Query: Metaverse as Place

So… I have been thinking about this of late. Actually, it is an extension of something that has intrigued me for a long time in real life (RL): what is place? This, of course, is a seminal question in architecture and related fields. Possibly there will never be a definite, complete answer. And yet… we know place instantly as we see it. How?

I recently went through a new experience that has brought this question stubbornly to the front of my mind. Beta Technologies US Inc (BT) has recently (as of 2022) completed LOCUS PROJECT for University of Aveiro. This link is for our own post on its release, and in that post you can find the link for the project’s website. Even better, it can be fully experimented in Second Life (SL).

As it can be read on the sources above, the project makes a quite detailed simulation of the tiny village of Amiais, Sever do Vouga, Portugal. We took great pains with both the built and the natural environments. Very shortly: BT modelled the site-specific content, and, for budgetary reasons, researched and used SL Marketplace content to add to the ambiance and natural environment. That way we could devote max time to the unique builds, aiming to convey the very characteristic vernacular granite architecture of Northern Portugal as it is expressed in the region. We used a hybrid pipeline for modeling, with resource to McNeel’s Rhinoceros, Blender and with heavy texture work, mainly photo sourced (more on our methodologies soon in another post elsewhere on this site). And as went on adding the builds to the Amiais simulators, and the lush productive forest and crops, place was appearing. The ambiance content added on the later phases only reinforced what was already there — how? And while the SL space obviously resembles the RL one, it is also another space on its own.

I am absolutely entranced by this phenomenon! And so I decided to run some experiments… This Query: Metaverse as Place will work as the record for those experiments. And I am already working on the first one, which I will post by stages here. But first some background.

As you can read on my bio, I have an architecture degree in RL and am now (very slowly!) completing my M. Arch., actually in the completely different topics of spatial justice and right to the city (maybe one day I’ll share some stuff in here as well). I have also worked in design, architecture and urban design for many years, the last of these on a clearly architecture research-oriented office. So, more and more, I have come to appreciate the power of both the theoretical and the methodological leverages in architecture practice.

This being said, my main guide for thinking about place is of course French anthropologist Marc Augé, and his seminal 1992 text Non-places: introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity. In an ultimate resume, Augé defines place as the space that: 1. confers identity; 2. allows relationships to happen (and to the place itself); and 3. allows narratives to be established — we can definitely check up spaces to these.

To be continued …