This post will be a day off from the daily grind of being an architecture student. In the spirit of Halloween, this post will be a cosmic high-five of two things I love…. Architecture….and zombies. Happy Halloween!
“They‘re not afraid! No matter what we do, no matter how many we kill, they will never, ever be afraid."
How do you fight nature and the elements? They have no fear, they’re neither alive nor dead, and their power ranges from a small trickle to an onslaught of almost immeasurable power. The first cognitive thought that went through modern man’s mind, his first instincts, was how to battle nature. For man, food was a battle against nature for energy. Mating was a battle against nature to live long enough to produce and rear a child and to endure the sun, wind, rain, and snow to start the process anew. The process of fighting against nature was a process of eliminating his fear of an unstoppable force with no fear. The culmination of man’s fight to survive was the innovation of architecture. When the first walls and roof were erected, man had created space; and with that space he was able to look this power in the eye, on his own terms and with no fear. On the horizon, however, lies a new authority that has thrust fear deep into the psyche of mankind. This assembly is neither alive nor dead, and it is incapable of fear, and in popular culture it is known as the walking dead.
In this day and age, the leading authority on zombie phenomenon is the author Max
Brooks who, through his research and analysis, was able to teach the world how to combat this threat for our survival through proper weaponry, preparedness, and defense. However, we must go one step further to truly endure; we must overcome our fear to truly be masters of our domain again. To overcome fear, one must control the way we perceive fear through our five senses. What we see, hear, touch, smell, and taste are the building blocks for our perception and the key to controlling fear. There is no better tool in man's arsenal than architecture for to this task. Through architecture, we can design our own built environment to our advantage and overcome our fear of the undead in a post-zombie apocalypse.
The first sense that most people identify with is that of sight. What we see in a space and how we perceive it can greatly affect the user of that space. The way a king sees his subjects or the way the rock star sees his fans is greatly affected due to the space that they view them from. To gain the elitist perspective, the space should be designed with there being a primary user of authority and a secondary, submissive user. A minimalist example of the elitist space would be a lecture hall. The space is intended for a teacher, in a dominant role, to be the primary user of the space while the students are the submissive secondary users (Nielsen 38). There are three key components that must be addressed for the space to work properly: the area of authority, the submissive area, and the barrier. The first component, the area of authority, is usually a smaller space than the submissive area with a complete line of sight of the entire surrounding area. In the lecture hall, it is the stage on to which the lecturer stands. In his perceptive, he sees everyone. Transversely, the submissive audience can only perceive the speaker. The space between the two areas is the barrier component that conjures the safety that the lecturer needs to command the room. The last is the submissive area full of masses that creates the assertiveness that the lecturer needs to exist in the dominant role. This system can be applied on a scale ranging from an entire site to a single room. For example, when the designer chooses a site the area should have some sort of natural barrier be it: deep enough water to obstruct a zombie’s path, canyon walls that cannot be climbed, the top of a mountain, or frozen tundra that would freeze the undead. It is integral for the user to be in a position of dominance. It can further be applied into the structure itself. A fence or an elevation change that will put the user out of reach where he can see them but they can only see him will begin to empower the user to the point that fear will no longer become an issue. The more barriers the designer puts between the authoritative space and submissive space the better “but” not everyone is as lucky to have a
house on stilts, atop a mountain, surrounded by cliffs, or a raging river. Most likely the user will be within earshot of the walking dead, which brings us to the next sense to be tamed.
Similar to sight, man’s perception of hearing can easily be used against us to live in a state of fear. The oppressive country of North Korea pumps propaganda over loud speakers twenty-four hours a day, all week long on the border between North and South Korea to not only instill fear into the residents of South Koreans to stay out, but also to implant the fear in the North Koreans to stay in. Not being able to control the sound around, especially over a long period of time, will cause a person to crack under pressure. During the interrogation process of Al Qaeda prisoners, loud music was played over extended periods of time as a form of torture in an attempt to get the prisoners to talk. In the case of the undead, the constant droning of the zombie moan will, overtime, drive any person mad. The ability of the user of the space to have control over such noises will give power to him, thus changing their perception of the situation. While the user won’t have the ability to control the zombies, he will have the proper architectural acoustic design to control: when, where, and how long he will be subjected to sound. Currently there are several different methods in use to control sound. One possible option is sound barriers similar to the ones used by civil engineers to deaden the sound of traffic on the highway.
Another idea, is designing a space with irregular angles to create a proper acoustic pattern outside the exterior walls. Also, the use of plant material such as shrubs, trees, or ivy could be used in conjunction with any other sound dampening device. On the interior of the building, double or triple pane glass could further be used in conjunction with sound proofing on the interior walls. There are infinite ways that sound could be handled in the design of the space. As long as the user is in control of the sound, his perception will be that he is in the dominant role. However, another method of sound elimination is the actual removal of the zombies themselves, which moves us onto our next topic, the sense of touch.
Above all, when it comes to the undead, the sense of touch is the toughest sense to tame. The fear of rotting, dead fingers grabbing, teeth ripping flesh from bone, and the eventual rise as one becomes another soldier in the undead army is the true nightmare everyone fears. However with the help of architecture, the user’s perception of touch can be altered to the point that they have no fear. The act of zombie removal can be as dangerous as mowing the lawn. The true power of zombies doesn’t lie in one; its lies in many. By designing bottlenecks into a perimeter, the user would be able to whittle thousands of zombies down to just one at a time. With a properly designed system, you can easily regulate the flow of the zombies. Case in point, Rick Grimes in the Walking Dead series, with only one arm and the assistance of only a few people, was able to wipe out hundreds of the undead because of a single weak point in his walls (Kirkman 17). Instead of all the walls collapsing, the undead funneled into one single point and they were dispatched easily. Facing the undead is an absolute must to survive in a zombie apocalypse; they are going to keep coming until they are disposed of, and they must be disposed of. The thought of being able to just wait it out in a house, a mall, or a military base is an unreal scenario as has been observed on numerous occasions. A few examples of these failed scenarios are: the mall scenario from George Romero's or Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead, the military base in Romero's Day of the Dead, and the farm house depicted in Night of the Living Dead. The act of getting into close quarters on a daily to weekly basis and easily dispatching the undead with the use of architectural design methods sets the user one step closer to overcoming their fear. Now that pressure has been taken off the fence, the task of body removal is at hand.
As a result of being surrounded by rotting, dead bodies, the sense of smell in a zombie apocalypse is put to the test. Our sense of smell, alerts us to death and disease and our natural reaction is to remove ourselves or remove the smell. To attain the role of dominance over the undead, the site or a system of the site must be implemented to ensure that the smell is managed properly. One of the most common methods used is burning of the bodies, but proper site design must be taken into account to upkeep proper sanitary procedures. Depending on the site, issues such as size, logistics, and wind direction can change the design of the space. Another common method is burial, either in mass or individually of the bodies. Depending on the size of the site and the security system burial may or may not be a feasible solution. The problems of labor and space are a high cost but the benefit of a spiritual space for the users of the site for solitude and reflection may outweigh the work put in. An alternative method that may be used is the use of lye (Trahan). While it may not be fiscally possible, lye in high concentrations has been used to accelerate the decomposition process to create a bio-diesel to fuel machines on the site. As a result of having the sense of smell under control by the user, daily tasks such as food preparation become easier.
Generally speaking, the sense of taste is not usually something that is brought up when architectural practices arise. However, proper site and building planning of water collection, food preparation and, cultivating areas is paramount in a land inhabited by the living dead.
Similarly to preparing to have enough food to wait out a snowstorm, making sure you are well stocked with food while surrounded by the undead is very important. Having enough canned food is only a start when it comes to proper preparation. To ensure there is no fear of starvation or thirst, a self sustaining food and water system should be an integral part of the site. If the site is not nearby a fresh water source, then some sort of water cistern should be the number one priority for the site design, as lack of water can kill the user within days. Once a working water system is in place, the site should have crops on a rotating system to make sure the soil is fertile enough to grow the next year. Also, having some sort of livestock should be put into the equation. While having cattle would be ideal, it isn’t necessarily feasible. Having smaller animals such as goats or chickens would suffice for the user of the site. Once a food and water system is properly designed in the site and set in place, the perception of the sense of taste, or the fear that there will be nothing more to taste, will no longer be an issue to the user.
In conclusion, the end product of this manifesto will be the new evolving style of architecture in a new post zombie apocalypse. The look of this new style is not driven by form; it is solely driven by the function of mankind to live its new life with the undead free from oppression and unabashedly standing in defiance without fear. The keystone in this new enlightened society will be heavily thrust upon the shoulders of the architectural profession to employ all their knowledge of spatial tectonics to alter the perception of this generation. As we stand inside our new built environment surrounded by this new tempest, we will look down upon the undead, we won’t hear them as they are pushed away, and we will enjoy the taste and smell of the rain as humanity weathers another storm.