December 8th, 2007: Friday's Informal Forum of Form

Hello everyone, and thank you for coming!

We will start off today's meeting with a brief background of Studio Wikitecture, followed by a review of the design concepts that have already been submitted to give you a sense of the group's progress to-date.

Finally if time permits, we would like to end the session with a collaborative building session, which will give us all a chance to rez some prims and collaborate on a design iteration. When we're done, we will submit that design to the tree as a new leaf iteration.

So, what is Wikitecture? To answer that question, we have to take a step back and ask, what is a Wiki, and how would a wiki function within the context of 3D architectural design? We hear the word wiki in the context of so many words and definitions, really embedded in the idea of Web 2.0 - Mass Collaboration, Social Networking, Networked Intelligence, Crowd Sourcing, Crowd Wisdom, Smart Mobs, Peer Production, Emergent Intelligence, Social Production, Self-Organized Masses, Collective Genius, and so on.

Wikipedia’s defines web 2.0 as a ‘perceived second generation of Web-based services that emphasize online collaboration and sharing among users.” Or, like Theory says, its like ‘a shared canvas where every splash of paint contributed by one user provides a richer tapestry for the next user to modify or build on.’

The ideas behind the online collaborative spirit of Web 2.0 have been harnessed in a wide array of disciplines, such as Wikipedia, Linux, MySpace, InnoCentive, Flickr, You Tube, and the Human Genome Project just to name a few. Books like ‘Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything’ really encourage the idea that peer production might provide alternative methods of production that might work for architecture and design as well.

So, in summary, the Wikitecture concept is an experiment to determine if a virtual environment like Second Life can be used to allow a remote and diverse group of contributors to co-create 3D design concepts.

But it isn't enough to just have people gather around a site and build. We tried that with the first Wikitecture experiment, and it turned out to be nothing more than an incoherent composition of stuff. In our Second experiment, we asked everyone to check all permissions on the prims they used to build. This helped, but of course, it is evident that something was missing from this collaborative process. It was not yet ‘wiki’, insofar as people could not return to previous iterations, or evaluate the effectiveness of other contributions.

Conflicts of opinion could not be easily resolved, and input from the other contributors had to be synchronous. What this meant is when all of the contributors were on site at all times, the design took on a completely different direction based on extensive work by a single designer without group consensus.

Furthermore, there was no easy way to resort to a previous iteration should such a conflict of opinion occur. Commenting on the success or failure of another designer’s contribution was left to synchronous chat, with no easy way to discern the opinion of the entire group at any time.

If we really wanted collaboration in virtual worlds to be more wiki-like, we needed tools. We have over the last couple months worked with the programmers at i3dnow, to develop a very grass-roots tool, we call the 'Wiki-Tree' (that trunk looking thing). Although still in early development and not perfect, we feel this 'Wiki-Tree' interface, as well as the corresponding web-based interface, provides a collaborative platfrom that is light years ahead of our previous experiments. There's still a lot of work to be done to refine it.

With that, i'd like to go into a brief overview of the 'wiki-tree' before we jump into discussing some of the schematic designs that have been submitted thus far for the OAN Competition.

A Brief Overview of the 'Wiki-Tree' Interface:

The Wikitecture Interface is made up of 2 major components, the first is called the 'Wiki-Tree' and the second is the 'Viewing Kiosk'.

2003314232_e54df9f076_o.jpgthe "trunk' of the 'Wiki-Tree'
2002638141_794f290bff_o.jpg'Viewing Kiosk'

The 'wiki-tree' makes up the bulk of the in-world interface, with the lower 'trunk' being reserved for most of the functionality. The spherical 'archive leaves' above however, are for storing the individual design iterations throughout the duration of the project.

Although not always the case, the general rule will typically apply: one spherical 'archive leaf' = one design iteration = one contributor.

'Archive Canopy' above the 'Trunk' interface

The 'Viewing Kiosk' is surrounded by 6 viewing screens. 3 of the screens will be dedicated to displaying the SL 'snapshots' of your submitted designs and the other 3 screens are dedicated to displaying both your description of the project and the comments your fellow contributors might have made about your design. In other words, one set of screens is for images, and the other set is for text. To activate these screens you have to press the movie 'play' button at the bottom of your SL screen.

movie 'play' button

Although not part of the interface, there are two other important components to the project as well, the 'viewing parcel' and the 'building parcel'. They are pretty self-explanatory. The 'Building Parcel' is an area where you can work on your design iteration. The 'viewing parcel', however, allows you to view the designs contained within the individual 'archiving leaves', without deleting those designs being worked on by individuals in the 'building parcel'.

2004671710_384412126f_o.jpg'Viewing Parcel'
2003872893_a598065e4a_o.jpg'Building Parcel'

It should be noted that you do not have to work on your design in the 'building parcel', but can design and build where ever your heart desires - sandboxes or your own land.

The 'Trunk' of the 'Wiki-Tree'

The 'trunk' of the 'Wiki-Tree', which comprises most of the in-world interface, is divided into 3 general areas of functionality - the top, middle, and bottom.

2005495224_e06a598eab_o.jpgThe 'trunk' of the 'Wiki-Tree'


The group of buttons toward the top, when 'touched' (right click…touch) will perform their particular action on the design that is currently active on the 'viewing parcel'.


The buttons in the middle section, when touched, will give you a copy of the specified prim: box, prism, sphere, cylinder, tube, torus, and ring. These prims are special, in that, they contain unique scripts (locater scripts) that tell the prim, when rezzed from the 'archive leaves', the exact location they were in the design before they were archived. In other words, when someone 'touches' a 'archiving leaf', these scripts will tell each and every prim, that composes that particular design, the exact location and rotation they were in before they were originally saved. In short, every prim you submit to the tree, needs this script to work.


Most of the buttons located on the bottom you will use when submitting your design to the canopy of 'archive leaves' above.

The 3 buttons at the very bottom of the 'trunk', however, do not neatly fall into any category, but i will explain them in further detail later in the meeting.

'Leaf Canopy':

As i mentioned before, each spherical 'archive leaf' above this main 'trunk' interface holds one design iteration, usually contributed by one designer.

The proximity of one ‘leaf’ to the next indicates that the designs contained within, are very similar derivatives of each other. The further away a ‘leaf’ is from another, indicates either a major change in the design direction or an entirely new direction all together. The animated texture 'shooting' between two ‘leaves’ indicates the direction the designs were derived from one another - such that one will be the 'parent' of the adjacent child leaf.

In order that the tree doesn’t get too elaborately huge, there will be a point where the 'canopy' will 'prune' itself of the lowest ranked designs. The pruning process starts kicking in around 20 leaves. Although pruned from the 'canopy', all the design iterations will still be saved in the system if you wish to conjure up an old design later in the design process.

The color of the leaf correlates with the number of votes its particular design has been given by the community. For example, the more green a leaf, the more votes… yellow has less…and red, the least number.

The following video gives you a taste of what this canopy looks like:

The Open Architecture Network Competition:

Earlier this year, Cameron Sinclair from Architecture for Humanity and creator of the Open Architecture Network made an appearance in Second Life along with John Gage from Sun Microsystems. During his presentation, Cameron mentioned several times how virtual worlds like Second Life are really ideal environments for enabling real collaboration.

The Open Architecture Network itself is a web portal that enables architects to upload design ideas, and to invite other architects to comment and participate in further development of the project.

When they announced the new 'AMD Open Architecture Challenge', a competition to develop solutions for building sustainable, multi-purpose, low-cost technology facilities for those who need them most, we knew it was a perfect fit for the next experiment, and a worthwhile cause we could get excited about.

What we're trying to do here is to fully realize what a truly collaborative design process can be like. We feel this process really exemplifies and celebrates the collaborative design spirit of the Open Architecture Network.

We kicked off this experiment in early November, and have already enjoyed a great deal of input and contribution from group members. Members have communicated their ideas through the use of this Wiki-Tree, and with the web-based interface you can find at

So, with that - Theory will cycle through the design ideas that have been submitted -

Various Concepts in the 'Wiki-Tree' to Date:

In order to bring everyone up to speed, i will be cycling through the various 'leaf' iterations in the 'canopy'.

As, know that as i cycle through the various submissions and explain their associated concepts, there's a chance that i might not convey exactly what the author intended to say. I might very well get their intentions wrong, but for the sake of bringing everyone up to speed, i tried my best to understand their original intent. My interpretation are based on the comments these authors have placed in the following two locations: &

And just so you know, i will, throughout my little talk be using these three viewing screens that are surrounding us as well as referring to the design that will be rezzed out onto the 'viewing parcel' directly to the East of where we're sitting now. So I'm sure you'll make good use of your camera during this part, if you haven't already.

Also know that the comments, when viewed on these three screens get distorted if the comment string is too long. We are currently working on a fix to this problem. In the meantime, all these comments can be viewed at website.

So let's actually all walk out to the middle of the 'viewing parcel', so we can all be in the middle of the action as I rez out the various designs within the 'canopy'

I'll meet you out there….

As we cycle through these different iterations, please offer up any questions or comments you may have in response to the design that is currently out on the parcel. Since time is limited we will be answering your questions via voice, but you can ask or comment in whatever mode you want to - voice or chat.

A lot of the first 'leaves' in the canopy were test leaves, with no 'Open Architecture Network' designs in them. So i will be skipping them and starting further into the growth of the branches.

'Leaf 1194658070'

The first leaf will be 'Leaf 1194658070' submitted by contributor: Jo Newell. As you can see, when i touched the leaf, it rezzes (or materialized) its contents out onto the 'viewing parcel', directly East of where we're sitting.

As you can see on the screen or out on the 'viewing parcel' his intention was to simply layout the program of the tele-medicine facility just so the group could start thinking about scale and the adjacency of spaces. It's here you see the begins of a theme, that you'll soon see, resonate throughout the future submissions. The theme demonstrated here is how the the 'communal areas' such as the (Computer Lab, Gathering Area, and Library) being separated or removed from the more private "clinic" function of the rest of the facility, which includes the examinations rooms, the AV room, etc.

The communal areas, in this iteration, are represented by the blue, red, and white rectangles. The other color rectangles represent the remaining part of the program.

Leaf::1194732951 and Leaf::1194735133: &

Through the next two leaves, we'll see contributor, Ethos Erlanger, elaborate on Jo's previous submission. Here one of Ethos' major objectives, as seen especially through the design that is rezzed out there right now, is to bring up the issue of scale in Second Life. That is, when you are building a building in 1:1 scale in Second Life, when you occupy that building with either your avatar or camera, the building feels more claustrophobic or smaller than it would, if experienced in real life. Through this submission, Ethos' proposed that to compensate for SL's scale anomaly, that the submission should be scaled up to double it's size. Although we all agreed on increasing the project's scale, as you will see from this forum: the issue is still in the air. Some proposed that 2 times felt to big and that 1.5 times felt better. Although the subsequent submissions are in 1.5, please feel free to weigh in the discussion if you feel otherwise.

The four 'leaves' that surround the leaf that is currently active, contain 4 parti diagrams, submitted by Otrober Breda, that illustrate four different ways the spaces or rooms of the facility could be rearranged.

I will cycle through these four leaves, here's the 1st…


As you can see here, Otrober imported in a hand drawn sketch and applied it to these prims here.

As i mention with Jo's scheme, all of Otrober's schemes will illustrate how the theme of separating the more private 'client zone' with the more public 'community zone'.

Here the more private zones in this scheme are in green and brown, where the public zone is colored in orange.

The hatched areas coming off these various areas indicates the possibility for the facility to accommodate expansion over time.

Overall, this is a very tight and compact scheme - with rooms clustered very close with another.


Otrober's 2nd scheme, of which i just rezzed out, illustrates laying out the various functions around an internal courtyard. Once again, a clear separation of the public and private zones. The yellow indicates the building's circulation zone. This yellow circulation zone could easily take the form of a covered colonnade surrounding the outer perimeter of the courtyard.


Otrober's 3rd scheme, illustrates that all the functions located in a 'L' shape. Although the line of which I'm walking on right now seems to infer that he had a wall in mind, of some sort, to potential include the space within a 'U'-shaped courtyard. I like this scheme because it uses the 'support zone', colored in brown here, to further buffer the private 'client zone' from the more public areas such as the courtyard, which presumably would be used for community events as well.


Otrober's 4th scheme, shows a 'U' shaped building which creates an internal courtyard, defined by rooms on three sides. This is my favorite. Presuming the courtyard would be used for more public events, i really like the idea of the community library and computer lab, shown in orange here, flanking this area and activating it with it's foot traffic. Plus, as mentioned before, the support zone, shown in brown here, acts as a buffer between the more public and private areas of the facility. Plus, it seems from looking at examples of vernacular architecture, that courtyard layouts are not usual.

Otrober's 4 layout schemes do not represent all the exhaustive ways this building could be organized, if you feel their are others ways that should be entertained, by all means, please propose them.


Moving on, i would like the click on the leaf that has branched of the Otrober's 3rd scheme. In this iteration, he's given his third scheme some dimensionality by elevating some diagrammatic 'massing' blocks and simple representative roofs to get a sense of the space. We also see here too that he intended that there be an 'enclosure wall' to define the space of the courtyard.

He's also, which is key, included the only known photos of the existing buildings that will be adjacent to the site. It is my understanding that the folks at the 'Open Architecture Network' are currently on a trip to Nepal to document in further detail the existing conditions of the site. Hopefully, this will include A LOT more photos of the site, as well as the adjacent buildings and perhaps if we're lucky some dimensions of the site as well. We'll keep you posted however.

Once we receive enough information, it is my intention to model the existing buildings enough so that we will have some realistic 'context' on which to play off of. That's the only problem right now, we are essentially designing in a vacuum, since we don't know any details of the site. I have a strong feeling that these existing buildings will have a large part to play in how we eventually layout the building, among other details, such as the type of materials we use, as well.

people. Perhaps if the facility was viewed first and I also think that since a lot of these existing buildings are essentially underused and neglected, that we could actually propose re-programming the functions that are intended to be housed there. For example, we could propose switching out a lot of the 'clinic' functions with more community type of functions, such as educational facilities for example. I have a feeling, and i could be wrong here, that the lack of use of these buildings is more because it has a negative stigma attached to it in the eyes of the Nepalese people. Perhaps if this area was viewed first and foremost as a community facility, and secondly as a 'clinic', than perhaps the buildings would get a lot more use.


Anyways, moving on, we come to the first iteration that branched off of Otrober's 4th scheme. I believe Keystone Bouchard submitted this leaf. Again, here it looks as though he just wanted to elevate this diagram to get a scene of the scale of the space. But he can tell me if I'm wrong. ;) Also keep in mind these diagrams are scaled up 1.5 times what they would be in real life. Again, to compensate for the cramped feeling you would get if they were building with a 1:1 scale.


Moving on to the next leaf we see, Keystone has added a little more detail to this scheme, including a broad stroke gesture of how the roofs could be laid out. He mentions in the website, that the angled roofs of corrugated metal play off how roofs are typically done in the region. We can also see he has included this secondary tier of walls surrounding the facility - which creates a more intimate spaces around the complex as well as allows the building to blend better in the landscape.


Moving on in this row of leaves, we come to one of my (Theory Shaw) leaves. Here i wanted to continue to elaborate on what keystone and others had laid down. I really liked the secondary walls he proposed - the way they created these little intimate spaces. I especially liked the idea of creating these more intimate outdoor areas outside the more private 'client areas'. It would allow these exterior walls to be a little more open and transparent while these secondary walls provided the privacy requirements.

Although i do like the walls, i felt that building them out of stone was a little indulgent and perhaps a little too much for the limited budget to bear. As a compromise, I'm suggesting a lattice of some sort, in the shape of these outlining walls, that act as the support for honeysuckle vines, which i believe are native to the area, and would grow quite fast. Although this still needs to be confirmed. Any Nepalese naturalists out there?

If not honeysuckle, perhaps there's another fast-growing vine species that we could use.

Another idea that i entertained, was the possibility of actually using these vine walls as the landscaping 'devise' that pulled all these disparate and isolated buildings together in a more coherent whole. Again, i'm trying to think how we can reconceptualize the entire complex, and not just this one tele-medicine facility.

In the competition brief it mentions that "designers should also take into account the remote nature of the site and costs associated with transporting materials in developing their designs." So as a general rule of thumb, it sounds as though it wise to stick to the materials and building methods indicative of the region. In this iteration, i go even further to propose perhaps that we even reuse certain building materials that might even be in the local junkyard, such as old doors that could be reused as siding. Granted we don't know the extent of what these reusable materials could be, but we, for the sake of argument, could propose that if we won, we would go to the region and create an inventory of what there is there exactly. After a suitable list of cheap and existing building materials was created, we could model this material inventory in 'Second Life' and through the Wikitecture process, have everyone compose the building's exterior shell.


I have in the next leaf, just continued with this idea of collaging with existing and native materials in the region. In this scheme, I've illustrated that perhaps these old doors could be used as horizontal window shutters that could rotate up during nice whether, as well as acting as shades to block the penetrating sun.


Moving back four leaves to the other branch, we see that Otrober has added a little his 4th scheme. Although he didn't elaborate on what he was thinking here, i presume he was modeling out some rough ideas of how this scheme could accommodate a sloped site. Considering the site is in the highlands of Nepal, this could be high probability. Although with the little information the 'Open Architecture Network' has shared, it sounds as though the site is on flat ground. We will know more after they post more information from their reconnaissance trip they are currently on.

Another interesting fact, brought up by Turboy Runo in the forums, that is that apparently even number steps are bad luck. Most steps in Nepal have a odd number of risers. I guess we'll have to tell Otrober that if he keeps those 6 risers in there, our chances of winning might be severely jeopardized.

Another tid bit of information Turboy Runo shared that is extremely helpful is that apparently doors are not aligned with each other on the same axis. That is, having two doors facing each other across a room or courtyard is considered bad luck as he says, "the wrong spirit goes only straight". Very Interesting.


And finally we come to the last leaf in the canopy to date. Here Otrober has expanded on his idea of expandability. This is a very diagrammatic representation of the idea of expandability. Although it appears he is inferring that lightweight materials be used, he mentions on the website that he does not imply any particular way of execution and that it's more conceptual in nature. Although i might be simplifying his argument here, the idea of expandability could be accommodated with more 'solid' materials in the way the different rooms were laid out on the site and enough breathing room was considered to allow the building to grow over time.

I do feel, however, that the project's budget would not support transporting in more lightweight fabrics, but that's speculation.

So, there you have it. What you've just seen is the current state of the Wiki-tree.

Contribution Assessment:

We will wrap things up in a second - but there is one last component we should cover, which is contribution assessment, since the big question: What if our collaboratively designed entry actually wins this OAN competition? How will the reward money actually be divvied up amongst the contributors? Although the system we have in mind is not perfect, we feel it's a start. This is one component of the experiment we feel will need to be massaged here and there as we go forward and would love your input to help improve it.

If you worked on the last Wikitecture experiment, we will be using the same assessment system - which we ask all the contributors to assess what percentage they feel they have contributed to the design as well as what percentage they feel others have contributed as well. The general idea being, that when everyone's assessment of each other is averaged out, however subjective it may be, a pretty fair judgment is made to how much (compensation, ownership, IP rights, etc) should be dolled out to each contributor.

Here's an example of the spreadsheet we used to assess everyone's contribution in the last experiment. Although we have some potential improvements on this assessment system, for the sake of simplicity, this spreadsheet will be a starting point for this experiment.

We plan on including a forum on the website for everyone to discuss not only this contribution analysis system, but any other improvements you might have in mind for future experiments as well.

Forum and F.A.Q. Site:

As i had mentioned in the blog post, although this collaborative platform is light years beyond what was used for the 2nd experiment, please be aware that it’s still in a very very early stage of development—we 'WILL' encounter our fair share of bugs. If and when you do encounter them, just let me know as soon as possible, and we will try to correct the problem as quick as we can.

We've tried as much as we could, within the limits of the budget and functionality of 'Second Life', to make this wikitecture platform as user-friendly as possible, but by all means, while using the interface throughout the project, if have some ideas to improve it for the next experiment, please let us know. We've set up a forum for such discussion: We'll try as much as we can to incorporate your ideas into next experiment.

As is the case with learning any new software, this whole process might seem a little overwhelming at first, but we hope over time it becomes a little more intuitive for you.

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to IM either Theory Shaw or Keystone Bouchard in-world and we can come by and help you out.


While we certainly hope this project results in a successful entry in the competition, it is important for us to remember that this is still just an experiment, and the technology will always be evolving.

But in the end, I think we have to ask ourselves - 'What if this works?' The fact of the matter is - if we can collectively prove that multiple designers can collaborate on 3D design within a wiki-like methodology, that reality holds the potential to completely revolutionize the industry.

When you amplify the scale of Wikitecture, it could change the entire way we look at city planning as well. The possibilities are truly limitless.

However, I would like to conclude with the following thought. The Wiki-tree technology is only a very small fraction of what Wikitecture really is all about. Just like Wikipedia - it is nothing without a strong community of contributors.

Likewise, as you read about the reality of the Open Architecture Challenge we are working on, you start to realize that this isn't really about winning a competition either. These people need serious help, and I want to be a member of a team that has the best chance at helping these people.

I just don't see a single architecture firm in some big city, who is just after some recognition or publicity, having the capacity to really wrap their minds around the reality of this project. Based on what I've seen so far, the Wikitecture group has assembled a staggering amount of information about Nepal, its regional vernacular, its culture, and the indigenous materials available at this site.

As you've seen, the first batch of design concepts are truly innovative - and they are just the beginning.

Even if you aren't an architect or a designer, everyone has a certain innate ability to understand space, and Second Life gives you the chance to express your ideas. I really hope you'll consider working with us, reading up on what we've learned so far about the project, and seeing if you can contribute or strengthen what we have here so far.

Thank you for your time today. I see we are getting toward the end of the hour, but we'll be around to answer any questions you might have.

And just so you know, you do plan on having little informal meetings here every Friday to discuss whatever the group wants to. We call them 'Friday's Informal Forum of Form'… they are usually at 10am PST… all are welcome.

Thanks everyone!

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