Life tools, ok; anyway, it would be hard to work on them in a small space such as the Garden Atelier. So, we can say it’s a building mainly made for decorative purposes. (One could argue that houses are no different, for our virtual characters don’t sleep in them, don’t have lunch or supper in their dining rooms, and I agree with all that. Nonetheless, a dwelling space can be the place where we receive people and that we share with our partners. A small decorative construction is one that cannot accommodate many people, sometimes not even two persons. It is made mainly for creating a certain atmosphere – though the atelier is good for two, I’d say).
I would describe the Garden Atelier as a romantic building that employs recycled windows and is made to look old, not super modern. It’s of a simple design, but probably more complex in terms of textures. That combination results in some tenderness, leading to a charming place, pleasant for the eyes.
That romantic aura has actually been a trend in SL for a while. There are many sims out there which are carefully planned to evoke such an atmosphere. In terms of architecture, that objective is generally achieved by means of textures that seem to be aged and a combination of more traditional building styles – for instance, by mixing Victorian, French Normandy and Dutch colonial elements. To some extent, that’s the case of the Neva Chapel that one can see at Scarlet Creative. It puts together Gothic and segmental-arched windows, pyramidal and double-sloped roofs, decorative elements – all of them transmitting an appearance of oldness.
The chapel is a good place to play with light and shadows and, as a building with a mezzanine, it can be used as a repurposed structure. One can, for instance, convert it into their house or even their office. This versatility actually makes the construction even more interesting.
Talking about the romantic trend in SL takes me to one of the most impressive releases of the year: the Serene Tree and Windmill Home that one can find at LAQ Decor. That’s the kind of building that would be hard to find in the atomic world (or real life), simply because it’s a somewhat big building that also carries a supposedly heavy structure (the windmill) and lies on a tree. I really enjoy to find those items in Second Life – items that would be impossible or at least much harder to materialize outside the virtual world.
In order to arrive at the house itself, one has to climb some ladders and stairs. When they arrive at the top of the tree, they will find a three-level building that carries references to some vernacular European architectural styles – maybe those developed on the French countryside, but also in Belgium and in some other areas. The roof is built on gable (double-sloped) style, but it is high-pitched and curved, giving the place a dreamy touch.
The house has many texture options and many rooms (one will certainly find enough space for a bathroom!). It is the opposite of modernism: openness is not a value there, walls abound, straight lines give place to some curvy areas and to a design marked by certain indentation. None of that is made in a post modern way. Pre modern eras are the model, instead.
Another building that would be uncommon in the atomic world, though not exactly impossible (except for the fact that it is a skybox), is Erebus, found at Vicious Decay. Far from being romantic, Erebus is a twisted, spooky construction frankly inspired by film director Tim Burton’s aesthetic. It is almost completely textured in black and white, and it brings a number of rooms linked by long, dark corridors.
Particularly interesting, there, is a certain ceiling that was conceived as a spiral. By focusing on the center of the spiral and moving the camera up and down, one actually has the impression that the ceiling is rotating. Also, in different places in the building, it is possible to see tentacles of some hidden creature.
With that, I arrived at the end of my list of interesting buildings from 2015. As I remarked in the beginning of this post, I certainly could not check every creation out there – and maybe you have your own list. If not, how about making one? What other amazing constructions we could find in SL this year? It sounds to me like a worthy question to answer.
P.S.: This post was aimed at the buildings that appeared on the grid in 2015. Still, while visiting Scarlet Creative, I found a structure from 2014 that fascinated me: the Carriage House. I don’t intend to comment on it further, I’d just like to share a few pics of it with my readers. So, here they are: