Thursday, December 6, 2007

Estonia opens a virtual embassy in Second Life

VIRTUAL ESTONIA - More cosmopolitan and technologically advanced than many Westerners realize, Estonia wants Second Life residents and would-be residents to know that she has arrived with the opening of its virtual embassy.

The address:

The government decided to establish a presence in Second Life, believing this world is as progressive as its own. Distant Signals, the Estonia’s liaison and SL Embassador was asked by Martin Kokk, the Estonian Vice Chancellor of the Ministry, to find a way to promote Estonia in the virtual world. Distant, who is in real life the head of the Hill & Knowlton consultancy in Estonia, determined that a virtual embassy would be a perfect choice.

I guess the foreign ministry has no problem experimenting and setting up projects like this,” Signals explained. They decided to employ Scope Cleaver, SL architect, to do the build.
The Estonian government had specific goals. The main purposes of the Embassy are as follows:
… to learn to operate in virtual worlds, to understand them, gain experience; to promote Estonia among small groups of professional individuals...". For example to host discussions and lectures with people who not be able to travel to Estonia and to promote Estonia in general.
The build tells the tale: inside are photos of the country and its people.

The pictures are from a brochure ‘All things Estonian,’” Signals said. “These pictures indicate different aspects of being Estonian; the brochure will also be available as a free book here.
An exhibit of art work done by Estonians is also on display. The exhibit, which is travelling to real Estonian embassies, is currently in Sweden. The building also hosts a small conference area with table and chairs specially designed by Cleaver using a motif he saw on many pieces of Estonian textiles that he viewed. This theme is echoed in the pattern on the rug on the first floor.

The top floor houses a technology theme. A sculpture by Seifert Surface issues objects and notecards with stories about technology written by Estonian volunteers. One of the most important objects in the build—a voting box—is also here. Made by Cleaver and employing the decorative motif he chose, it represents the e-voting that the country has embraced.
The build is not just intended as a public relations piece.

One of the important ideas is that they will have content here. So, in January there will already be some lectures and discussions that are carried out by the ministry itself. The ambassador to Great Britain will have a session here; it may get quite academic at times,” Signals said.

The build is another triumph for Cleaver, following quickly on the opening of his Alexander Beach build. Though the building appears massive and angular from a distance, a look that Cleaver says makes it “more masculine than Alexander Beach,” the build has several intimate spaces for discussion and relaxation.

Angular, glass blocks with complex metal skeletons line the building in an aggressive and sharply forward angled tilt. “I wanted an interesting space that’s very modern and contemporary reflecting a wired Estonia and forward looking dynamic,” Cleaver said.
Cleaver added terraced gardens to the building. “I wanted a suspended garden with some of the plants in Estonia to warm up the building".

The idea of Scope very well fits into Estonian type of thinking… Try to stress the nature and actually we have a lot of forest,” Signals said.
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