When people build in the virtual environment they create structures that resemble ones in the real world. Buildings, offices, houses, castles and classrooms have standard walls, doors, windows, and furnishings that replicate the real world. Perhaps it is because building what we are familiar with provides a frame of reference and feeling of comfort. In her blog, Avril Korman refers to Virtual World architecture as virtuatecture and discusses this desire for a home that looks familiar.
Virtual world “physics”, almost limitless creative possibilities, and avatar abilities suggest a more innovative architectural approach. Accommodating avatars who transport or fly in for a meeting requires a space that can be easily accessed with wide doorways, minimal walls or open rooftops. You can still have the familiarity of RL spaces with the added benefit of virtuatecture to accommodate the unique qualities and possibilities of the virtual setting.
The buildings at CLIVE (Center for Learning in Virtual Environments) are generally standard looking buildings, with the exception of large openings in the rooftops for avatars to be able to fly in and exit easily.
The iSchool classroom on Reaction Grid is an open air classroom, easy to access via either a teleport or flying in, yet the space is somewhat traditional with the students desks in rows facing the instructor station and presentation area.
These two spaces illustrate the best of both worlds.
Another feature to keep in mind is the ground (stairs/ramp) access to a facility. In real life we typically have stairs with a narrow ramp for wheelchair use. In a virtual setting avatars generally do better with wide ramps or rails with narrower ramps so they don’t fall off.
XSS Bucky Fuller on Mellanium in Reaction Grid and Museum of the Globe are two builds that take full advantage of the attributes of virtual environments. This virtuatecture looks unlike what we would encounter in the real world yet it works effectively in the virtual setting with large attractive spaces that can be reached via teleport and used in a variety of ways.