Solitaries will have you dreaming of concrete

How much does concrete weigh? This is, on the one hand, an insultingly simple question. Take some concrete. Put it on a scale. Record the weight. Multiply by some larger number if you’re using a sample. There you have it: concrete’s weight. It’s not really a mystery. But it’s not that easy. There’s the not insignificant matter of heft. Concrete, by dint of the way it is used, can come to feel heavy or miraculously lightweight. This is the sort of sensation that cannot adequately be calculated with a scale. You have to experience it, and that’s where Solitaries, a…

New Lethes

Against the illusory architecture of Half-Life 2

In “On Dérive,” the titular act is explained through text and your own movements through a virtual environment. To dérive (to drift), is to let yourself wander through the city with no prior aim or destination in mind; a spontaneous journey through the urban stage. The point of it is to demonstrate the specific design of a city, how its deliberate topography affects us subconsciously to guide us down certain paths, or as French writer and theorist Guy Debord puts it: “cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vertexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones.” The On Dérive demo, created…

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Videogame architecture is failing the poor of the world

As an architect, Alejandro Aravena traffics in a sort of obviousness that only becomes apparent in hindsight. The Chilean’s best works gradually reveal themselves to be fundamentally explainable. This, one might argue, is a more compelling magic trick than the eternal mystery of how some of his colleagues’ wild creations remain standing; Aravena is Penn and Teller to the starchitect’s Houdini. Villa Verde in Constitución, Chile, is instructive in this regard. Completed by Aravena’s firm, Elemental, in 2013, the 484-unit housing development is composed of repeating peaked-roof forms. Beneath one side of each slope sits the interior of the home, walled…

Mansion Maniac

Explore dreamlike remixes of New York City’s early 20th century apartments

The idea of the New York City apartment as we know it had yet to be established at the end of the 19th century. The inhabitants of huge multi-occupant living spaces were mostly low-income immigrant families, isolated physically and culturally. The change began with Jacob Riis’s 1890 book How the Other Half Lives, which shocked upper and middle class New Yorkers with descriptions and photographs of the abject poverty of the slums. As the 20th century began, improvements to tenement living, changes to laws mandating building height, and the new subway lines paved the way for the apartment to become…

Postcard From Capri

Postcard From Capri, your upcoming videogame vacation

More videogames should be set in the places their creators want to go on vacation. I’m not sure if the person behind Postcard From Capri wants to travel to the Italian island of the game’s namesake but, hell, after having seen the work-in-progress screenshots, I know now that I certainly want to go there. It’s described as an interactive short story played from the first-person perspective. So far so ordinary. OK, but you play as either a detective or a journalist (to be decided, I guess) who receives a mysterious letter that contains a postcard, a ticket, and enough money to travel to…

Le Petit Architecte

Celebrate Swiss architect Le Corbusier by defacing one of his masterpieces

What better way to celebrate it being 50 years since influential Swiss architect Le Corbusier’s death than redesigning his famous Villa Savoye? Oh, not actually, of course. We couldn’t possibly bear to spoil what is considered by many to be one of the keystones of modern architecture (and also an official French historical monument). We’re talking videogames here. Yes, it’s their easily-reset worlds that allow us to enjoy reckless fantasies without consequence (usually), so why not employ them to deface a prestigious villa that sits on the edge of Paris? This is the concept of a new project by Greek-born Theo Triantafyllidis, who…


Metaphor or not, these little towers in test tubes are beautiful

There’s experimental housing, and then there’s housing created in a test tube. Rosa de Jong creates the latter. To use Zoolander terminology, these are homes for ants. There are no ants here, but the scale is appropriate for the little critters. Instead, what you have is a series of cylindrical dioramas, wherein buildings float in midair on the earthen bases. The facsimile of soil beneath these buildings tapers like the flame coming out of a rocket engine. In a sense, these scenes have achieved liftoff. As part of her Micro Matter series, De Jong had created all sorts of homes,…


Voi wants to play architectural peek-a-boo with you

I like it when videogames play peek-a-boo with me. Yes, please, treat me like a toddler. I mean it. I am not yet beyond the delight of a magic trick; a spatial sleight-of-hand. And Voi has enough of them to warrant your curiosity. This is a game in which I spent a good five minutes going back-and-forth, side-to-side, reliving the couple seconds of the gif below in my own time, free from the never-ending repetition of the gif’s structure. First you see a lengthy hallway, next you see a black void where nothing could ever exist. Where did the hallway go?…

A Place for the Unwilling

A videogame in which the city is the protagonist

The city in A Place for the Unwilling is alive. It may even be possible for it to die. The streets and buildings make up its physical form as bones and muscles and arteries do ours. The population is its life force; rushing like a bloodstream through the alleys and avenues, occasionally stopping for conversation next to a monument or under a streetlamp. The city hears them whispering each other’s names, it feels them moving around inside of it, and more recently it has felt something darker and twisted lurking within it. The idea in this upcoming narrative adventure is to explore…