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Top 10: The architecture of computer games (part I)

The Architects’ Journal selects the finest architecture from the worlds of computer and video games

10. Marioland

Nintendo Marioland

Clearly influenced by the work of London architectural practice FAT, Marioland takes the layering of patterned facades in bright colours to another level. The visual vibrancy is further conveyed by the use of rounded forms, echoing the ‘blobitecture’ of Zaha Hadid’s Dubai Opera House.

9. Castle Wolfenstein, Return to Castle Wolfenstein

Return to Castle Wolfenstein

How can one set foot in the gemutlich Castle Wolfenstein without being transported into a medieval fairytale? This Bavarian gem, with its pretty Romanesque keep, is marred only by the hordes of (sometimes zombified) Nazi stormtroopers. Currently home to a high-security prison, the schloss is situated high on a mountain so access is only via a Where Eagles Dare-style cable car. A glance at the floor plan reveals a curiousity: the medieval architect - thought to be Hans Grosse - committed himself to a near-endless iteration of the swastika motif.

8. Tetris

Tetris can teach us all a lesson in dimensional co-ordination and rotational symetry. Featuring just seven standard building components as the basis for construction, it takes a radical approach to reducing waste material. Tetris has an aesthetic charm too: its combinations of solid and void have proved inspirational for a range of architects including Slovenian architecture studio, OFIS.

7. Architecture Island, Second Life

Architecture Island, Second Life

Second Life resident Keystone Bouchard’s playground of building types are precariously perched atop a floating plane of greenfield site. Access may be problematic, but visitors will be rewarded with juxtapositions of experimental architecture: a huge structure-free glass cube, prismatic roofscapes and gravity-defying timber cantilevers to name a few. The only real let-down of this eccentric architectural smorgasbord is a couple of randomly placed wind turbines that expose Bouchard as falling into the trap of sustainability-as-afterthought.


6. The House, Jet Set Willy

Willy has his hands on a triumph of domestic miminalism. Lofty double-height spaces are treated with a pared-down palette of brick and tile. The floor spans may be a touch optimistic, but the resulting lack of structure allows dramatic open plan spaces, punctuated by the occassional sculpture or piece of designer furniture.

Read on: numbers 5 to 1 >

Readers' comments (4)

  • What about School Daze (Spectrum ZX48), Transport Tycoon, and Lotus Esprit? Or Tron.
    Can the AJ run a series about the architectural icons that are no longer with us? Like the Euston Arch . And the grotty little amusement arcade behind Harry Ramsden's in Guiseley.

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  • Super Mario Bros 3, the game in #10, was first released in 1988. Fashion Architecture Taste (FAT) first began in the early to mid 90s. If anything FAT was influenced by Super Mario Bros 3, not the other way around.

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  • BUT what about the very recent DE BLOB absolutely brilliant Wii game where your job is to paint all buildings in crazy colours to brighten up your city!
    Damn... AJ! ask us speclalists before you publish anything more!

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  • Jet Set Willy? Wise up, what are you talking about?If you are going to do this do it right. Good to see Halo in there but the rest are a bit daft. What about Splinter Cell, Tomb Raider and Call of Duty where interaction and the built environment make the game. Have a good think and try this again.

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