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Snowmass-based architect designs for both real and virtual worlds

Alison Agley now building an educational campus in the metaverse

Architect Alison Agley poses for a portrait in the Ali and Shea office at the Snowmass Center in Snowmass Village office Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022.
Kaya Williams/The Snowmass Sun

You won’t find one of architect Alison Agley’s latest projects tucked away off Faraway Road in Snowmass Village or perched up on Red Mountain.

In fact, you won’t find it on any physical space anywhere in the Roaring Fork Valley — or anywhere at all, for that matter. She’s now working on designing an educational campus in the metaverse for the cryptocurrency company Emerald Rockets on a platform called The Sandbox, where students will ultimately be able to log into the virtual world to learn and interact with one another. Scott Kraehnke of Latitude Studio LLC, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is also in on the project.

The metaverse is a new professional foray for Agley, who tapped into the local architecture scene nearly three decades ago when she moved to Aspen after graduating college with a degree in the field; with interior designer Carrera Shea, she now runs the property and design firm Ali and Shea out of an office in the Snowmass Center.



But it’s hardly a new frontier: Agley has also worked in web design, and her experience with virtual worlds goes back to 2005, when she joined the metaverse precursor Second Life. She also finds a point of reference in Club Penguin, a virtual world and online game that her now-15-year-old daughter used to play.

“I’ve always been into technology, and I’ve always followed trending things a lot and been interested in what’s next,” Agley said.




Architect Alison Agley works at her computer in the Ali and Shea office at the Snowmass Center in Snowmass Village on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022.
Kaya Williams/The Snowmass Sun

She found her way to the opportunity around Christmastime on Discord, an online communication platform where someone from Emerald Rockets had inquired about architects who might be involved in the metaverse.

It was an easy “yes” from Agley, who had recently read about “Architecting the Metaverse” in a story by Chloe Sun for Arch Daily. Though she had never designed within a virtual world, she took a “we’ll figure it out” approach that fits well with the culture of these online spaces, she said.

“I think it’s super interesting, because everyone, for the most part, is very collaborative and helpful — like everyone’s learning and figuring it out,” Agley said. The pace of work is faster in a “decentralized” virtual world now than it might be in a tech company focused on keeping information proprietary; here, “people are way more willing to share information and help each other out,” she said.

Agley is optimistic that this work will have longevity and avoid the fate of virtual “architectural wreckage” of other since-abandoned platforms because of the investment businesses are making in the metaverse. Still, she’s quick to assure that her work in the physical world is still very much her primary focus, lest her clients or her business partner worry that she’s completely caught up in the metaverse.

Though designing in the metaverse comes with its own size and scope of materials and its own software, there are plenty of similarities, too.

“At the end of the day, it’s kind of the same for us,” Agley said. “I mean, whether the piece of land is in real life or on your computer, you’re learning about it, learning about the process, the program, the scope of the clients — it’s all pretty similar.”

That act of learning (while coincidentally creating a space others will go to learn) is at the heart of what Agley finds enticing about the realm.

“This is super interesting, and I don’t know where it’s going to go. … It’s about learning — I just always enjoy learning and what’s next,” she said.


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