Nova Alea

Nova Alea has a go at criticizing the state of urban housing

Molleindustria’s Nova Alea is a parable in search of a game. It is the story of real estate speculation, housing bubbles, and capitalism run amok. The story takes place on a chessboard—that or a graveyard for skyscrapers. Maybe both. “For its masters,” the gentle-voiced narrator intones, “the city was a matrix of financial abstractions.” Note the use of the past tense: that’s the first sign you’re inside a parable. The powers of finance are represented by a tilted pink cube—think Tony Rosenthal’s “Alamo,” but cuter—that floats above the city. More accurately, it looms, dropping capital in underdeveloped neighborhoods and hopefully…


Artist gives brutalist architecture a singing voice

Brutalist architecture has gotten a bad rap over the years—so much so that Goldfinger, the villain of James Bond fame, was named after Ernő Goldfinger, an architect inspired by brutalism. Mo H. Zareei (aka mHz) is trying to fight back against this societal repulsion with his evocative sound sculptures. He’s an Iranian electronic musician, sound artist, and music technology researcher, who is actively finding ways to use his interests in both brutalist architecture and noise to show how nuanced and poetic these two concepts can really be. In his series machine brut(e), Zareei makes use of three sound sculptures rasper, Mutor and rippler, to make unusual audiovisual combinations. Each…

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It’s time to confront the uncanny potential of virtual architecture

A room enclosed on all sides sits naked in grayspace. Inside is a trunk, a bed, a tube, a radiator, a light, and little else. A sharp sound swells and suddenly the room snaps out of place. Now it is upside-down. You can’t even enter through the open doorway, barely able to peer inside through the window, the objects once sat neatly now thrown into disarray across a ceiling that is now a floor. The sound comes again and the room changes, again. It sits as it did before, at the center of a square cut of rock floating in a…


High-Rise; a very British psychopathology

The first time I saw the Barbican Estate in London I was entranced. The layered terraces of pitted concrete, the crisscrossing walkways, those monolithic towers that seemed—as with Petra or Al-Hijr—like they might have been carved out of natural stone. It is rare, especially in a city like London, as layered and complex as a geological event, to walk into such a large space that feels so designed, so ordained. Yet, setting foot in those 20 acres of roughened concrete, I somehow felt that I was stepping into an idea, or an ideal, and out of reality entirely. Even now,…


Visit the latest haunted cities from the queen of horror games

Further cementing herself as an architecture goddess, Kitty Horrorshow has publicly released a collection of three games and a flash-fiction story called Haunted Cities. These were all projects originally made as exclusive rewards for those backing her on Patreon for $5 a month, the deal being that you get one of Horrorshow’s virtual worlds a month for the subscription—these four were released across November 2015 to February 2016. If you’re familiar with Horrorshow then your expectations for Haunted Cities shouldn’t be amiss. These are lo-fi videogames that prioritize looming architecture and eerie synth work over everything else. Rather than offering, say, puzzles…


Play a dating sim about hooking up with erotic architecture

It’s very likely that I fucked a building last night. Now, hold up, I don’t know if I did. We hooked up and then I’m not sure what happened. Unfortunately, the erotic architecture dating sim Tectr doesn’t go beyond depicting your conversation with hot local masonry on a Tinder-style app, and into the awkward realm of human-building coitus. That is an idea for a sequel, though… What this means is I told a horny panopticon that I would push my naked body against a dirty suburb window so it could watch, it then accepted, and I opened “Maps” to find the…

Misplaced New York

Photography project kidnaps New York’s strangest architecture

You shake some cereal into a bowl and pick up a box of milk. As you’re about to pour, you see a sign on its side: Have you seen this building? Well, not exactly. Some mischief has been done here. At least it’s mischief of the architectural instead of criminal variety. (Granted, this line is occasionally blurred.) The artist Anton Repponen and writer Jon Earle have imagined what would happen if 11 New York City icons were uprooted and placed in foreign, desert-like landscapes. They have, in a sense, been kidnapped, though that backstory is not wholly necessary when examining…

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Go on a virtual tour of Don Draper’s apartment

Don Draper, John Hamm’s suave protagonist in the dearly departed series Mad Men (2007-2015), didn’t so much as work in advertising as embody the field. At an instinctive level, he understood that aspirations wrapped up in objects need to be made tangible, and that advertising is a means to that end. The Draper home, then, was a central part of the man’s riddle. It wasn’t a showroom—no home ever is. Carpets don’t stay white forever. But if it wasn’t simply there to sell its contents, it was still there to sell an idea or a lifestyle or—failing all that—the man himself. That…


The Nightmare Valley of The Source Engine

Upon walking into St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican with a close friend in January, our jaws simultaneously dropped. He had never seen anything like it before. As he gazed up at the infinitely mathematical marble and gold ceiling, he said, “I think this could be the only structure like this to exist outside of a dream.” But I had seen something like it before—in a videogame, and one that I remember today only through dreams. //// There are certain types of physical and geographical structures which, until just a few decades ago, could rarely be experienced within the realm of…