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Has Magic Affected Your Architecure or Urban Planning?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Creed, Jun 27, 2017.

  1. Creed

    Creed Sage

    Hey everyone,

    I was just wondering if anyone's got any interesting examples of cities and buildings being affected by the magic of their world. This is something that gets ignored fairly frequently I find. Instead, fantasy tends to examine how magic affects political structure (which is still very neat).

    Some examples from fiction we may recognize are the awesome flying cities like Malazan's Moon's Spawn. Another would be the city of Machi from Daniel Abraham's Long Price Quartet - the city has a being that can manipulate stone like water, resulting in very tall towers, as well as the creation of tunnels where the people live in the winter.

    I'll need time to think this through for myself, but what about your worlds?
  2. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    I have messed around with the idea of a city. Given the relative danger of expanding the city into the surrounding areas, the residents use extra dimensional spaces inside their buildings to create more livable space. This includes greenhouses and areas for livestock.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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  3. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    In different ways in different books. Sometimes it's been as simple as a wizard tower where the tower is actually a device to let wizards practice dangerous magic in places far removed from where others could get hurt. In my latest I've got winged elves, so the architecture changes to allow for winged people - wider doorways and balconies from which locals can simply take flight.

    And I've also used Saigonnus' idea of extradimensional pockets - but not in buildings to make them TARDIS like. Instead I made them into "pockets" that wizards can have with them wherever they go so if they need a book of spells at somepoint, they just reach into it while say in the middle of the jungle and there it is.

    Cheers, Greg.
    Creed likes this.
  4. Aurora

    Aurora Sage

    Love your question. Yes. My Elven forest city is being affected by dark magic that's killing all the trees. The dangers of this continuing are many. No one has any idea what's causing it and to be frank, neither do I. We'll all know once I get towards the end of the story.
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  5. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

    Great thread, Creed.

    In all of my Fantasy worlds, Magic has certain impact on the local architecture. It's not that all of the towns and cities enjoy magical modifications to their houses and buildings, as most of them are pretty normal. What really happens is that the Mages love to build for themselves incredible structures that are not possible without Magic.

    Examples of this are enormous castles taller than any skyscraper here in Earth, not to mention that some of those magical creations are made of various types of transparent crystal.

    If you enter one of those places it's not transparent inside, and from the point of view of somebody outside you just disappear into a completely empty structure.

    Other fortresses simply look too perfect and beautiful to have been made by ordinary techniques, and in other cases the interior holds many magical tricks. It's possible to spend hours going downstairs just to suddenly find yourself at the highest part of a great tower, or maybe you can walk into a gateway and travel to a different realm.

    It's also possible to build houses and castles on cirrus clouds that never dissolve...

    As you can see, my Mages are often very elitist. However, they always live separated from the ordinary people (Mages have a society and a government of their own), so the magical elitism does not have much impact on the general population.

    I love Fantasy and Imagination =)
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2017
  6. elemtilas

    elemtilas Inkling

    Magic affects everything in The World, in some way or other and at some point in time. But there are some specific examples I know of. Here's one:

    There is, for example, the Great Road. It stretches from the ancient city of Crindio along the shores of the Ocean of Sunset in the Uttermost West all the way to the (even more) ancient city of Pylicundas along the Sea of the Moons in the Eastlands. It's around 5040 miles as the crow flies, though I've no way of knowing how long the travel would be as the wolf runs.

    In form, it's an ordinary, though well made stone paved highway, broad enough for two oliphant drawn waggons to pass comfortably, well cambered and has good kerbs and drainage ditches. It was built by no known race of people on the planet. Daine and Teyor hold that the "Old Ones" built it, though they're rather less sure who the "Old Ones" actually are. On the other hand, Men hold that "the gods" built it. ("The gods" are nothing more than their faulty and semi-mythologised memories of the angelic Powers that shaped the universe. They don't need to build roads.)

    In any event, The Road is one of several very interesting and very ancient artifacts of deep and cunning magic. Practically speaking, it is a wonder of engineering. It crosses mountain ranges through majestic and picturesque passes and spans gorges and broad rivers on beautifully crafted bridges. In the fall, leaves always blow off to the sides. In the winter, snow never accumulates. In the summer, rain never floods it. If some orcish fellow tries to break off a stone, it repairs itself. If some king orders a perpendicular road to be built across it, it will form a perfect intersection with the new road. If a river shifts course or a swamp encroaches, new bridges and masonry embankments will develop.

    Things get interesting when cities or towns get built around it. The Road will not let anyone make its course narrower or wider. It can not be straightened or its course altered. If the king tries that, it will right itself over night. If you build a bridge over it, curious brass and crystal devices will appear on the underside of the bridge that light up at night. If buildings are built nearby, The Road will grow an interesting kind of raised pavement along its edge and yarsai sapplings will appear at intervals in raised stone lined gardens.

    The Road seems to love being travelled upon, and will do everything in its power to ensure that its travellers journey is smooth and free from natural hazard. But it won't just let local authorities walk all over it!
  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I used this in my novelette Mad House. I, too, had a building created by wizards. It began as an ordinary construction, with hired workers, same as any, though the first wizards put protective wards and the like on it. Over time, though, the wizards rather than bringing in workers (this takes place on an island off the coast of France) began to effect repairs themselves, using magic. They also make expansions. So by the time of the story, the Black Isle is nearly covered with a shambles of buildings of every style and caprice, all more or less dependent on magic to keep them standing. As you might expect, as the centuries pass, the thing begins to come apart.

    I've got other things in mind, but that's the only time I've made explicit a connection between architecture and magic.
    Creed likes this.
  8. Creed

    Creed Sage

    I love this idea! I can imagine characters in a setting with these buildings, and the overwhelming feeling of being watched by something inside... Very creepy. :alien:

    One of my races is restricted to a form of magic that allows them to destroy, and never create. As a result, their domiciles are simply caves they shout into rock. They are also planetary nomads, so they litter the worlds they inhabit with these.

    Their counterparts can only create. They can produce from nothing a marble-like material and shape it in various ways. As a result (combined with an ideology of colonizing worlds and preserving civilizations) they also explore worlds and leave structures behind, and because they are able to create new laws of physics that counteract gravity, their cities evolve to be vertical and - towards the later stages of their civilization - even mobile.

    One city relies on magic to manipulate weather: to bring rain for crops, and as a military installment. As a result the city limits naturally correspond to the radial distance of the magical source, and the city climbs a mesa and digs into it.
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  9. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

    Not in anything I've yet finished, I don't think. But I had a couple instances in incomplete or still-under-planning work.

    Foremost was a world in which several cities were built by a conquering mage-king of a few generations past, who believed magic could be used to help create a better civilization. One of his principal ideas and legacies was in urban planning, where cities are literally built along the lines of enormous magical spells (like a magical rune drawn into the ground). The people living, working, dying, etc within the lines and building which make up the key points of these spells powered it. The spells themselves had the effect of dampening dangerous magics, strengthening the boundaries of the plane (making summoning demons and stuff more difficult), and even helping keep people calm and less likely to lose their temper (though this part isn't widely known, as it is assumed it would alarm many).

    Secondly was an urban fantasy setting where magical beings would start to show up in parts of the world abandoned by human beings, like derelict factories and condemned buildings. Their presence in the world caused things to stop fitting together correctly: doorframes would be suddenly off-kilter with the doors perpetually hanging just barely open, cracks and holes would appear in previously solid brick walls. It is through these holes in the world that they would enter and exit. The very few humans who knew about them would make use of this, and in one case a city mayor who was "in the know" was a stickler for having abandoned buildings renovated or condemned to prevent such "infestations."
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  10. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    The way magic works in my setting has a large impact on infrastructure and on travel. This is a contemporary-ish setting, with computers and cellphones and trains and airships and all kinds of other things that we could plausibly encounter in the real world (plus a bunch of other things we can't). However, there are no cars (well, almost).

    Here's the deal:
    Everything alive in the world has a soul. The soul is involved with the channeling of the aether, which is a required part for wielding magic. The aether is everywhere, and any soul is always in touch with the aether even when magic isn't being channeled.

    Normally, this isn't an issue, unless you start moving really fast. This is when Soul Friction comes into play. If you move too fast through the physical world, your soul will also move too fast through the aether, and the resulting friction will begin to erode your soul. This is bad (in case that wasn't obvious. :p).
    As such, the personal automobile never quite caught on as a mode of transportation. The convenience of speedy independent travel did not outweigh the inconvenience of having your immortal soul destroyed.

    Fortunately, you can still travel at speed if you're properly grounded, like in a train. The way the train is bound to the rail prevents the effects of soul friction, and if you're on a train you can travel at significantly higher speeds than if you're on your own.

    This means that most cities have very well developed subway systems or trams, but that the streets aren't adapted for usage by cars. Horse drawn carts are still common, as they travel at safe speeds. Cars exist, but are not much use.

    Airship are also common, and they're often used for deliveries to locations where nearby trains aren't available. It's not uncommon for buildings within the cities to have delivery platforms on the roof.
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  11. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    Should also mention that in my work being edited at the moment, magic as well as destroying societies, completely transformed cities. So think of cities with medieval technology, suddenly given immense magic. In medieval time the buildings maximum heights for a start were about five or six stories, both because ofthe architectural limits of their construction techniques, and because people didn't have lifts. But with magic allowing people to build out of diamond etc the technological constraints didn't matter, and since they could fly a lack of lifts didn't matter with. So they built huge cities of sky scrapers, while at the same time their technology like metallurgy went backwards. Similarly they topped their huge skyscrapers with immense works of art. Spires, turrets, giant globes, whatever took the artist's fancy - simply because they could.

    If magic is strong enough to overcome even basic laws of nature, then there are no limits. Of course when the magic fails, things have a tendency to go very wrong!

    Cheers, Greg.
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  12. Addison

    Addison Auror

    Surprisingly this is something I know should affect my world but it just won't show itself. The nearest I've gotten is that some buildings, depending on location, budget and other things, can be built with protection and construction spells in the building itself. The next thing is that there are special levels, or buildings, for flying broom and carpets to park.

    As for architecture and city planning....not so much. Part of me thinks it should, but it wouldn't tell me how. Of all the times my muse chooses to shut up, this is crappy timing.
  13. Awesome! Setting-description-obsessed architecture nerd here. I love ideas like this. I especially am attracted to the idea of cities and architecture shaped by magic, having gone to ruin after magic departed the world.

    I have many ideas for flying cities that are going into a story I'm developing. In that story, magic wielders were once able to shape stone and metal with their minds. Teams of magic wielders could be powerful enough to raise islands out of the water and fortresses of stone or clay out of the earth. As a result, fantastic cities and buildings could be created, but unfortunately, once magic faded, those structures went to ruin.

    The flying cities aren't necessarily magical, unless you count my invention of a lighter-than-air, inert, harmless gas to hold them up...
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  14. Creed

    Creed Sage

    Maybe we could take the thread to the hypothetical, thought-experiment level...

    We have a couple examples of flying cities, cities which use portals and extra-dimensional space, and cities that can grow outward/upward in surprising ways.

    How might this change access to food and water? How might this inform trade? Or the disposal of waste?
    And how, in turn, would that change the way the city developed?

    I could write an essay on this stuff :D
  15. Well, for starters, a flying city would be at least somewhat dependent on resources from the ground. Food could potentially be farmed in the sky but building materials would probably have to come from below.
  16. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    I have a world where portals for transportation is common. Trade would be far easier and you'd have less spoilage if you could travel an hour to the portal, pass through and then another hour's travel to your destination.

    The side effect is that moving military forces into a country's territory would be super easy. There was an accord after a war that employed portals. Only a few portals exist that will take people to other countries.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2017
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  17. Creed

    Creed Sage

    I'm imagining that skyscrapers in a fantasy world would maybe increase urban population density, and thus resource demand, waste output, disease outbreak rates, etc. Or alternatively, massive garden towers, with vertical fruit orchards and magical hydroponics systems. What about in the winter? With low magic, massive towers would be impossible to heat, so either they would be vacated (like in Daniel Abraham's A Betrayal in Winter), or crowded by poor families like in tenement structures, or inhabited by the ridiculously wealthy who can spend a fortune on coal or wood.

    Would people still toss their chamber pots out the window when they’re fifty floors up? I hope not. What happens if there’s a fire? That was a major issue in Roman tenements, but maybe these towers are made of glass.

    I don’t want to keep going forever, but what if you could raise pigs and grow wheat in a separate dimension where the sun never sets? And its accessible through a plain wooden door, in a hub of doors kept by a farmer’s guild? Sewers might even just lead into another dimension - boom, maybe we’ve averted cholera and other such outbreaks. Or what if everyone can have a mini-dimension in their home, like the balcony/windowsill garden phenomenon but with family farms? Historically, the promise of farmland has been one of the most powerful incentives for recruiting soldiers, and of course the goal of so much warfare has been to capture farmland. So that problematizes things a bit.

    Saigonnus, I can imagine a restricted network of portals within a city, pretty much exactly as we see loading screens in video games. Find a hub, teleport to this district, walk to the market. Without restrictions I can totally see your military concerns. Also, what might portals do for crime and espionage. I can imagine some confusing getaway tricks.
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  18. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

    I had a city full of magical architecture. Sadly all my extensive writing on it had to be purged when my computer got infected by about a legion of viruses and a cohort of malware.
    It had the usual impossibly tall yet narrow buildings, shapes that defy gravity, hovering islands and flying rikshaws. The elite in the city were all wizards and sorcerors all competing with eachother. This lead to many of them creating their own pocket universes/dimensions, which were scattered around the place. The center of the city onsisted of a grand skyscraper palace circled by an immensely tall spiral fountain that gathered its water from the pretty white clouds that always formed around the top.
    The city conisted of stacked layers of districts. The higher up the district, the wealthier. At the bottom lived the very poor who lived next to canals of pure magic energy-fluid.

    Oh and there was a spectral train that could go through buildings.

    In terms of planning itself I can't remember much. I gave up on that world atleast for now.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2017
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  19. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Minstrel

    In my UrFan series, "the magical world" is a collection of pocket realms* (I hate it when these parallel worlds are are called "dimensions"), each ranging in size from that of a large building to that of a small city, and each connected to at least two others by a network of anchors and portals. The magic in my world that is the most thouroughly researched and the most powerfully practiced is that of conjuring and maintaining the artificial realms and the connections between them.

    In the realms large enough to support the most thriving communities, buildings and pathways are designed primarily around being spacious enough to accommodate the larger species like psoglavs (generally 6' 8" - 8' 8") and minotaurs (generally 7'6 to 9' 9") and the flying species like dragons, with speed and flight magic made available for everybody else to move around easily.

    The most enourmous dragons cannot be accommodated architecturally, but dragons are among the most psychologically solitary species in my world, and most of those who venture into the communal realms in the first place would likely have shapeshifted into a different species anyway in order to avoid being overwhelmed by the number of people around them.
  20. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    The Edan (alien-elf-like culture) use life sculpting to shape their trees, as well as their art.

    There is also a city with walls that never need repaired because it sits between two worlds, so to speak, even when uninhabited on one side, the other side handles the upkeep.

    And there's a domed building that always shows the stars above without a sun, and priests can walk amongst these stars. Their steps ring as chimes.

    And probably loads more as time goes on.

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