Architecture Firm CKI Teams up with the Government of Thailand to Build Massive Virtual Planet

The massive $250 million project, called ‘CyberCity’ won’t be open until 2010.

Somehow, upon hearing this news (link to full story), I feel a sense of vindication for all my ranting and raving about why architects should be taking virtual worlds seriously, and why an architectural background really is an ideal skill-set for virtual worlds development.

What does it mean when an architecture firm teams up with a government to build a virtual planet? What are the implications of such a massive build? Is this the first of many projects like it? To be honest, I had always expected the first massive build like this to be more mirror world in nature. However, it appears as though CyberCity will be almost entirely fantasy driven, or purely virtual. Given the new realities of the Experience Economy we live in, it should come as no surprise that CKI comes from a background of resort design and development. A seemingly perfect match for branching into the design of a virtual planet.

I don’t know what their ultimate plans are, but I assume this will be a purely developer-driven project, with no room for user generated content like we see in Second Life. It would be a shame if the future of the metaverse is primarily shaped this way, whereby top level developers create a baked environment, and the people who use it have no choice or ability to participate in the creation or modification of the built environment. Based on the preliminary success we’re seeing with Wikitecture, it seems feasible that everyone could be given a voice in the realization and creation of our city-scape – throughout its entire life cycle. This exclusively top-down developer controlled model is, sadly, all too much like real life. I think the metaverse invites a more participatory process, where the people who actually USE these places can voice their opinion and share their specific expertise. Utopian? Perhaps? Entropian? Probably not. It would take some doing, but I think it’s a win-win proposition. In the end, I think there needs to be a little of each. I think a balance can be achieved between developer driven content, and a user-generated content. We’ll have to see how Linden Lab’s Department of Public Works turns out. I think there is more at stake here than might be apparent at first glance.

Many thanks to Virtual Worlds News for bringing this incredibe story to my attention – this will be one to watch!