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Monday, 7 December 2009

St Mary Abbots Church

As in real life, places in the virtual world undergo change – new buildings replace old ones, old ones are re-purposed, streets are built and repaired. This has been happening in the Virtual London sims. One of the most recent additions is a church in the Kensington sim, based on RL church St. Mary Abbots in RL Kensington.
According to the St. Mary Abbots Church website, the present building is only about 130 years old, but there has been a community of worship in that spot for over 1,000 years. The church, built in 1872, is in the Victorian Gothic style and was designed by the well known architect Sir George Gilbert Scott. It has the highest spire in London. St. Mary Abbot’s Church in Second Life was created by TD Reinard.

TD has been in Second Life for about 3 years now, first starting as Gustavus Hapmouche. He has been a member of the London team for approximately the same amount of time. I asked him how he discovered Second Life and he said “I had a cold and stayed home from work. I was bored and remembered that one of my co-workers gave me this link to check out so I did... got hooked after the first few hours.” As is the case with many newbies, TD wanted to earn some money. “I stumbled across a house I was snooping through, really liked it and the owner was home...yikes. We started talking about SL and jobs etc. It turns out she was one of the London managers and she offered me a test to see if I was any good with textures.” In real life TD is a special effects artist who works with 3D and green screen compositing, so, as he says “building in SL in second nature for me.” He described his design philosophy in this way “My goal is to always put the viewer first. Of course trying to keep prims down to a manageable amount is good... but the viewer needs to feel like it was worth their time to visit.” After that first “interview” and test TD has gone on to create some of the most striking builds in Virtual London, including St. Mary Abbots.

The aim in the Kensington sim is to “really capture RL and bring it in SL”. “(Virtual) Kensington as a whole has been cut out of a RL map. If you google map Kensington High Street and go to street veiw you should see the same thing you see in SL Kensington. The church was just part of the plan.” While TD does not live in London he was able to have photos sent to him by members of the London team who are in London, plus he looked at google maps to get a sense of the scale.
I asked TD what his particularly favourite spots in the church are. He pointed out the altar area and the light effects. Light through one of the stained glass windows is projected onto the floor and wall opposite. The light effect also can be seen along the length of the ceiling. Another favourite is the bell tower outside.

In creating the church TD commented “this church needed to be spiritual. It needed to feel inviting. ” He continued “I think a lot of people come to SL to Escape RL. I ... wanted to give them a familiar place ... a place of refuge.” The church is indeed a peaceful and lovely place in which to sit quietly and refresh the spirit. TD said “One of the things I always want to do is leave SL better than when I arrived”. By providing citizens of Second Life with such wonderful buildings in which to live, work, play and worship, TD has indeed made Second Life a better, more enjoyable and beautiful place.
(Virtual London Coach and Horses Manager Wiccy Shackleton has filmed a video of the SL church on You Tube.)
Hibiscus Hastings

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