nothing but concrete

From photographs, the real Furillen looks like an industrial wasteland of rough shingle and grey concrete dust. There are plants, flowers and trees, but even these appear to be from the wrong side of an apocalypse. Just my kind of place …

SONY DSC

Although few people pass comment on the ground textures at the Second Life version of Furillen, they are – alongside lighting and geometry – crucial to giving the sim its particular atmosphere and feel. What I did here was quite unusual, although certainly not original.

I went for complete uniformity.

Nothing but concrete, everywhere …

slag heaps 01_009

When designing a sim in Second Life you can set the texture of the ground at four different levels. I have the same setting on every level, using an identical concrete texture everywhere – even on the slag heaps.

The exact texture I use has changed over time. I started with a realistic concrete – very grey – but although this looked fine in some light, there was a repeat to it that looked too obvious, especially on low graphics.

Furillen

Then, until recently, I opted for a creamier concrete mix, with a grungy tinge to it that was good in most light and graphics settings.

Although some people mistook this for snow – and why not, given that the stuff falls constantly at Furillen – it gave the sim a slight weirdness, an air of unreality, that was difficult to pin down.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/132404444@N03/22587218923/in/pool-furillen/

When the light settings were changed recently, the subtle repeat in this texture showed through more: it looked stripy.

So I changed the mix. There is now a seamless concrete texture.

surreal land a

To me, in this light, the sim looks more surreal than ever.

grounded b

seeing the light

All Second Life photographers have a thing about light, it transforms what you capture in a more dramatic way than is generally possible in real life photography. For sim designers, too, light matters to how they conceive a build, which ground textures they use, the general atmosphere they want to create.

blizzard a

When I visit a sim the first thing I do is check the light settings the sim builder has used. It enables me to see a place through their eyes. I might then revert to my own settings to take pictures, but sometimes I stick to the intended settings because they were well thought out and work well.

Furillen 1

Two of the best and most reliable SL photographers who specialize in landscape and sim photography and whose work I closely follow – Ziki Questi and Loverdag – make a point of using the intended light settings. As Loverdag explains, it shows off the sim in its ‘correct’ light – and she is especially meticulous in explaining how her pictures have been processed.

Furillen

Some of the most interesting and original light settings at Second Life sims have been created by Bryn Oh, whose The Gathering provides the latest evidence that she is a truly innovative and original artist who – alongside Cica Ghost – has taken the business of sim design to an entirely new level.

Until recently I was using a variant of one of Bryn’s past windlight settings – Immersiva Grey Dust – at Furillen. Initially I fixed the time of day, but then I created a day cycle of 20 stops. Each cycle lasts 6 hours, and represents a 24 hour period in the real world.

The result was wonderfully moody and dynamic.

Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self.

But there were drawbacks too. If you happened to visit the sim at one of the darker moments it could be off-putting. And the clouds were fast moving – a feature of the day cycle in Second Life which seems impossible to fix. It adds drama, but also lag. And it can be less than relaxing.

Seeking balance

Partly with these issues in mind, I switched to a different light setting this week. With January upon us and the days in the real world beginning the lengthen again, I have opted for a blue-ish light, which has an early morning sun casting a faint, white glimmer on the sea.

grounded bb

As usual, I have been asking for feedback from visitors, whether positive or negative. Once I have a better sense of this, I will think about turning this setting into a day cycle.

always dawn

Until then, it’s always dawn at Furillen.

the end of the pier

With the end platform now in place, Furillen’s pier is finished.

pier complete a

As I mentioned in another blog entry, this was the result of a fortuitous meeting I had at Furillen with KT Syakumi, a highly skilled builder – she calls herself a ‘craftsperson’ – who stepped up to the challenge.

The result speaks for itself.

https://flic.kr/p/D26BM4

This really is a thing of rare beauty.

Cold landscapes 1

Like the airstream that looks out towards it, the pier’s impact is enhanced – for me, at least – by its correspondence to the real thing.

furillen-trailer

Although I moved the airstream to the right – it simply works better that way inworld – the comparison is striking when viewed from the south.

fuillen north

All credit for this must go to KT. She was meticulous in her use of photographs to get the structure of the pier right – as far as Second Life prim constraints will allow – and to reproduce textures from the original.

While many people talk – rightly, I must say – of Furillen’s unique atmosphere in Second Life, this is really the first structure that can be seen only on this sim.

Cold landscapes 2

I don’t think it will be the last.

geometry

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, geometry is crucial to the lay-out of Furillen as a sim. It seemed important to me not just to represent the contrast between minimalist beauty and brutal industrialism as a contrast in textures. This is fine, but too simplistic.

I wanted to build this opposition between nature and machine into the very heart of the sim. This meant having to play around with form.

The signature tree line is the best example of this principle at work.

treeline b

The trees themselves are thoroughly natural: bare, slightly green with a hint of snow on the bark. But they are arranged in a very precise and deliberate way – as firs so often are, of course.

Furillen

So that’s all there is to it? Not quite.

Pan out. South of the tree line, set back, is another line.

treeline c

An echo.

Furillen

This is almost exactly the same length as the line of trees, and consists of electricity poles made of of concrete – mixed with the very limestone, perhaps, that was dug out of the ground here.

treeline d

For me, this blurs the distinction between what is natural, and what is not.

Connected

This is probably the better way to think about Furillen.

It’s not simply about stark contrasts. There is something more subtle going on.

exit

There is a door on the south east corner of the sim marked ‘exit’.

exit 01_002

Some people ask me what it’s for. Nothing, is the answer.

Some ask it does. Nothing.

What, exactly, would you like it to do?

Furillen 3

Others ask why I put it there.

Perhaps this seems a bit obscure, but it reminds me of that moment in The Truman Show when Jim Carrey bumps into the edge of his sim, gets out of his boat, finds the exit door, and leaves.

the_truman_show_jim_carrey

I love that scene.

I like to imagine how mind-blowing it would be to discover that what you thought was your life is merely entertainment for people who inhabit a much bigger world.

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That what you thought was ‘reality’ is merely a distraction.

So what’s this got to do with Furillen?

Nothing. And everything.

-Exit-

the airstream

Besides the long pier, the airstream stands out as a symbol of the real Furillen. Its position is evocative: standing besides that solitary tree, set against the rough concrete of the slag heap next to it. The airstream points out to sea, giving a view on to the pier that must create a wonderful feeling of space, in contrast to the cramped conditions inside. Here is ethereal beauty juxtaposed with brutal industrialism – the very core of what Furillen represents in my eyes.

furillen-trailer

Like Furillen’s chairs, part of me wishes that this had been all my idea, a product of Footman’s imagination and flair. The potential for the airstream to be played off against different kinds of light, its capacity for sheer moodiness, would be a characteristic move of a sim designer in Second Life.

And yet …

airstream__large

… knowing that there is a real airstream situated at the real Furillen, that you can go and photograph it for yourself, and that you can even rent it for your vacation – these things, for me, make the scene even more evocative and powerful, even more captivating, than if it was just a virtual creation.

Having said that, the Second Life version adds a touch of the surreal that arguably only we can achieve.

Sweet isolation

It is this constant interplay and tension between the virtual and real Furillen that has made the process of building and developing the sim so fascinating.

New light for new times

As the pictures here will testify, I took some liberties with the virtual version of Furillen, using a tree whose wind-battered appearance fits the airstream itself perfectly, and placing it to the right rather than left of the pier.

Homeless

It is a special place; visitors to the sim spend hours sitting inside it or taking pictures of it; it is often the first thing you see when you arrive at the sim.

Solitude

To many visitors – and perhaps even to me – the airstream is Furillen.

Furillen..

those chairs

I would love to claim credit for the line of chairs on the pier, which add a touch of colour, texture and chaos to the monochrome environment of concrete and snow. But like most of Furillen’s best bits, I took my inspiration from the real Furillen. Having said this, I don’t know whether these chairs are a permanent feature of the real island or – more likely – were a temporary art installation or photo op.

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In a slight deviation from the arrangement pictured above, I placed my version of the chairs further right, on the pier. To my eye they work better there, providing a focus of their own – and leaving the airstream to bask in its own glory.

The show...

 

chair 01_016

Although they are not easy to capture in pictures – something odd happens with the LOD – the chairs are so popular that they now have their own Flickr group. There are many very creative images of them, either empty or with one or two people sitting.

But one of my abiding memories of the early days at Furillen is when Mich Michabo turned up and invited a group of her friends to sit. The result was deliciously surreal.

♥Su♥♥pe♥♥r♥♥P♥♥eo♥pl♥♥e

 

the pier

The pier at the real Furillen is iconic: narrowly and seemingly endless, with that old crane at the end, unused and unloved.  My virtual version bugged me from the outset, because it should look like this:

508px-Furillen,_Rute,_Gotland_06

This is beyond my current building skills, so I opted for the simplest option: a single prim, laid flat in the water and textured in the same concrete mix as the land.

Then along came KT Syakumi, a very accomplished builder who I ran into a few weeks ago at the sim. She agreed to take a shot at the pier. What she has built is stunning in and of itself, but all the more so when you compare if to the original pier at the real Furillen. This is still work in progress: the platform needs to be built properly, and we haven’t yet decided exactly how this should be done. But KT was at Furillen earlier today, and what she’s planning is really exciting. So keep checking back.

 

pier narrow b

KT Syakumi’s other work can be seen here and here.

 

 

minimalist

Most visitors to Furillen comment on the wide open spaces. Some see the emptiness as beautiful, while others see it as desolate, dystopian or even depressing. But all agree that this sense of space defines the sim and explains its impact. Look beyond this, however, and there are other sides to Furillen, such as those found in the rooms of the main building. When I first built the sim, these were designed as standard hotel rooms, but this quickly became quite repetitive and predictable. While one or two such rooms remain, the other rooms have been given up to small-scale ‘installations’, usually featuring furniture of one kind or another alongside other objects that are less likely to be found in a hotel.

Everything here is about simplicity and detail: the precise arrangement of objects in a tightly defined space. These are, I think, the perfect counterpoint to the vast empty spaces elsewhere on the sim.

To me at least, these are like two sides of the same – minimalist – coin.

the cutting room 01_010

anti-cute

In terms of its basic structure, Furillen was built in around two weeks.

I planned the sim by mapping out the lines running north to south (the pier) and east to west (the trees; the electricity poles). Every structure, slag heap, tree and road was represented by a single prim block. The sim’s underlying symmetry may be difficult to see now, but it is there.

Besides distinct geometrical form, I was striving for a stark, austere atmosphere that I could see in the real Furillen. This proved more difficult to achieve, because every building I initially placed on the sim was in the ‘shabby chic’ style that is now popular in Second Life. Too cute for Furillen …

Then I found the central building of the sim, made by Soyoy. This is not cute. If anything, it is anti-cute.

soy hotel a