Liberland, an unrecognized micro-state sandwiched between Serbia and Croatia, has commissioned Zaha Hadid Architects to create its ‘cyber-urban’ colony.
On April 13, 2015, Czech politician Vít Jedlička hoisted a flag on an unoccupied sliver of land between Serbia and Croatia — a place he claims to have discovered on Wikipedia — and declared Liberland a libertarian micronation. Liberland, which spans a 2.7-square-mile radius, is currently unrecognized as a genuine state by any other country. It also lacks any meaningful infrastructure some 7 years after its founding, and its 7,000 approved “citizens,” including Jedlička himself, aren’t allowed to settle on the territory.
Jedlička is probably looking for better success in the metaverse. The self-proclaimed Liberland president has sought the help of Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA), a British architectural firm, to create a virtual city where Liberlanders can live out their utopian aspirations. The “cyber-urban” metropolis, dubbed the Liberland Metaverse, boasts a legislative hall, “NFT plaza,” and centers for crypto traders and business owners, which are among the first facilities rendered by the corporation.
The look appears to be appropriate for a future country where Bitcoin is the primary currency, and the state’s administration is based on blockchain technology. ZHA’s intention to keep this project more grounded in reality than, for instance, Mark Zuckerberg’s fantasy island, or the postmodern hodgepodge of user-led venues like Decentraland, is reflected in echoes of ZHA’s in real-life architecture.
But why would one of the world’s most prestigious architecture and design firms choose to join forces with an unrecognized microstate in the first place? It has something to do with primary architect Patrik Schumacher and Vít Jedlička’s common “libertarian attitude.”
Schumacher has been counseling Liberland on architectural and urban planning concerns since the two met roughly 7 years ago, according to ZHA. Some of these challenges, such as reconciling self-governance with prescriptive urban design, are even addressed in Schumacher’s 2020 paper “Libertarian Urban Planning: Prospective Regimes for Liberland.”
In 2020, at the outset of the pandemic, Jedlička, like everyone else, began thinking about establishing a footing in the metaverse. At the same time, Schumacher recognized that “the ancient fantasy of Cyberspace could finally come true now,” making this collaboration inevitable.
The actual execution of Liberland’s online libertarian utopia is still very much a work in progress, and details surrounding essential subjects like ownership, regulation, economics, and resource allocation remain fuzzy at best. Right now, however, decentralized online outposts like Liberland Metaverse serve as a home base for contentious characters who lack legitimacy in the real world.
Maybe the Liberland Metaverse can help Jedlička gain credibility, but maybe not. In any case, it raises concerns about a slew of other metaverse ventures, including who’s behind them and why they feel the need to set up shop in cyberspace. Is it simply because they’re delighted to participate with an immersive technology that’s still in its infancy, or is it because it’s the only place where their thoughts will be taken seriously, for better or worse?
In other related reading, Meta will let you build your own Virtual world, just describe it.
Photo via Zaha Hadid Architects