Fanatik Architecture Interview
By Kirsten Kiser
Fanatik is one of the most successful architecture and design businesses in Second Life, an online virtual world based on 3D user-generated content, where users can interact with one another, explore the world, build, create, shop and trade virtual property and services.
|Second Life connects people with similar interests, which is very important when talking about architecture. There are many different communities in Second Life. Some prefer modern design, some focus more on medieval or rustic architecture, we try to cater to all of them.|
When Second Life launched builders were using the simple linden blocks (prims) to build. Kendra Zaurak and Funatik Resident were both working with basic primitives when they met; Kendra was making weapons, like swords and bows, and Funatik, who already had a business, was making themed medieval/fantasy outfits.
Later they started working with more complex building tool that required learning external software like Autodesk 3ds Max or Blender. Then in 2011, when Linden Lab launched mesh, giving designers the ability to create more detailed, complex and realistic objects, they decided to open Fanatik Architecture and only build in mesh.
Kirsten Kiser: One of your first buildings was a beach pavilion, the Senda.
Kendra Zaurak: I wanted a building to be used on beach themed sims, but I wanted to avoid the “tiki” look because you have it almost everywhere you go in Second Life. I wanted something a bit more sophisticated, but preserving natural typologies like the wood usage, something you easily associate with a beach pavilion.
I wanted it to be “light”, not something massive and also to have a lot of transparency. To give a warm general feeling to the building I used textures with earth tones. The Senda was a success, from the first moment.
KK: Another early building is the Wave, a commercial structure.
KZ: With the Wave we wanted to make a commercial structure, and we focused on its versatility from the start of the project.
We needed a large, empty space suitable for multiple uses, to allow a wide range of customers to be able to set up their businesses there.
We chose neutral colors, light greys and whites – that way the design wasn’t compromising, making it easy for customers to decorate.
KK: You have a lot of original work but also recreate Real Life buildings.
KZ: I have always had a strong interest in architecture. Since I am a designer, I had contact with architectural offices during my practice. This helped a lot to learn many things.
Funatik Resident: Kendra is our creative mind and since I have more background in marketing and customer support, I focus on the commercial aspect of our business.
KK: Can you describe your work process?
KZ: Building software is 3ds Max, but we use many other softwares as well. In order to achieve better looking results, for example, The Pantheon, was painted and sculpted in Mudbox and Zbrush.
We usually work like this – I start creating the meshes, Funatik unwraps them and we work together on painting textures, creating materials and rendering the models. Then finally Funatik is the one responsible for the physical models. She has a lot of patience for it and can make them really optimized.
A good model for Second Life is a model where special care is taken in consideration of their usage in a real time renderer – low polygons, low resolution textures, optimized UVW maps, etc. Fast rezzing, low land impact on everything and good physics are the most important things.
This rocky island was inspired by St. Kilda archipelago in Scotland. It features green grassy areas, rocky cliffs and pebble stone beach, and has walkable physics and materials.
The difference between a regular 3D model, something you make just to render few images for an architectural presentation, for example, is that the architectural model is not optimized to be used in real time rendering engines – it has lots of faces, ultra high “rezzalution” textures, and very complex shaders.
KK: How do you decide which Real Life buildings to feature?
Funatik Resident: When we get inspired by Real Life buildings we need to keep in mind the specific requirements for Second Life, such as dimensions and practical use of the buildings. Good floor plan is always an important aspect.
KZ: We like to have fun while working, but we also need to focus on the needs of our customers. Our work here is our Real Life work
KK: I own your Mies van der Rohe Farnsworth House and am very impressed with your rendition. Why did you decide on the Farnsworth House?
KZ: The reason I modeled the Farnsworth house is simply because I really love this project. When I started planning it I realized it could be really good in Second Life. Being an admirer of Mies van der Rohe’s work I was very excited to build it.
KK: Then the Pantheon. A 2000 year old building does not seem like a sure sale?
KZ: We like some well know, historical buildings and we decided to build them because we think they will look great here in Second Life. Also something very important, many of our customers have never heard about the Salk Institute, the Farnsworth house, or even the Pantheon. Because of us, they had a chance to see them for the first time. It got many of them so curious that they googled the real buildings, ended up gathering information, even visiting in Real Life. It was an inverse process of what you would think works here.
Inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, Italy, this building not only features its iconic round shape, large granite columns and the giant dome, with its famous oculus at the top, but also the ancient roman marble floor, consisting of a series of geometric patterns. The interior that was designed by Panini, who was trained in architecture and theatrical design, has been impressively recreated by Fanatik.
KK: The Sky Tower was inspired by the movie “Oblivion” it was interesting visiting it.
KZ: Yes, we saw the “Oblivion” movie and fell in love with this building. Actually, the movie director Joe Kosinsky is a former architect and he projected the Sky Tower himself. After watching the movie we were talking and it was like – hey lets make it.
It was amazing fun to build it, but also one of the most tricky ones, because you have to pay extremely careful attention to optimizing its round shapes, or else it will not be good for Second Life.
KK: You also design landscape items?
FR: Landscape items started because we needed rocks for our sim (island) and couldn’t find any that we liked. So we did research on shapes and textures we could use at a large scale.
Since we both like to travel, our trips are our main inspiration. We take lots of photographs to recreate rocks and terrains in Second Life. This rustic stone formation is a recreation of Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument located in Wiltshire, England.