This was originally published in the Watch The Skies fanzine for the February 2014 issue:
For some reason building technology tends to get left out of the discussion when people look at science fiction. It’s always there, it’s just never the hot topic. Maybe it’s not active enough. Maybe it doesn’t have the sexy appeal of rocket ships or green alien women. There are exceptions, but even those exceptions tend to be limited in how the place where all the action happens is handled. The part that interests me is just how large a part buildings play in science fiction and fantasy stories, how completely integral they are and how those descriptions seem fade to “mere” background.
Having spent some time working in architecture I’ve struggled with what most folks know about the field. Many of my friends have heard me rant when confronted with somebody going on and on about Frank Lloyd Wright – particularly if that’s the only name in architecture they know. I tend to counter them immediately by saying, “He was a short ego-maniac that made short buildings with leaky roofs…” That rarely goes over well. It is hyperbole to make a point. While the vision and the design are undeniable, the last thing designed by Mr. Wright was in the 1950s. There are decades of design that have come on since then.
Getting to know what modern architects are designing and getting constructed should be an important part of conversations about the future. What technologies are going into the places where we live, work, eat and play every day? How will we interact with those places? Will they make us comfortable or will they be sterile and uninviting? How will those places look and feel to the people that use them every day? How will they look to the people that will see these structures 50, 100 or more years in the future? Will they last that long given the materials that are used?
Once you’ve taken a few moments to consider the technology and other aspects of architecture, consider the deeply visual nature of those designs. I’m going to stay away from the written descriptions and the worlds of fantasy and stick strictly with science fiction that has made it to the big screen.
What would Blade Runner be if you didn’t get to see Los Angeles?
Would The Fifth Element be the same if New York wasn’t so huge you needed to have flying cabs?
Where would Luke be if Bespin wasn’t a city in the clouds?
There are so many amazing structures out there and so much technology that can be added to them that architecture, the built environment, should be a topic of study for the science fiction community. Take some time, look around. Learn who some of the people are that give us the places where the future happens. Next time you’re out someplace try slowing down and looking up at the structures around you. You won’t be the only one, and you might see something that will spark your imagination.
Bonus stuff – there have been some interesting articles lately by people that think something similar. Check these articles out.
Gizmodo: World’s worst architect? http://gizmodo.com/frank-gehry-is-still-the-worlds-worst-living-architect-1523113249
iO9: Organic Brooklyn? http://io9.com/will-brooklyn-look-like-this-in-a-century-1523174170
Structures that belong in a science fiction film: http://flavorwire.com/409062/20-works-of-architecture-that-belong-in-a-sci-fi-film/