Steve Rose in The Guardian:
Why are so many architects snapping up ‘land’ in Second Life, the virtual world with almost eight million residents?
It is a boom-town like no other in history. In less than four years, Second Life, the virtual metropolis where anyone can become a “cyber citizen” simply by logging on, has grown from nothing to a city four times the area of Manhattan, frequented by nearly eight million people. Its population is spiralling and real-estate prices are going through the roof as its virtual land is sold to users for Linden dollars, which can now actually be exchanged for US dollars.
It is one of the web’s most extraordinary creations. At first glance, SL, as most residents call it, resembles a computer game – a 3D landscape you navigate with your own customised character or “avatar” – but there are no dragons to slay or points to score. In fact, it’s not clear what you’re supposed to do at all. Most citizens engage in decidedly first-life activities: socialising, shopping, gambling, even sex. One thing SL is well primed for, however, is building: anyone can make anything, from teapots to skyscrapers.
The essential building blocks are “prims”, short for primitives. These are geometric solids – cubes, spheres, cones – that can be dragged off a template then stretched, positioned, sized, textured and combined to form anything imaginable. Unlike the real world, there’s no gravity, weather, site preparation, sloppy workmanship, or planning committees to worry about. It should be an architect’s paradise.