Land of the Free Market: Zaha Hadid Architects is building a libertarian metaverse whose vision of the future looks remarkably similar to our current reality. Outland, Feb. 24, 2023.
With its soft launch last spring, Liberland Metaverse joined a growing number of technology startups, web interface companies, and distributors of conceptual architecture projects competing to offer a more visually rich digital environment for videoconferences, social media, shopping, gaming, and public events. In principle, these platforms—among them Decentraland and Spatial—would support user interaction within a three-dimensional audiovisual network. This so-called metaverse or web3—essentially, 3D internet—might imaginably combine functions of Zoom, Facebook, Google, TikTok, ArtNet, and Evite into one seamless graphical interface. Most of the projects up to now are more or less stylized mockups, limited by the cost of developing the software tools, purchasing computing power, and achieving data speeds required to process hi-res 3D renderings in real time. Some of the “worlds” are being sold as NFTs on platforms like Mona. Liberland anticipates renting out rooms and offices for creative workers within larger building- and- city-like agglomerations meant to have a counterpart in the physical world.
Led by Patrik Schumacher, principal and chairman of Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA), the Liberland Metaverse began as a collaboration with the Free Republic of Liberland—a proposed libertarian micro-state located in a no-man’s-land of former Yugoslavia disputed between Serbia and Croatia. The currency would be a crypto coin called the “merit.” Since it was founded by Czech politician Vít Jedlička and his partner Jana Markovicova in 2015, the 4.3-square-mile territory on the bank of the Danube River has remained unpopulated (although it has received around one million applications for citizenship). Some more tangible progress has been achieved by the Liberland Metaverse, which is still in development, in collaboration with Daniela Ghertovici, founder of ArchAgenda, and Mytaverse, which offers a cloud-based platform focused on high-end product marketing and customization. ZHA has invested time in it through its computational design research studio, run by associate director Shajay Bhooshan, and Schumacher promotes its development through the Architectural Association School of Architecture’s Design Research Laboratory, which he also directs. So far the work-in-progress has gone live for two events, including this summer’s Floating Man Festival—an annual event in Liberland featuring bands, sport competitions, competition and blockchain workshops, AI art presentations, and a conference. A video tour of this virtual realm, powered by the Mytaverse platform, can be viewed online.
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