Architecture: Using Buildings to Enhance Your Setting

A is for Architecture
A is for Architecture

Stopping by for the first time for the A-Z Challenge? Read a short intro to the A-Zs of Worldbuilding here!

The first thing we’re going to look at in the A-Z’s of Worldbuilding is architecture.

I’m going to use a loose definition of architecture, rather than a strict one, and we’re going to look at all structures in general. 

So, when it comes to structures, keep these things in mind:

  • What resources are available for building? Trees for lumber, stone, or just earth?
  • What is the ground like? Is it suitable to build on the ground or underground? Will a foundation be required? Or will buildings need to be elevated, either in trees or on stilts?
  • How can the geography of the building location be used to the builder’s advantage? Are there caves that can be used as homes? Hills in an area that tends to flood?
  • Is there water nearby? No one is going to settle permanently where water can’t be found.
  • Is it hot or cold, wet or dry?

Certain accommodations will need to be made depending on the seasonal temperatures.

Hot climates mean people will either build underground, or build so that plenty of air can circulate. Builders in cold climates will build in locations where there are windbreaks. Wet climates require more durable materials so they do not deteriorate too quickly.

  • Are there any styles of homes reserved specifically for certain members of society? Think ‘castles’.
  • Are there any shapes considered significant to the culture’s history? Is there a reason why a society would only construct square buildings, or even round ones?
  • Are there any shapes considered sacred to the culture’s history? Are these shapes embraced for use and placed in homes or at crossroads as talismans? Or are they shunned, considered taboo, only for use in temples or shrines or by royalty?

Don’t limit yourself to only these considerations, though.

This is only a sampling of the sources you can draw on to make your world look as unique in your reader’s mind as it does in yours. Don’t be afraid to look at real life cultures in similar climates and settings as your story – see how they’ve built things, especially palaces, temples, and cathedrals. You certainly can build everything from scratch, but you don’t by any means have to.

Original photo used in header image by veggiegretz.

My intention is to turn the A-Zs of Worldbuilding into a workbook after the Challenge is finished. If you’d like to stay notified about that, you can subscribe to my newsletter here. Please make sure and select the A-Zs of Worldbuilding option!

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About Rebekah

Rebekah Loper writes character-driven epic fantasy featuring resilient women in trying and impossible circumstances who just want to save themselves but usually end up saving the world, often while falling in love.
She lives in Tulsa, OK with her husband, dog, two formerly feral cats, a small flock of feathered dragons (...chickens. They're chickens), and an extensive tea collection. When she's not writing, she battles the Oklahoma elements in an effort to create a productive, permaculture urban homestead.