The Architecture of Survival: Setting and Politics in Apocalypse Films offers a compelling exploration of how popular films and TV series from the past two decades use architectural spaces to comment on socio-political issues. The authors harness varied theoretical perspectives to demonstrate how, through set design, these works suggest that certain kinds of architecture support human development, community, and freedom, while other kinds separate us from our fellow humans and make democratic politics impossible. The clean lines of modernist design serve in films such as Contagion and Ex Machina as a metaphor for the sanitized, sterile politics that drive disaster. In The Walking Dead apocalypse survivors favor traditional architectural styles when rebuilding society, a choice that symbolically affirms their democratic principles. The massive walls and super-gentrification as seen in Elysium and Army of the Dead divide humanity, with those on one side wielding illegitimate power. Empty streetscapes intensify loneliness, alienation, and the destruction of civil norms. "Smart cities," offering a blend of high-tech surveillance and big data, erode social capital and community in Her and Transcendence. The book concludes with a somewhat hopeful glimpse into architecture’s potential to mitigate the catastrophic adverse effects of climate change, as seen in films like Zootopia.
Jake Parcell is graduate of Saginaw Valley State University and Michigan State University, where he earned his Doctorate in Planning, Design, and Construction with a focus on Urban and Regional Planning.
Erik Trump is professor of political science and directs the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan.
Chapter 1. The Aesthetics of Sterility: Modernist Architecture and the End of the World
Chapter 2. Home Life in the Apocalypse: Restoring the Good City
Chapter 3. “Tear Down That Wall”: False Promises of Security
Chapter 4. Taking It to the Streets: Politics and Streetscapes in the Future City
Chapter 5. Invisible Architecture: Technology and Control in the Smart City
Chapter 6. Design to Survive: Lessons from Hollywood
"Finally, a volume that can be used in undergraduate seminars and general education capstone courses! This text is valuable to students and professors to engage apocalyptic and political landscapes about zombies, suburbia, New York, LA, and virtuality. The tone and discourse hit the perfect level to initiate enthusiasm and maintain interest--wrapped in Pop Culture. The secondary sources are contextualized and employed expertly so students will not be intimidated, and faculty can enter meaningful discussions in the classroom or online. Perhaps the most timely is Chapter 6: Lessons from Hollywood, where the culturally divisive topic of climate change is deftly approached by Trump and Parcell."
“As visionaries of the possible, both architects and filmmakers share the ability to imagine places — cities, communities, entire environments — and to use these images as "things to think with" about our shared past, present, and potential futures. By connecting these fields and providing a roadmap to these places — in the form of a refreshingly upbeat series of essays exploring the architecture of Apocalypse and dystopia on film — Trump and Parcell's book serves as a thoughtful invitation and extremely relevant guidebook to engage all of us in these discussions, as we do the hard work of shaping the actual future through our individual and collective actions.”