location:online, Active Worlds browser WWW.ACTIVEWORLDS.COM
client:Chelsea Group
brief:To design a virtual community for art and architecture, on the 3D internet.
Chelsea is located in Active Worlds, a 3D virtual chat environment inspired by Neal Stephenson's 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash. The novel describes a cyberspace realm called the Metaverse, a vast labyrinth of commerce and communication nodes accessible by an electronic thoroughfare called The Street. Virtual bodies for users (avatars) meet and do business in a virtual nightclub.

Guest architects in Chelsea include:
Ulrika Karlson of Servo
Ferda Kolatan of su11
Francois Perrin
Panos Dragonas
Christian Hubert

future contributions from
Foreign Office Architects
Francois Roche

completion:in progress


The two reactions of man arriving in an unknown land are: Build with what you find, and copy the place you left behind. The example of a castaway on a tropic island who collects bamboo and builds a house with a sloped roof. Even though it never rains.

The active worlds browser uses Renderware as the file extension for the 3D structures. The way that one builds, is by copying and pasting an existing module, initially a piece of street. The browser contains an online library of objects, each with its own code.
By changing the code, one can change the object. So a piece of street becomes a wall, a window, a tree.
By adding a scripting language, one can change the properties of that object, such as color, texture and sound.

We thought this was interesting.
What in fact we where leaving behind was a method of design: As architects we are trained to design first and build later. In the computer era, this becomes even more prevalent. The design stage is able to produce complete simulations of an environment, before that environment is constructed.
In Chelsea there is no such possibility. There is no possibility to save your design somewhere, and modify it, work on it. You build online and in public. The first line that you draw, is the first stone that you put on the site.

We designed a series of buildings with a simple rule: Use as few modules as possible, and make each building a recognizable entity. Single module buildings are perfect. The shadow building, the demo building, the white building, the pink and yellow.

Chelsea becomes a notepad for future designs.