Do architects dream of artificial scenes? An eclectic collection of uncanny spaces and experiences

William Chen

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Interior of an abandoned pier, daily life, liminal space, octane renderer, redshift, intricate details, hyperrealism, subsurface scattering, dynamic lights and shadows, vibrant colour palette, simulation, concept art, 8k


“A condition in which what is real and what is fiction are seamlessly blended so that there is no clear distinction between where one ends and the other begins.”

—Jean Baudrillard

We spend a third of our lives sleeping and imagining artificial worlds and experiences, almost living in a simulation, only to wake up and forget most of it. Architects, designers, and creatives often use fiction to inform their worlds and create fabricated environments. This manipulation of reality through the use of renders or idealistic writings of their projects constructs a narrative expression of our world. Creating the artificial merely serves as a necessary step before creating the real.

Currently, there is a demand and, therefore, preoccupation in our industry for expressing intrinsically comforting environments. This often leads to architectural presentations that narrate a smooth and optimistic world – as if the architecture will never fail to make everybody happy. I argue that this overlooks the potential of the uncanny in representation – drawings rooted in a moody and dark aesthetic.

However, there is potential in the “dark world” or the “other” or what I dub “the uncanny.”

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A series of uncanny spaces.

In architecture, there is a preoccupation with creating intrinsically comforting environments. If there is optimism, there needs to be an antithesis of this. This is what I refer to as “ the other” or the “uncanny.” These are rooted in a moody and sometimes dark aesthetic. The “uncanny” are often deserted and frequently empty, out of the ordinary, environments that reject the core values of living space. These were traditionally limited to films and video games. These are still spatial yet oppose the standard architectural depiction of space; and the notion of comfort.


Examples of these spaces include a shopping mall at four in the morning or a school corridor in the summer, a flooded subway, a pier late at night, and a robot factory that has been long since abandoned. They feel frozen and slightly unsettling but also familiar to our minds. It becomes unnerving to see spaces in a context other than how we know them, where there might not be any furniture, bright lighting, or people.

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This methodology of storytelling, fabrication, rendering, and occupying narratives explores the parameters between narrative and reality. There are stories to be told with the “other spaces”; we are not limited to just the standard architectural depictions of narrative. These untold stories have potential and evoke interesting narrative points. These stories would be driven and fabricated by artificially-generated images. AI can give us predictive and preparatory tools to speculate on what these could look like. Ultimately these stories are told through a series of images and interpolations on the backdrop of the "uncanny" space.

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A journey to the convenience store.
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