Project: Expressive Architecture

The next assignment is an exercise in grayboxing and level design.
Create a “expressive” built environment meant to convey a state of mind, evoke a story, or memorialize an event. The scene must be navigable in a standard first person fashion and it can have dynamic and non-realistic elements.

By Tuesday 20

  • Write a one-paragraph statement, describing what the level is and what the goals are.
  • Create a miro with mood board and a series of annotated sketches (top down, details) that give me a sense of the environment.
  • Read Meaningful level design by Christina “Phazero” Curlee – Introduction (pages 16-20) and Level Narrative (pages 55-66)
  • Read these chapters from Robert Yang’s WIP book about level design

By Thursday 22

Work in progress

By Tuesday 27

Create a greybox (aka blockout) of the environment. A 3d sketch without too many details that gives you an idea of the experience and the space. Add sounds (add sound source to an object and assign a sound file to it)
check out this thread#blocktober

Thursday April 29, Tuesday May 4

Work days, topics dependent on the project.

By Thursday 6

Add details, props and make it visually consistent.
Deliverable: post a few representative screenshots and links to the mac and window executables (uploaded on drive). The critique will happen through screen share.


In order to start this project I recommend going through these steps.

  1. Create a new project named Expressive Architecture and import this package
  2. Start from the scene “game” in the folder Scenes

Customize the sky material and the ground material.

The package includes other scenes:

Objects – some models from the game everything

Materials – a showcase of different materials and shaders explained in this video


Scripts – a couple of useful scripts for first person environments explained here:


Additional Resources

Depending on your needs I will post some examples and tutorials here.


Terrain and Probuilder

Progrids tutorial 1tutorial 2

Probuilder intro tutorial (a bit old) and various official tutorials

Terrain tutorial – terrain tools tutorial – download some terrain textures from here

Monuments, Memorials and Museums

Monuments are often erected in specific places and always in relation to a specific political agenda (eg the historical revision of the Civil War etc) but that doesn’t mean we can’t imagine them in virtual spaces or commemorating fictional events.


The Eve Online Monument in Reykjavik. Ok.

When they are more architectural than sculptural their structure is usually highly symbolic, expressive, even narrative.


UN memorial proposal
“as a metaphor acme designed a cube comprised of smaller cells which come together forming the final shape. each cell is meant to represent the collective nature of the united nations’ identity”


The Jewish Museum in Berlin with fractures and destabilizing non orthogonal surfaces to evoke the trauma of the holocaust.


The controversial Memorial to the murdered jews of Europe, also in Berlin shows how people’s actual use of space may be at odds with the intention of the creator.



Designed by Maya Lin, then a 21 years old student. Abstract and austere. It looks like scar on the National Mall in Washington DC. The memorial invites the viewer below ground level to read the names of the war’s more than 58,000 dead and missing inscribed on the face of two 247-foot black-granite walls. Now recognized as one the most powerful monuments of modern times , it was super controversial at the time (1982). Maya Lin got a B for that assignment.


The Wenchuan Earthquake Memorial Museum uses a similar strategy to commemorate the over 70,000 victims of the 2008 earthquake.



You may have seen the cool, sci-fi memorials from former Yugoslavia. They are cool looking but when looking for visual references don’t forget their context and meanings.
Concrete clickbait: next time you share a spomenik photo, think about what it means

Churches, chapels, temples etc

Buildings designed for worship often break from strictly utilitarian designs, always incorporate dense symbology in their structure and are created to elicit particular emotional states in the worshiper.




Contemporary examples and proposals for churches and worship buildings here and here


“The Forest of columns within the mosque must have reminded Arab worshippers of a grove of date palms, because for them the date palm was the quintessential symbol of their distant homeland.”

Highly symbolic buildings are demolished, rebuilt or repurposed all the time.
The Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba is a unique example of stratification of traditions and symbology.

Expo Pavillions

National pavillions at world expo are often eyerolling and self-congratulatory but they are also occasion for bold, expressive, utopian architectural ideas.



The UK pavilion at Expo 2010 aka Seed cathedral is about the loss of biodiversity and features 250,000 plant seeds at the end of 60,000 acrylic rods projecting from the walls of the building.


Brazil Pavillion at Expo

Immersive Installation Art

Artists have been creating immersive worlds from way before the diffusion of simulation technologies. Installation art encompasses a lot of what was traditionally referred as sculpture and the label is applied to almost anything that exists in a gallery space, including video and sound art, but here some examples of artists that completely create or transform environments to be traversed by visitors.

Kurt Schwitters six rooms of the family house in Hanover "renovated" between 1923 and 1933
Merzbau by Kurt Schwitters. six rooms of the family house in Hanover “renovated” between 1923 and 1933

James Turrell – bridget’s bardo
James Turrell, Breathing Light, 2013
James Turrell – Louis Vuitton store

James Turrell
Ganzfeld effect. A phenomenon of perception caused by exposure to an unstructured, uniform stimulation field. The effect is the result of the brain amplifying neural noise in order to look for the missing visual signals. The noise is interpreted in the higher visual cortex, and gives rise to hallucinations.

Yayoi Kusama - Infinity
Yayoi Kusama – Infinity
Yayoi Kusama - Infinity-Mirrored-Room
Yayoi Kusama – Infinity-Mirrored-Room
Yayoi Kusama: Look Now, See Forever Gallery of Modern Art installation view
Yayoi Kusama: Look Now, See Forever
Gallery of Modern Art
installation view

Yayoi Kusama – The Obliteration Room

Yayoi Kusama
Started the infinity rooms in the ’60, but also pioneered pop art and feminist art.



Jesús Rafael Soto – Kinetic/Op-art installation Penetrable



Olaffur Oliasson – The weather Project, 2003
Olafur used humidifiers to create a fine mist in the air via a mixture of sugar and water, as well as a circular disc made up of hundreds of monochromatic lamps which radiated yellow light. The ceiling of the hall was covered with a huge mirror, in which visitors could see themselves as tiny black shadows against a mass of orange light

Ernesto Neto, 'Leviathan Thot', 2006 (pantheon paris)
Ernesto Neto, ‘Leviathan Thot’, 2006 (pantheon paris)
Ernesto Neto- Gratitude
Ernesto Neto- Gratitude
Ernesto Neto - Celula Nave, 2004
Ernesto Neto – Celula Nave, 2004

Stretchy biomorphic touchable installations, occasionally filled with spices.

Tomás Saraceno, in orbit
Tomás Saraceno, in orbit
Tomás Saraceno. On Space Time Foam
Tomás Saraceno. On Space Time Foam
Tomás Saraceno - On Space Time Foam
Tomás Saraceno – On Space Time Foam

Tomás Saraceno – artist/architect

Anish Kapoor -Svayambh
Anish Kapoor -Svayambh


Shooting into the Corner 2008-2009 – Cannon shooting 11-kilogram balls of wax

Anish Kapoor – Creator of the bean sculpture in Chicago




Richard Serra – Most of his works are monumental public sculptures but some of them are environments.

Do Ho Suh - Home Within Home Within Home Within Home Within Home
Do Ho Suh – Home Within Home Within Home Within Home Within Home


Do Ho Suh - home away from home
Do Ho Suh – home away from home

Do Ho Suh. Korean Light polyester, recreating the houses he lived in.

Chiharu Shiota - in silence
Chiharu Shiota – in silence
Chiharu Shiota - During Sleep
Chiharu Shiota – During Sleep

Chiharu Shiota – Japanese

Thomas Hirschhorn - in between
Thomas Hirschhorn – in between
Thomas Hirschhorn - cavemanman
Thomas Hirschhorn – cavemanman

Thomas Hirschhorn (Swiss) – Cheap materials “universal, economic, inclusive, and don’t bear any plus-value”

Henrique Oliveira Baitogogo
Henrique Oliveira Baitogogo
Henrique Oliveira transarquitectonica
Henrique Oliveira transarquitectonica


Allyson Mitchell and Deirdre Logue – Killjoy’s castle

Nongames / artgames


Some explorable environments to be played in class that try to create an atmosphere and/or employ a distinctive style.

Studio Oleomingus’ The Indifferent Wonder of an Edible Place, In the Pause Between the Ringing, Museum of Dubious Splendors

Oikospiel Book 1


The static

I am not what remains


If we were allowed to visit

Even in Arcadia



Alien Caseno

Neo brutalism of tomorrow

The Static

Pet The Pup at the Party


Morning Post


Slave of God