It may seem strange to write criticism on virtual architecture.
After all, “real” buildings are commitments to the future, the result of considering countless affordances offered by cost, materials, building codes, urban planning, stakeholders, history, land use, style, etc. Every single building must be built to remain for some period of time, and even the most fanciful and esoteric structures must provide some sort of roof or shelter. This very practical notion of building things for humans has grounded architecture as a discipline.
Virtual buildings have no such constraints. In a virtual world, coliseums can float like clouds, steel frames are purely cosmetic, and matter / energy are limited only by computing power and memory. So in a way, this virtual architecture is limited by money and time, just like anything “real.”
The leaders of the Swedish media piracy coalition The Pirate Bay have a notorious dislike of the acronym IRL (“in real-life”) and prefer the more specific AFK (“away from keyboard”), the implication being that the virtual is, in fact, part of real-life. When you’re on your Facebook or Macbook or whatever the kids use these days, you’re still living, and this real life never gets interrupted until the day you die.
The Pirate Bay has also recently added a new category to its file library, alongside its links to freely downloadable Britney Spears CDs (remember her?) and bootleg Hollywood releases, called “Physibles.” These are 3D models you can download and print with your 3D printer; their grand dream is that one day you will simply log-on and download the new iPhone, or a tasty sandwich — or even, eventually, download a new house.
The boundary between the virtual and the real is narrowing, like the walls of a trash compactor. If we ignore this convergence, we’re liable to get crushed.