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There is a lot going on at the University of WA sim in Second Life! I haven’t been able to take it all in yet, but my friend Patch Thibaud teleported me into a site where he recently installed his entry (brilliant, imho – screenshots above and below) in an architecture competition they’re hosting called the ‘Flagship Challenge.’ They’re inviting participants to design the UWA Cultural Precinct Flagship Building, which they plan to build in real life. It will be called FUTURElab, and will showcase the work of SymbioticA, for architects and designers from UWA’s Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Visual Arts who are exploring new possibilities for themselves and their communities; and for those working iwth new and emerging technologies to shape our future.

This is an ideal use of Second Life on multiple levels.  Instead of simply installing a building or two and calling it their ‘virtual campus,’ they’re using this project to engage students, faculty and the general population of Second Life in a meaningful and participatory way.  The way they’ve structured the competition in monthly phases is sure to keep people coming back – visiting the sim often to check in on progress and new entries. They’re also opening the door to participation in shaping the new facility, by suggesting that some of the ideas may (or may not) be included in the final built work.  This is a great way to invite participation without promising or risking too much when it comes to final execution of the building – yet this strategy gives them an opportunity to cast a very wide net and capture lots of great ideas from a wide variety of sources.

Unfortunately, the financial awards paid to winning entrants is incredibly low (a big pet peeve of mine in architecture competitions real or virtual), given the amount of effort contributors put into the project.  However, as with most architecture competitions, financial reward isn’t always the primary motivator driving entries.  This challenge seems to be no exception, with a variety of designs already submitted that should provide the future architects of the Flagship building with a lot to think about!

Visit the sim at this SLurl.

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