University of Texas at Austin Unites Project in East Austin with Virtual Reality World

A real-life community project in East Austin will premiere in Second Life, the popular virtual environment, on Dec. 6, allowing organizations and individuals the opportunity to learn from and reproduce designs created by University of Texas at Austin architects in collaboration with community partners.

The Alley Flat Initiative is a project that combines cutting-edge architectural designs, sustainable development technology and community development in East Austin. With the help of a graduate interdisciplinary communication class, this collaboration will officially unveil specially designed three-dimensional representations of the architectural plans in the online virtual reality environment, Second Life.

The alley flats are dwellings adjacent to primary residences that can generate additional income serving as rental properties. They can be accessed by alleys at the rear of the properties. As communities in East Austin come under pressure because of rising property prices, alley flats can provide an extra source of income for East Austin homeowners. They are affordable to build, cheap to maintain and are sensitive to the environment and local communities.

The flats are designed by graduate students in the School of Architecture under the guidance of Professor Sergio Palleroni, co-founder of his nationally recognized BaSiC Initiative project. Palleroni has worked closely with the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation to find suitable sites on Lydia and East Second streets in East Austin to build the first two flats.

The virtual presence of the project is designed to give local audiences a more realistic "feel" for the proposed alley flats. Second Life users will be able to walk through the buildings, see how they blend in with other buildings in the area and find out about the sustainable technologies and innovative building materials that are the basis of the designs.

The Second Life presence is a collaboration between Palleroni's team and the students of Professor Leslie Jarmon's "Communicating Across the Disciplines" graduate course. Students in the course worked with Palleroni's team and expert Second Life builders from the Educators Coop to bring to life the virtual reality dimension of the Alley Flats Initiative.

On Thursday, Dec. 6, at 2 p.m. CST (noon, Second Life Time), the Second Life alley flats will be officially opened with a talk by Palleroni. Anyone interested in the Alley Flat Initiative is invited to attend. Please contact Sean McCarthy for details on how to access to this Second Life event.

Learn more about the Alley Flat Initiative, Second Life and Educators Coop.