SL: Xeniversity

I am probably one of SL’s worst travelers. Stay at home, mind my own business – pretty much. Not that I am alone in this, I imagine: All hardcore builders are probably more or less the same way, in the end. Stay put, get on with your rezzing – till the cows come home…

So anyway, I had been seeing this background image on the Emerald viewer for the past few weeks and from the first time that I did so, it aroused my curiosity. And yesterday, on a total whim, I clicked the “visit this location” link and found myself in one of the most remarkable sims I have ever been at in Second Life to date: Xeniversity, the home sim of a Mr. Xenius Revere, who apparently uses the place to teach people Maya and SL lighting techniques and who also sells furniture, sculpty packs as well as a very nifty range of goggles. So, essentially this is a learning and commercial sim. But, important as function and usage may be to the design process, Xeniversity is a location which has surpassed it’s design brief and has evolved into something quite beyond that. Something downright awe inspiring, I would say.

This is the sort of visuality, construction, design system, architecture, art – call it by whatever name you will, that makes my heart skip. And one that I hardly ever see in Second Life – or First, for that matter… Sure, I see similar efforts that somehow never manage to deliver quite what Xeniversity does with such impact: Not only is it a complex, intricate and yet liquidly harmonious design system which Mr. Revere seems to have rezzed through the usage of hundreds of cubes; but it is also incredibly, beautifully, finely, masterfully crafted. And, for me, it is this attention to detail and craftsmanship which makes Xeniversity work where so many other “minimalistic” efforts  seem to be failing so miserably.

Glorious textures! Just glorious! Really I cannot think of a lesser word here so I am going to stick to it at the expense of sounding totally bombastic – they are that stunning! So, what’s so special about texturing a whole bunch of cubes with an almost solid fill, you may ask? Ah… But you see it is not just a solid fill! Mr. Revere has added very delicate, soft shadows behind every cube he has rezzed! Either these are part of the actual cube textures, in which case he would have had to place each and every cube in exact proximity to its shadow, or these are separate alpha enabled png or tga files, which have been mapped onto very thin prims and then placed behind the cubes. I did not do a ctrl+alt+T to see if this was in fact the case while there. Never even occurred to me even. I was much too engrossed in admiring my surroundings to have all my speculative faculties engaged. But, whatever the technique involved has been, what matters is the result: Depth! Light! Softness! The breaking down of the rigidity of the construct (it is all cubes – all of it!) into something which creates it’s own “flow”. Becomes “nature” even, I would say: Cubes that metamorphose themselves into a remarkably powerful topography and (in one instance, at least for me) also flora.

Only 2 colors are placed within a tonal range which travels from white to black, incorporating a series of gradations of gray. The first of these colors is a brilliant blue which is emitted from light sources which colorize their surroundings and then, secondly, there is a vitriolic green. And this green could have ended up being such a god awful blunder had it been in the hands of just about anyone but Mr. Revere’s? As it is, it stands apart on its own little islet, manifesting in a tonal range which is mapped onto a rectangular variation of the cube system of the main island. Which seems to cling to a huge tree almost like some strange minimalistic novel plant form. A cubic vine?

I could continue on and on and on here, but I am not going to. Instead I would very much like everyone who stumbles upon this post (and who hasn’t been there yet, obviously) to go and visit Xeniversity for themselves. This place is a must see for all people who cherish design and architecture, virtual or otherwise:
http://slurl.com/secondlife/Xeniversity/214/227/81

My hat goes off to Mr. Xenius Revere!

Two little additions: One is that I could not help but think of Moshe Safdie‘s Habitat project as I was gazing at Mr. Revere’s construct. Not that this matters all that much at all by the way. Things do not have to always remind us of other things and we should not be groping for these associations to validate output. In fact, if anything, it is an odious little habit to always be doing so. However, in this case, Xeniversity really does remind me of Habitat and the association is strong enough that I feel that I should probably say it.

Second: I would like to create a “Xeniversity” avatar as part of my output for alpha.tribe. The place has really inspired me and I am now obsessed with inner images of how I could translate the architecture there to create unique avatar apparel, which may or may not be thought of in conjunction with Xeniversity. I have to first consult with Mr. Revere to do this, of course. And I had not even heard of him or Xeniversity until yesterday. So, I really do not know this person and I have no idea what his reaction would be – possibly not favorable at all, is my guess… But, I think I will pluck up my courage and contact him and ask for his permission anyway. And maybe he might say “yes, go ahead”. Who knows?

Oh and also! Very important this last one: These have been photographed with a custom sky preset, Mescaline Tammas’ London 2050, to be specific. However, I should probably also have added an image captured with the default SL sky into this series. This is the only case which I think I have ever seen in SL where an entire sim’s architecture actually (almost!) works even under a midday SL sky! That is how good the building/texturing of it is!

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