Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Worldbuilding Wednesday: Aquatic Architecture

One thing I haven't been able to do in quite a long time is simply sit around and toss ideas for characters, stories, what have you around. Back when I lived in Nova Scotia, I had a friend I'd do that with all the time, and it was totally a blast. So I thought why not bring that back, at least in blog form?

Basically, the idea is once a week I'll post some sort of "hook" to speculate about, and everyone who wants can jump in and kick in their $0.02 and see what develops. Hopefully I can keep this up as a regular fun-time thing, especially if the response is good.

So here goes. The topic I had in mind this week was assume a humanoid race living under the sea. Think mermaids, Aquaman, the Gillblins from WoW or whatever you like. Doesn't necessarily have to be Earth, although take what is typically found in Earth oceans as a base. Also assume some decent level of society where they'd want to build towns or cities, and build up a culture.

So, given all that, what would their buildings look like?

Honestly, i've never been a fan of stuff like The Little Mermaid or whatever (although it's a great movie) where everything is just shells and the like. I dunno, just making it all organic and looking like what's already on the sea floor seems a bit of a cop-out. Besides which, it also assumes (1) predators aren't an issue since most stuff is out in the open, (2) the builders are more into mimickry or re-use, rather than putting their own creativity into the mix, and (3) no particular need for privacy or other things that would make you want to have an "indoors" place to go.

So obviously, we'd want to talk building materials. Clearly there's no wood to be had, although depending on scale (the people might not be human-sized) there are undersea plants that could provide some materials. Loads of mud and silt down there, but something like adobe wouldn't really work since there'd be no way to bake it. Perhaps a novel approach to hardening clay to make, in essence, "pottery" buildings? It's a thought. My own approach would be more along the lines of masonry, which would suggest that any established culture would generate master stoneworkers. It's certainly present on the seafloor as much as anywhere else, and there are any number of things you could use as mortar from organic compounds to simply foregoing it and building based on detailed cuts.

As to the buildings themselves, obviously the concept of "street level" wouldn't mean much for a swimming culture. So while floors might exist, you'd expect residents and visitors to come and go at any level. So perhaps large openings, useable as both doors and windows. Perhaps domed structures would work as well, with entrances at the top rather than the bottom. Lots of possibilities there. Which of coure leads to the question of whether glass or other clear substance can be available, whether there's a desire to protect against ocean currents, is it in a region where heat/cold fluctuations are an issue, etc.

Great fun stuff to think about, don't you think?