The End of Architecture

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Copyright © 2019, Common Ground Research Networks, Some Rights Reserved, (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
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Discussions about our contemporary built environment tend to look at themed and virtual spaces as something irrelevant at best or, worse, as something disdainful. Yet entertainment, as a visual and experiential thrust, has consumed the built environment to the point that theming has taken an elevated role that has heightened our expectations for spaces. These spaces have always conveyed narrative; there have always been themes. Thematic design, however, is a form of visual storytelling executed primarily in consumer spaces that is at once popular, profitable, prolific, and above all, problematic. We explore how key developments in the evolution of early cinema and animation push beyond the screen to influence the built environment and examine a similar path within the virtual worlds of digital gaming. We outline the origins of contemporary themed spaces, both physical and virtual, to pinpoint the influences that promulgate a predominately story-based vision of space. To that end we speculate on the increasing bleed between physical and virtual worlds in which architecture is no longer a primary consideration in placemaking.