Science Fiction and Architecture/ Utopias and Dystopias

Architecture utilizes innovation seeking by means of science fiction movies and it is affected by this seeking. We, (architects) utilize from science fiction movie to create a test area for creating future, make comment about the new world sense by means of science fiction movies and prepare a basis for discussion about problems in the future. Thus, we add different perspectives our own architectural vision with our traditional understanding. Also, science fiction movies open new horizons about time and place by means of critical approach to accumulation of architecture. The places in this movie describe future in terms of social and architectural perspective. We get a hint about time, social condition and technology in the movie by means of described places. Increasing dystopia movies create a rich source in which it is described future in terms of architecture. Now, let’s look at emergence of science fiction movies and their historical development.


   A brief overview to science fiction movie

Cinema, which is a product of consumer culture, effects society’s expectation for the future and their world view by means of its power to reach and effect the masses. Images about future technology are introduced through science fiction movies. The effect of science fiction cinema on the city is related with creating of image of the city and evaluating of new urban life. (1) Science fiction cinema basing on science fiction literature has made a splash after the First World War. After planes and nuclear researches have revealed that discovering universe is not a dream, it is required time, the science fiction focused on the most important questions;  “whether we are alone in the universe?” and “What’s going on in the universe?” (2)



After Second World War, improvement on atomic bomb and space Technologies started to give direction to science fiction.  On this type basing on science, space-age theme is important. (3) Themes such as journey/settle in space, moon and other planets, meeting different species give direction to science fiction. Stanley Kubrick’s movie named “A Space Oddsy” is a good example for science fiction cinema revealing expectation of age for the future.

Science fiction movies which have made after 1980’s started to present a new architectural reality such as cyber space which has emerged with technological developments and internet. The concept of cyber space was emerged by a science fiction writer named William Gibson in his novel named Neuromancer in 1984. He named Wiener’s dream as “cyber space”.(4) In 1990’s, Matrix movie was an example for this theme by creating  a dystrophic universe and became a source for movies of this type. Nowadays, it is not difficult to observe historical change basing on science fiction. Dystopia movies referring people who are alone and paranoiac because of too much technological life have started to increase

The Concept of Utopia- Dystopia In the Science Fiction Movies

There are two different viewpoints; optimist and pessimist for science fiction producing scenario intended for life and society of the future. While the optimist viewpoint is emerging by means of utopias describing ideal place, state or condition in terms of social condition, politics and legislations, the pessimist viewpoint emerges by means of dystopias, namely, the worst-case scenarios. (4) The science fiction movies in 20th century interpret utopic one as both impossible and undesirable.

 After Second World War, fears caused by nuclear war tensions, rapid technological development and uni-polar world order emerging because of uncontrolled industrialization, unequal capitalist spread and administrations of totalitarian governments such as Nazi Germany and Stalin Russia, caused negative and dystopic future fictions to grow up in literature. (5) Thus, it was realized discrepancy between ideals and realities and pessimism, causticity and disappointment appeared instead of hope. In this age, people’s idea of creating an ideal world removed and dystopias emerged instead of utopias. Architectural spaces in the science fiction movies are quite important because they show to audiences how a city can be. Jonathan Glacey summarizes the connection between the two disciplines at his old article; “The cinema is the most beautiful space on which architecture out flies rapidly.” (6)



Architectural spaces at the science fiction cinema


The science fiction movies standing out its spatial fictions are an experimental platform on which architectural expectations are shared. We can reveal conceptual analysis and space typology of spaces in the 20th century dystopic science fiction cinema via especially cult movies of science fiction cinema; “Brazil-(1985)”, ”Blade Runner-(1982)” , “Gattaca-(1997)”, “Matrix-(1999)”. In the movies, we can see reflections of socio-cultural change of society and quest for innovation at architectural and technological area. In studied movies, in general, it is mentioned about fight between natural one and artificial one.  Developing technology provides artificiality and perfection but at the same time it causes human values to lose. This situation which is parallel with technological development is perceived in spatial fiction. The perfection (artificial) cities are shaped as an evidence of this power.



High skyscrapers, lives in building blocks appear in a technological and industrial system.The criticism of modernism which consists of massive and simple masses and is only for function is a theme appearing in movies frequently.  This theme is usually integrated with a postmodern collage and symbols in modern places. While the post modern one is identical to people, the artificial one is identical to modernity.

In conclusion, There are relationships remarkable in terms of place in these cult examples selected from science fiction cinema. Lived age and relationship between people and environment are directly related to production of space. In selected movies, designed utopias and dyspoias include mentality in its own age and give us clues about how places will be in the future.



Erdem Dokuzer

Share Post :