In the first part of this discussion on architecture in Second Life, inspired by my conversations with Cain Maven, from Maven Homes and Quantum Luxury Homes, I tried to examine the relationship that the design of virtual buildings has with the atomic world. The references that I have mentioned, nonetheless, were all to a certain kind of RL architecture: the one that flourishes in the US mainstream (even if inspired in some European traditions, such as the English, French or German ones). Mea culpa: I’m not even American, but I realize that the United States is the main reference for the majority of the SL community. Still, if one looks around, there are a number of examples of other cultural backgrounds in the community.
I think that one of the most exciting characteristics of SL is the opportunity that it provides for us to get in touch with people from very different places. Thankfully, that has also been reflected in the market for houses and other buildings, which offers some items inspired in other architectural traditions, such as the Japanese one, that seems to be very popular in the virtual world. Moroccan tradition is not that popular and, so, it was a pleasant surprise to find a house by Barnesworth Anubis that draws inspiration from it: BA’s Marrakesh Riad.
A Moroccan home
A riad is a Moroccan house built around an internal garden. In some cases, their rooms actually integrate somehow with the garden. In the example brought to us by Barnesworth Anubis, that integration comes from his option to abolish some internal walls and replace them by columns and different arches: islamic ones, which were cut as incomplete dodecagons, on the first floor, and shouldered flat ones on the second floor. That choice helped him introduce even more visual references – the arches – to the architecture of Morocco.
Of course, in BA’s Marrakesh Riad, as in many other buildings in SL, one should not expect a full correspondence with its reference in the atomic world. I’m not a specialist in Moroccan architecture – or in architecture, as a whole – but maybe no traditional riad is so open to the exterior as BA’s one. That shouldn’t matter that much. I mean, I don’t think his intention was to replicate any particular building, but to draw inspiration from it.
Inspiration that comes from Spain
Moroccan riads are related to Andalusian architecture, in Spain, and one of the elements of such an interaction – besides the many Moorish ornamental items in buildings in Andalusia – is the idea of making houses that circle an internal patio. Actually, that pattern of construction has spread both in Spain and in the colonies that the Spanish Monarchy maintained from the 16th until the 19th centuries in the New World. Hispanic America is full of examples of buildings made around a central patio or garden.
In SL, a beautiful version of a Hispanic house like that can be found at Simay, by silvia Mayo. In their Villa Spain, the patio is surrounded by a wooden colonnade topped by Roman arches on the first floor and segmental arches on the second floor. The rooms are ample, spacious. Finally, the details are impressive: ceramic shingles, old paintings on the doors, a bucket for collecting water coming from the draining channels on the roof…
The idea of the bucket is particularly interesting, because, if one is looking for some familiarity with the atomic world, it gives the house some air of imperfection and decay that one can easily avoid in a virtual environment, where everything can remain perfect. We could say, actually, that the bucket adds to Simay’s Villa Spain some perfect imperfection.
A Japanese house
As I mentioned before, Japanese culture seems to be very popular in SL. In terms of architecture, there are plenty of examples. One that fascinates me is Fukui Minka, by Van Auster, owner of Post.
Minkas are folk, vernacular houses in Japan, made for and by the people (in contrast with the aristocracy). Van Auster’s minka draws inspiration from a model of construction developed in Fukui Prefecture, Chubu region, central Japan. Though it’s a small building, it has enough space for some traditional elements: it’s a three room house with a tokonama (recessed cubicle for displaying decorative and artistic items) in the reception room and in which one can see fusuma (sliding panels that divide the inner areas and work as doors) and shoji (translucent paper panels).
I’d like to underline that, throughout this post, I have avoided to describe the architectural traditions of different parts of the world as ethnic. It is not uncommon to see that word used to refer to other cultural references than the American or some European ones. It’s as if the culture of the US and certain European countries needed no adjective, as if it were simply “the (standard) culture” while the rest were the “ethnic” ones. I don’t see why it has to be like that – and that’s the reason for avoiding that term. And, with that, I hope that, even not being an expert in architecture, I could cover some aspects of architectural trends in SL, as I proposed in the first part of this discussion, without just focusing on consuming-oriented short comments and decoration.