Architecture of fiction and fantasy have always amazed us through their creative adaptation of certain existing ideas in architecture or their invention of new styles to serve as an image of some futuristic or fantastic city. It is not far from truth to state that the essence of a science fiction movie or a fantasy novel is in the way their architecture reflects the modern ways of life, futuristic technologies etc. To understand their significance better, discussed here are examples of the architecture of a future city and its lifestyle (Metropolis(1927)), a fantasy city in ancient times (The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring(2001)) and a fictional city in an imaginary planet (Star Wars(1977)).
Metropolis is a science fiction film of 1927 directed by Fritz Lang. It is a German Expressionist film and the most expensive silent film ever made. The film tells the story of the struggle between an upper Elite class of citizens and the oppressed Workers in the future city Metropolis.
The image of the city conveyed by Lang is very dark and mechanical. The film opens by showing gigantic pistons, gears and tall chimneys spewing smoke. The city of Metropolis is differentiated into two zones. The Elites live in the towering skyscrapers and Art Deco buildings rising above the ground while the Workers have a miserable underground city. The underground city is accessed by elevators and the ground above is supported by large tapering steel piers. The buildings below are plain cubical masses with an array of cut-out windows. This monotonous image coupled with the dark underground city only to be illuminated by artificial lighting gives the viewers a symbolic image of the backward working class people.
All the machinery that runs Metropolis are situated in this worker’s city and is the integral part of their monotonous life.
The traffic in the city above the ground runs by means of suspended skyways connecting the various buildings. There are separate paths for pedestrians and vehicles. The buildings above are a combination of the skyscrapers in New York which Lang visited and Art Deco aesthetics which was considered a modernized version of architecture during those times. The huge and dominating size of the buildings clearly depicts a powerful and industrialized metropolis. An example of this is The New Tower Of Babel,the brain of Metropolis which is inspired from the historical Tower Of Babel. It is the highest structure in the city. No building in Metropolis has been ornamented and tends to be moving towards the International Style which was growing popular. The most clever part of the architecture is how the city hides the tiresome and displeasing machinery underground and exposes the majestic and beautiful skyscrapers.
It is amazing that Fritz Lang could conceive in the 1920s what a developed city in the future would look like. The structures which we may think as impossible today may as well be our probable future. The M-Machine The underground worker’s city.
Hobbiton is a village of hobbits or halflings who appear in the Lord Of The Rings series of books by J.R.R.Tolkein which was later visualized into a movie series in 2001. The hobbits are described to be living in “hobbit holes” which are dwellings dug into hillsides and so positioned to get the best possible view.
Tolkein explains the comforts of a hobbit hole in his novel The Hobbit as given below. The doors and windows of a hobbit hole are perfectly round like portholes having knobs in the middle. The underground house is a tunnel with rooms opening into both sides of the central pathway. The interiors are described as having “panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs”. The best rooms were situated on the side having windows which overlooked the gardens and meadows. All rooms – bedrooms, bathrooms, cellars, pantries etc. – are situated on the same floor. A typical plan of a hobbit hole is shown here.
Hobbit holes doesn’t require much heating or cooling because they are built underground. These holes blend with slopes of the hill making the whole village appear one with the landscape. The lush green meadows on which the village is built has been preserved completely with little construction done, apart from small roads and chimneys rising from the holes. The hillsides are also used for grazing and extensive gardens for hobbits. Overall, Hobbiton serves as a good example of organic architecture.
Coruscant is a planet that appears in the Star Wars Series. It is a galactic center and serves as a political hub of the galaxy.
The entire surface of Coruscant is covered by kilometers high skyscrapers and has a population of several trillion. The skyline of Coruscant is so dominated by the skyscrapers that it shuns the existing natural features like mountains and oceans. The cities are divided into levels, megablocks, blocks and sub blocks and each are numbered for ease of location. The lower levels of Coruscant is an underworld city where natural light would never reach because of the skyscraper canopy. This city is artificially illuminated and consists of only prehistoric ruins along with crime ridden clubs.
All natural water bodies are drained and water is stored in caverns under the city due to overpopulation. Coruscant followed zone planning dividing the zones as governmental and senetorial, financial, residential, commercial, industrial and manufacturing.
As Coruscant orbited far from its star, orbital mirrors are installed to reflect the sun’s light and heat. The orbital garbage treatment system of Coruscant is most interesting. Non-recyclable garbages are shot into orbit around Coruscant and garbage ships collects them from time to time. Dangerous and toxic materials are even shot directly to the star.
Coruscant also faced the problem of high carbon dioxide content released by its occupants each day. So thousands of Carbon Dioxidedampers are installed in the atmosphere to remove excess Carbon Dioxide. The foundations of the skyscrapers are massive and extend deep into the planet’s crust with power relays running near the planet’s core. The trasportation in Coruscant is by air accounting for the heights of the skyscrapers, some even rising above the clouds. It is interesting to note that many architectural characteristics of Coruscant resembles that of Metropolis which was made almost 75 years ago.
These writers, directors or artists share a common gift of being able to imagine the type of surroundings that would exist in varying circumstances. It is not only a display of their creativity, but a vision which fills one with awe and curiosity of the potential of mankind. Instead of passing it away as fantasy, architects should study them and get inspired to produce new innovations in this field. Architecture is ever changing with time and fictional architecture can be rightly considered as the stepping stones.
- Wikipedia, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, J.R.R.Tolkein’s The Hobbit,
- R. S. Jayakrishnan, B.Arch(2007-12), IIT Roorkee.