Worldbuilding Wednesday – Architecture – July 5th

Through the end of 2017, Worldbuilding Wednesday themes are going to coincide with the chapters for my forthcoming workbook, The A-Zs of Worldbuilding (based off a blog series I posted back in 2014). So, if you’d like an idea of what’s coming ahead, just go peek at that. 😉

Using the theme is not required for participation, but is just a jumping point if you don’t know what to start with.

Worldbuilding Wednesday, architecture, Rebekah Loper, fantasy, science fiction, speculative fiction, worldbuilding, blog hop
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One of the first glimpses you can give a reader about the nature and setting of your world is how it looks, and the style and types of buildings you incorporate can say a lot about the characters, their world, and the history they share. 

The key factors to consider when figuring out the buildings and structures in your world are:

  • The resources available
  • The terrain
  • The climate
  • The culture

Is there water nearby? This will be the deciding factor for a group of people deciding where to settle and build homes. Only in our first-world societies do people have the luxury of trucking water in. So think about this question as you create.

These will be the main factor in the types of structures that can be built. The two main types of resources that will be used is what is native to a region, and what is close enough to be carried in from elsewhere, depending on the level of technology that exists in your society. (Whether things could be hauled in by vehicles with engines, or ‘transported’ instantaneously from other sites, or whether everything has to come by foot.)

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There are advantages and disadvantages to different types of building materials.

Cob is easy to create, as long as there is soil, sand, straw, and water. Then it’s just a matter of building it up by hand and letting it dry. It is surprisingly sturdy, and there are cob homes in Europe that are hundreds of years old.

Wood is versatile, but more difficult to work with. There will be sawing and cutting required at some step of the process, and without blades, it will be infinitely more difficult. Wood will also shrink as it ages, so using ‘green’ wood (freshly cut) for building is not a good plan unless there’s no other choice.

Masonry requires a large amount of stone to work with. It is heavy, and in general is more time-consuming, but it can make some of the sturdiest buildings if it’s done correctly.

For space-faring societies, there will be more metalwork, because space ships have to hold up to the pressure changes they might encounter, as well as possibly entering and exiting an atmosphere.

It all depends on what is available, and how it can be worked.


The type of ground will also affect how a building is constructed. If the ground is too soft, anything heavy will sink or lose its structural integrity more quickly. Foundations can be reinforced with piers, but this is sometimes only a temporary fix.

Building directly onto or into the bedrock can be a substitute for a foundation, but will come with its own challenges.

Look for ways to use the geography of an area to the builder’s advantage. Caves are an excellent substitute for building a home when time is short, provided there are no wild animals already living in them.

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Heat, cold, wet, and dry all have a different effect on different types of building materials. Stone is more reliable with all of these – it will not rot away, it is both insulating and radiating with heat and cold and can create a stable interior environment (similar to the inside of a cave), and it won’t dry out and become brittle. Accommodations can with most other types of material, but it will be more labor intensive over time.


In the early days of a society, architecture will be more based on what is needed to survive. But as a way of life is stabilized, people will begin to put their own flair to things, and eventually some of those trends will catch on and become a defining trait of a culture.

Those trends may come about simply because something is attractive (colorful paint), requires a great amount of skill in manipulating the local resources (elaborate carvings or blacksmith work), or for more practical purposes (window coverings for privacy and keeping out drafts).

Nomadic cultures will be an additional consideration – do they have someplace permanent they can return to after weeks or months on the road, or do they have to be able to take everything – including structures – with them?

Further Questions

  1. What is a design element you want to include in the architecture for your worldbuilding?
  2. What is a building technique that may not quite fit the organic growth of your fictional culture, but was something your people group learned from another culture and adapted?
  3. How do the living structures of the very poor and the very rich compare?
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Can’t wait to see your response posts – don’t forget to submit them in the link list below! Please review the rules and guidelines for Worldbuilding Wednesday before participating. Thank you!

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