Choosing to play

What an interesting idea!

When planning urban spaces such as an underground station, two major questions are always present: route planning and turning a no-space into a space.

Route planning is the study of the routes people take/should take in a space (think about an exhibition gallery as a sort of a classical case, though actually route planning should go to such detail as routing inside a house, or a kitchen). An underground station is a paramount problem: you have thousands of people circuiting there everyday. They need to be able to orient themselves (sense of orientation drops amazingly below ground); they need to be able to go quickly inside the station; they need – very importantly – to be able to escape even more quickly in case of accident or fire. In this last case, security measures may force electrical devices such as elevators, escalators, etc, to shut down – this can cause confusion and delay if people try to use them to escape. So something that trains people into preferring stairs to electric devices as their usual route can be very positive.

As for the no-space thingy, well, we all know what it is. It is that uncomfy feeling everyone gets at many public spaces: a place which, belonging to everyone, belongs to nobody simultaneously. Too large, too unreferenced, too confusing… also, sadly so oftenly: too shabby, too uncared  for, too full of grafitti! Interventions like this can help turn a no-space into a space, since people can appropriate the intervention for a bit, make it theirs.

I suddenly thought that a lot of SL spaces are no-spaces. Interesting, why should that be?

Some necessary explanations

I was fiddling here with my blog backoffice, trying to get things right – I must explain that I am generally a bit blog-adverse, so this is a new tech of sorts to me – things don’t just come easy, and I’ll apologize straightaway for some instability on the appearance of the blog, as I conclude that widget X is useful and that I need more categories… I am sure everyone must have passed through the same!

At least I know a basic rule: always have the backoffice in one tab and the blog in another, so that you can see what is happening on with the final result.

And as I was checking the final result, I felt that people may be a bit staggered by the blog… What’s this?! Doesn’t this woman work in Second Life?! Where is the stuff about SL?!

… well, the stuff about SL will no doubt get in here in its own time. But working in SL doesn’t necessarily mean that you breathe SL.

The work that I do in SL is architecture, grossly speaking. Architecture is an art, which means that it is a speculum mundi:  it holds a mirror to life. So this means that a good deal of my day is spent … looking at life, wherever it is. Researching. Reading, because reading is a gateway to the thoughts of other people. Seeing scores and scores of images. Thinking about what I meet, relating, making connections. Because that is what architecture really is: the greatest of arts, the art that connects all the others, and creates space for people in an amazing web of knowledge, experience, living. All that I see will no doubt resurface at some point in my work.

So… this very confused blog is a window on my work, indeed. It just isn’t all about prims and textures, same way as being a chef isn’t all about knowing how to turn on the oven. It is also not just a window on past or present work: it’s a magic window that lets you see the future.

A mystery solved

I am a big fan of Queen Victoria, and I read everything I can about her reign. She will appear frequently in this blog, I think.

One thing I always was puzzled about was the bad reception Prince Albert had in the United Kingdom at the time of their marriage.  Granted, he was a foreigner… but the German nobility was so large at the time that it would be extremely difficult, I think, to find a suitable candidate who didn’t have  German ancestry. Queen Victoria herself was genetically German, up to all her great-great-grandparents, and for four generations, the British throne had been held by a German-origined dinasty.

There was a popular mocking rhyme at the time:

He comes the bridegroom of Victoria’s choice

The nominee of Lehzen’s voice; (1)

He comes to take ‘for better or for worse’

England’s fat Queen and England’s fatter purse. (2)

A bit mean,  right?! The power of this bad opinion about Prince Albert’s financial matters was so great that Parliament refused to grant him the same £50.000/year that had been granted to Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (3), who had married Charlotte (4), Princess of Wales, some 20 years before. Albert only got £30.000, which aggravated him extremely.

But after finding this picture… some light begins to dawn!

Schloss_Rosenau_1900_small

This is Schloss Rosenau, the seat of Albert’s family, in Thuringia, Germany. He was born here in 1819 (this picture was taken in 1900). Now, calling this a schloss is very eulogizing, because this is really quite a biggish cottage. Look in Wikicommons for images of schlosses and you will see fairy-tale buildings, on top of imposing hills… not a modest house in the middle of a pretty garden.  Compare this also to Britain’s nobility’s great seats… it’s quite possible he may have been perceived as a minor princeling intent on a financially advantageous marriage.

But actually this is interesting, because it may explain why Prince Albert had such a distaste for the large palaces in England where he had to live. He hated Buckingham Palace, which had been Victoria’s favourite palace before her marriage. He preferred Windsor Castle, but he insisted in building the more secluded Osborne House, in the Isle of Wight,  and Balmoral Castle,  in Scotland. These two were also rather smallish residences compared to the former, and their attendants used to moan about the inconvenience of these houses: far away from London, small, cold, and the general opinion at their building was also that they were hideous (though this opinion tends to disappear as the Victorian taste grows stronger as the century progresses).

Victoria herself was enchanted when visiting Rosenau for the first time. Quite curiously, she wrote: ‘If I was not who I am, this would have been my real home, but I shall always consider it my second one.’ (2)

So the need for seclusion, for the living of a private life, which is one of the  new domestic paradigms brought by the Victorian Age,  maybe was born too here in this Schloss Rosenau.

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(1) Baroness Lehzen had been the governess of Victoria, and enjoyed her outmost trust, being at the time one of the most important persons in the Household. She too was a polemical figure due to her percepted influence on the Queen.

(2) Quoted in Hibbert, Christopher, Queen Victoria – A Personal History, Harper Collins,  2001, ISBN 0-00-638843-4. A very good book!

(3) Leopold was later Leopold I, King of the Belgians. He was an uncle to both Victoria and Albert.

(4) Charlotte had been an heir-presumptive to the crown, so Leopold could have been Prince Consort if she had lived. She died very tragically in labour, and this event led to ultimately Victoria becoming Queen.