Architecture 101 (for Games Designers & Animators) – Draft

As part of our understanding of “design thinking” as a second stream approach to developing design ideas this post looks at The Observed World as a Visual Resource.

Architecture 101 – A discussion around the importance of knowing the similarities and the major differences between Basic styles and periods + Inspirational Architects for Games Designers & Visual Developers and Animators.

Question –  Do you know the work/names/contexts of these Creatives?

(here, a reading from Perdido Street Station – plus discussion of Author).


Imagine a brief… a Level Design for a Game, or an Animated Title Sequence

“a coast-line of mingled mud, ooze, and weedy Cyclopean masonry which can be nothing less the tangible substance of earth’s supreme terror — the nightmare corpse-city of R’lyeh …loathsomely redolent of spheres and dimensions apart from ours“.

“…hidden in green slimy vaultsIn his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”

– H.P. Lovecraft, The Call Of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories.

Many creatives have read that phrase and been inspired to try to pin down the look and structure of Lovecraft’s monstrous vision.

John Coulthart; Marc Simonetti; Marc-Andre Huot; Jason R. Roberts; Eduardo Rivera and even the recognised creature designer and macabre artist H.R. Giger – Other Examples include – Example 1, Example 2, …*

The lost city of R’lyeh, seems characterised by its bizarre architecture described as non-Euclidean geometry, the lack of parallel lines in its make up, twisted and warped silhouettes and profiles, alien hieroglyphs and strange shapes and symbols etched across its surface.

The quote above from the Norwegian sailor character, Gustaf Johansen, the narrator of one of the tales in the short story, describes the accidental discovery of the city… So if given a brief to design a game or animation featuring this city just where could you turn for reference?

Well, like me for the quick image above you could perhaps tap your prior knowledge. I immediately thought of the curious lines of the three architects (see rollovers) Frank O’Gehry, Zaha Hadid and the extraordinary work of Antonio Gaudi… and perhaps even the odd painting.

Quick Photoshop Sketch – 25mins

Quick SketchUp “blocking out” model – The Island Temple of R’lyeh

But what if it was a medieval bakery? A fantasy world set in a dystopian future? A well established mining colony set on the red plains of Mars?

Which architects or architectural styles would you have used as reference?

Not sure?

Never really thought about a general awareness or rough understanding of the history of architecture as being important to your particular discipline?

This session/post hopes to address that…

Historical Architectural Stylesand some of the differences.

Roman vs Egyptian

Viking Vs Medieval Vs Tudor

Art Deco Vs Art Nouveau – Art Deco, geometric shapes and patterns, parallel lines… Seen in US gas stations, diners, cinemas and sky-scrapers… Art Nouveau, organic flowing lines, motifs from living things and natural forms… Seen in Paris Subway lights by Hector Guimard, and posters by Alphonse Mucha… whose work you can compare to the very Art Deco designs of Cassandre and other Art Deco Graphic Designers.

Russian Vs ArabicArabic onion shaped Domes and Cupolas might not be as common a cultural identifier as you would imagine, Victorian illustrators of the Arabian Nights and early production designers for theatre and film (along with Disney) have probably created a false image, Arabic domes being somewhat less ostentatious for the most part… whilst over the steppes in the former Soviet states the Classic Onion Shape is clearly visible…

Also the use of “Images” of living things is forbidden in much architecture in the Arabic world, decoration takes the form of elaborations of writing and scripts…

Japanese Vs Chinese – consider the use of decoration below and between the roof-lines, one is predominantly simpler than the other…

…and Architects –

Of course architects do more than just design buildings… You can look to them to help populate you environment interiors too – In this case, Furniture.

So, who who needs to know this stuff?

Directors & Production Designers (for both Film and Animation) – link for Production Design

Art Directors & Art Departments (inc. Concept Artists, Designers, Model Builders, Texture Artists) – link for Art Direction

VFX Supervisors & VFX Teams (inc. Concept Artists, Designers, Model Builders, Texture Artists)

Games DesignersExample 1, Example 2, Example 3 – (Previz and Concept Artists and Modellers)

Film & Animation Sets –

German Expressionism – Movie Design

Dystopian Futures – Blade Runner

…compare the above to David Laws photography of Salt End Refinery, Hull.

Could this real world space have been an influence?

Illustrators and Painters of Architecture –

Which brings us to sketchbooks, and observational drawing… (like James Jean).

Drawing it yourself – Architectural Sketchers

If you want to understand more about Architecture… sit and draw it, drawing is one of the most exacting investigative processes.

Join Us:

Hull Urban Sketchers

Architecture is a visual art, and the buildings speak for themselves.
Julia Morgan

A handful of Quotes about Architecture.

To Follow:

Useful Books and Collections:

Games & Films for Visual Reference (and THAT USE Visual Reference)

Useful Weblinks: Add info into separate blog posts… to reduce bulk

Resources Last Updated:

* I’ve tried where possible to cite all artists, If you see your own work and wish for it to be credited or even removed – Please e-mail me at:

~ by hesir on March 28, 2012.

6 Responses to “Architecture 101 (for Games Designers & Animators) – Draft”

  1. [See response below from then architecture student D. Mitchell, some of the links and suggested practitioners are definitely worth taking note of… Danny also reiterates several points made in the delivered sessions, particularly about the understanding of roles that you as production designers might have to inhabit (the wearing of different hats – remember), and the idea that an environment design is a character design in absentia, or the echo of a character’s impact on that environment].

    As an architecture student I’d definitely recommend looking at what the role of an architect is firstly. Most will say they design buildings, when actually its more than that. Architects design and create space in which people inhabit, ‘People make Places’. It’s a combination of art and science which is constantly evolving into new approaches and design methods.

    With this in mind, the [prior] design of games characters may be the enabler for the design of their setting/space. Rather than placing an idealized character into a false utopian world, perhaps the character itself, his or hers personality, visions and goals can create the appropriate animated architectural landscape.

    Examples I would recommend to look at as precedent studies can be found on the ‘Presidents medals’ website []. There are lots of examples of abstract representations of concepts for design, one in particular that may be of interest….’Robots of Brixton’ this was the winner in 2011…..worth a look

    I would also look at “deconstructivist architects” [] such as Daniel Libeskind, Frank O’Gehry etc

    Hope this is kind of helpful…

    [ is.]

  2. […] (we will also be looking at Architecture as Inspiration in a further […]

  3. […] environments, looking at Architecture of buildings and structures. All the notes can be found on Gareth’s Blog, i found this session extremely useful for games design as during the lesson i kept imagining the […]

  4. […] Japanese Vs Chinese – consider the use of decoration below and between the roof-lines, one is predominantly simpler than the other…” – Gareth Sleightholme architecture blog […]

  5. […] of the civilisations that have shaped that world? Could those traits be reflected in their architecture just as we have seen in the various civilisations of our own […]

  6. […] of the civilisations that have shaped that world? Could those traits be reflected in their architecture just as we have seen in the various civilisations of our own […]

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