The End of Architecture: Theme Parks, Video Games, and the Built Environment in Cinematic Mode

Discussions about our contemporary built environment tend to look at themed and virtual spaces as something irrelevant at best or, worse, as something disdainful. Yet entertainment, as a visual and experiential thrust, has consumed the built environment to the point that theming has taken an elevated role that has heightened our expectations for spaces. These spaces have always conveyed narrative; there have always been themes. Thematic design, however, is a form of visual storytelling executed primarily in consumer spaces that is at once popular, profitable, prolific, and above all, problematic. We explore how key developments in the evolution of early cinema and animation push beyond the screen to influence the built environment and examine a similar path within the virtual worlds of digital gaming. We outline the origins of contemporary themed spaces, both physical and virtual, to pinpoint the influences that promulgate a predominately story-based vision of space. To that end we speculate on the increasing bleed between physical and virtual worlds in which architecture is no longer a primary consideration in placemaking.

The Forest as a Future Ecology for Twentieth-Century Retail Landscapes in the Midwest: A Case Study of Columbus, Ohio

This article examines the ecological and spatial consequences of large-scale retail centers in the Midwest, specifically Columbus, Ohio, affected by the phenomena of changing urban trends and consumer behavior. The landscape of retail industry is changing as we know it. Consumer behavior has shifted to online and experiential shopping, leaving retail’s big box asphalt landscapes as obsolete spaces in the urban fabric of many cities, most notably those in the Midwest. While the ecological and social impact of these spaces have been known for over ten years, very little advancement, change, and adaptation can be seen in the way cities plan for growth and regeneration; the car remains a driving force behind design of all urban forms. Using the Paris Agreement on climate change as a guide for urban transformation, this research seeks to develop strategies for forestation practices for regional and community retail centers, which will enrich environmental values, create social identity, and, in turn, increase the economic value of surrounding communities.

Urban Design to Improve Health Conditions: The Case of Shanghai’s Taopu Area Brownfield Redevelopment

The typical objectives of brownfield redevelopment are site clean-up and putting contaminated land to productive uses. This article features a brownfield case that not only remediated pollution but went further, promoting the inhabitants’ physical and emotional well-being. This article first reviews the extant studies on brownfield redevelopment and how they connect to urban design for better human health. It then focuses on the case study of the Taopu area in Shanghai’s Putuo District, which was an old industrial brownfield near the core of Shanghai. The urban design for the Taopu area utilized an integrated and progressive approach that not only mitigates the existing brownfield condition, but also promotes better human health by adjusting the urban grid, planning pedestrian and vehicular pathways and formulating a new urban greenway system. More and more Chinese cities are drafting health city plans and creating healthy neighborhoods. This brownfield redevelopment case study can provide valuable urban design ideas to promote inhabitants’ health and well-being.