All posts tagged architecture

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     During my research on the dystopian aspects of consumerism, I came across many sources with original and creative ideas in directions that I’ve never thought about. The book America at the Mall: The Cultural Role of a Retail Utopia by Lisa Scharoun is a good example. The book examines the origin and development of shopping malls in the U.S. throughout history, analyzes the influence on different populations, especially seniors and the youth, brought by the malls, and outlines a possible future for malls based on the recent decline in popularity. Chapter 4, titled “The Mall and Religion”, is especially worth noting because it inspects malls, a secular place, from a religious perspective as the temple of consumerism, from which Scharoun derives original conclusions on people’s belief and behavior.

In this chapter, Scharoun first claims that consumerism is a new form of religion. Consumerism is compared to a traditional religion, Christianity: the analogy indicates that consumerism promotes acquiring material as the ultimate goal of life, similar to Christianity’s life after death; malls are the “sacred places” that embody the religious symbol of consumerism, which people can experience through the “ritual” of shopping, not unlike churches and masses in Christianity. She then uses other’s research and quote demonstrating that “consumerism has surpassed all other belief systems” around the world to prove her point.

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“Akasya Acıbadem Shopping Mall, Acıbadem, Istanbul.” 15 Best Shopping Malls in Istanbul.

Next, she further portrays the mall as a temple by noting its architectural features. The atrium, the most conspicuous part of a mall, for example, is often circular, which symbolizes perfection and are also present in religious symbols as well as churches. Water fountain is usually found in the atrium, too, because water is a strong religious symbol associated with purity and sublimation. Such design appeal to people’s spiritual pursuit, shaping them to view consumerism as sacred. However, Scharoun then points out the difference in consumerism and traditional religions lies in that consumerism corrodes morality and community values promoted by most religions.

By quoting many scholars, from Adam Smith to David Loy, Scharoun demonstrates that consumerism eliminates public life and direct people to engage in socially costly behaviors. Finally, it is shown from a survey that most people now choose to “worship at the ‘temple of consumerism’” rather than go to churches, which points to consumerism and malls as a powerful and dangerous force.

The arguments and evidence provided by this chapter is unique in its viewpoint. The religious and spiritual impact of consumerism is seldomly considered but well interpreted by Scharoun, and it may complement other aspects to allow people to evaluate consumerism and shopping behavior more thoroughly. Though it is centered on consumerism, the analysis on religion and architecture may prove valuable to Catherine in her paper “The Cult of Religion in Perfect Ruin and Real-Life Dystopias” as well as Sydney in her paper “Architecture: The Implications of Dystopian Architecture.” As Catherine focused more on individual worship as a religion, this might lead her to think about worshipping values promoted by a dystopia and how a simple idea may be constructed as a religion by the people with power. And the analogy of malls and churches may help Sydney to consider the spiritual and even religious functions of architectures in dystopia. I hope such a useful source can be read by more people and add to their research findings.

As an architecture major I am fascinated with the way buildings make people feel. In my studio class, my professor is constantly reinforcing the idea that the building is designed to fit a function.  I began to wonder if there was a greater meaning behind the buildings that are present in YA dystopian novels. Upon closer investigation, I found that the buildings that housed the government or controlling figure turned out to be much more grand and comfortable than those of the oppressed people who seem to be living in some state of poverty. From there I began to wonder if there was some correlation between architecture an oppression. Does architecture prevent rebellions? Does architecture create a hierarchy? Does architecture reinforce existing orders?

My presentation is titled, “Architorture: The Implications of Dystopian Architecture”. Throughout my presentation, I will be discussing how architecture can lead to oppression or promote freedom. We’ve all been in a building that has maybe made us felt trapped or uncomfortable. In addition, we have all been in a building that we have never wanted to leave. Whether we notice it or not buildings have a significant impact on a person’s emotions. I believe the emotion that is present in architecture is used to the authors advantage throughout YA dystopian novels.

To further my argument, I will analyze the YA dystopian novels How I Live Now and The Hunger Games to describe how architecture influences the oppression inflicted on the characters throughout YA dystopian novels. When discussing How I Live Now I will be talking about how the levels of oppression change as the surrounding architecture changes.  In How I Live Now the kids went through a period when the military took occupation of their home leaving them in a much more vulnerable space. A similar situation happened in an article I read called, What American Cities can learn from Small-Town Neighbors, that discusses the implications of the government interfering in a rural town. This will provide me valuable information to explain how the presence of architecture can be controlled by the government and ultimately lead to a state of oppression. When I discuss The Hunger Games, I will be talking about how architecture can show social hierarchies in society, and I will discuss how the capitol used architecture to prevent rebellions.

Overall, my paper will work to prove that architecture has major impacts throughout the course of a YA dystopian novel.


Work Cited

Arentson, James. “What American Cities can learn from Small-Town Neighbors.” Next City, 17 Feb. 2017,



I think it is really interesting that dystopian architecture can vary from novel to novel, but even so they all seem to inflict the same general feeling among the characters. In particular, they seem to reinforce the idea of oppression by the government.

For example, in How I live Now, my independent reading novel, when the war hasn’t quite started yet the characters live freely and without adult supervision in a picturesque home in the English countryside. Once the war picks up, the characters are forced apart and into smaller homes when the soldiers take over their home. Then they are moved into a barn, and eventually they end up seeking shelter in an old shack in the middle of the woods. As things in England got worse, and the residents of England began to feel the effects of the war, architectural comfort diminishes. When the government takes over the kids’ home they are forced into situations away from the comforts of family and the architecture simultaneously diminishes.

I believe a similar concept is true in The Hunger Games. In The Hunger Games, The Capitol contains houses and buildings of comfort and luxury. Then as the districts move further and further away from the Capitol the architecture become less aesthetically pleasing and used more to provide shelter then to provide comfort. One of the things I think is really interesting about The Hunger Games though, is that the area where architecture provides the least comfort is the area in which the Capitol is the most oppressive, the arena. The only real architecture in the area is the cornucopia, and the cornucopia only reinforces the government’s power.

Moving into my research project, I want to find out if this correlation between architecture and oppression continues throughout YA dystopian novels. I want to also look at how architecture can influence the way one acts and feels. For example, does living in poverty give one strength or break them? Does living in luxury provide a sense of entitlement and possible lead to becoming an oppressor? Overall, does the surrounding architecture in YA dystopian novels contribute to the presence of oppression?,d.eWE&psig=AFQjCNEgtEunDLEu9LCK8VsM8igQvZXYtw&ust=1487642836895709