Elven Urban Planning & Landscape Architecture

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  • Elven Urban Planning & Landscape Architecture


    One way to reinforce the non-Human impression of your Highborn Elves, is to break away from long-standing real life Human design forms in architecture, urban planning, landscape architecture and the like. Stark and simple geometric designs are standard when Humans map out buildings and street networks: There are squares, rectangles, circles, octagonals and a combination of such simple geometric forms. Parallell lines are a favourite.

    Fictive Elves on the other hand usually go well along with flowing lines, leaf forms, wave forms, perhaps simplified shapes borrowed from bottle-nosed dolphins, birds such as swans, swallows or eagles, and other elegant creatures and plants. In order to set Elves apart, one would expect that this plays true not only in surface decor but often also in the layout of buildings, gardens, streets, canals, road networks and modified landscapes (perhaps surrounding a mansion). One wouldn't expect Elves to resort to a mere gridwork, since that would be for Dwarves in their simpler moments or Humans when they can bother to even make an effort at urban planning. Instead, one would expect the layout of Elven cities, villages, farmed landscapes and so on to share some elements from their ornamental patterns.


    Below are some quick experimental doodles to try out some of the proposed design principles, depicting map details of Elven roads or street networks, or perhaps canals? Nothing refined and perhaps nothing worth using, but maybe something to get the ball of imagination rolling:


    And this doesn't even touch on such things as walkways, fountains, potential street lights, possible elegant and sweeping mosaic patterns inlaid into the road/street pavement, flanking statues, greenery and ways in which surrounding terraces, triumphal arches, buildings, bridges between towers and topography play into the overall impression of which this 2D layout is only a part. One would expect Elven urban planning and architecture to produce an artistic effect both on the ground and on the map. Likwise, Elven settlements would often be expected to make dramatic or soothing use of the landscape, often but not always favouring climbing heights or rolling hills over mere flatness, perhaps remodelling the landscape where necessary to better please their eyes (though not necessarily the cart-drivers!). Within reason, Elven practicality would probably often be adapted around the artistic layout of towns, buildings or roads, rather than the other way around. (Related to a fondness for slim, tall towers which look nice but leave a lot of walking up steps to reach a room.) And often, quirky features that would seem and act as an unnecessary minor hassle in the middle of a street's flow to Humans, would have the Elven denizens long since being used to it, forming their traffic behaviour around it in seeming harmony, even if the solution is pragmatically suboptimal.

    One source of inspiration could be Elven patterns like this or this. Another could be natural forms, for example a whole city whose street map forms an eagle in flight seen from the side; some kind of flower or leaf; a street network mimicking a tree branching out; or something mulilayered such as a city wall and main street map which hints at a proud, rearing horse head with throat (symbolizing victory, rising power and shining splendour), while inside this, the canal network running up from the harbour resembles a stylized kneeling Elf maid crying in sorrow, standing for loss, decline and fading glory.



    Just some tips for T9A artists and background writers. With fantasy Elves, the sky is the limit. You might want to take the chance for some daring novelties.

    The post was edited 6 times, last by Karak Norn Clansman ().

  • Masamune88 wrote:

    @Scottish Knight @Giladis Some inspiration that may come to the fore, also if you are able to provide direction that would be much appreciated
    For something like architecture, while it will be part of our work, we would also take inspiration from @Thorsen - master of all things visual!

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  • As a student of urban planning, I feel I have to reply. Personally, I feel that the typical human urban planning, at least in previous and contemporary form, can be seen as two dimensional and restricted in the shape it can take due to our knowledge and design thinking. Elven urban planning I feel does not need to diverge too much from that, it is still important that we can identify with it to a degree.

    However, such as Aegon's lovely drawing, or the shield linked by @Karak Norn Clansman, the design of specific objects and buildings with intricate form seems very elven too me, and something were the base form can still speak to me as a human while still containing a form of fantasy in its intricacy.

    As can be seen for example in the films versions of Tolkien's work, places such as Mirkwood, Caras Galadhon and RIvendell were home to interesting three-dimensional cityscapes. Using things such as different levels of pathways and buildings on, in, and on top of trees and each other create an overall cityscape (if you can call those that in the eleven cases) which I think will differ enough from "typical" human form that they could create a unique eleven expression of form and design.

    My two cents.
  • @Aegon : Warcraft gets their Elven cities right! Suramar from above:



    @bluu : Indeed!

    @Thorsen : Ideally you'd make use of both classic styles and something more of your own, if you come up with something. Different regions, architectural fashion periods and different architects, urban planners and rulers' tastes would account for a lot. One would expect Elves to be more daring, varied and artistic with their buildings and cities as a whole.

    ___________________




    A somewhat hasty concept map to illustrate some of the above proposals, drawn in the same quick manner and with the exact same type of felt pens which I drew city maps with as a child. Note that everything is simplified (e.g. no walkways or topography or statues), and even where the base of a building might have an odd form, the rest of the building might turn out to flow into more mundane shapes. Roads might have turned out broader than they should be since those were drawn first. Note also that the length of city wall to man and defend could have been shortened considerably with a different layout around the present head and wingtip section, but Elves aren't about minimalist practicality, Elves are about dashing beauty first and foremost ("The unadorned life is not worth living"), to which their practical solutions then have to take shape around.

    My brother proposed a better city map based on an eagle shape, namely something with wings like this, where the empty space between wings and head is the city's harbour, easily sealed off by giant harbour gates at the wingtips.

    Note also that this concept city have a lot of untouched marshlands close by. Elves, being resistant to sickness, would not find swamps to be an unattractive waste of productive land and den of pestilence. Rather, they would find their natural beauty appealing, not least for all the swarms of birds nesting thereabout.

    As you can imagine, a lot of buildings would be tall and towering structures, meaning that a small footprint on the ground doesn't say much about the actual space. Likewise, cellars, sewers and underground grain stores and reservoirs are not touched upon at all. A lot of roads and walkways would probably have sparse and elegant mosaic patterns inlaid into them. The military harbour is just a close copy of Carthage's. In the end, one would expect Elven cities to take on different forms than Human ones, given the different and more artistic mindset of Elves as well as the prevalence of high towers and ridden flying creatures mean that any noble worth his salt would like his city to have an appealing layout, whether mimicking the shape of objects or creatures, or having a street network based upon prismatic patterns or something else completely.

    Rules of thumb:

    Wide streets
    Don't squash buildings together cheek by jowl
    Flowing roads
    Stud it with fountains like gems
    Grids are for Dwarfs





    You're obviously free to make use of anything from this doodle if something would be to your liking.

    The post was edited 6 times, last by Karak Norn Clansman ().

  • I really like the direction you are taking this design in. I think another element worthy of consideration, sort of the 3rd missing dimension if you will, is the way that elven cities should appear to be partially "grown" out of their natural environment. Take for example, the old concept art of Gondolin from the LOTR series. If you look at the city walls and bridges, they all appear as natural extensions of the cliffs below the city. A counterpoint human example might be Middenheim, where the city is built in a similar fashion, but instead of "growing" out of the mountain, it is simply dropped on existing plateau.
  • @Karak Norn Clansman, your post was a bit long to quote, so I'll just mention you. I really like your (and your brother's?) sketches. Their basic shapes are something we as humans can base our senses in, a sort of organic grid. They remain true to medieval and later cities with the fortifications and immediately adjacent farmlands. The eagle shape also helps with the connection to nature which @Better with alcohol mentions. Still, the design to me looks unique enough that I can't say I've seen it before, at least not the way you have drawn it.

    Better with alcohol wrote:

    I really like the direction you are taking this design in. I think another element worthy of consideration, sort of the 3rd missing dimension if you will, is the way that elven cities should appear to be partially "grown" out of their natural environment. Take for example, the old concept art of Gondolin from the LOTR series. If you look at the city walls and bridges, they all appear as natural extensions of the cliffs below the city. A counterpoint human example might be Middenheim, where the city is built in a similar fashion, but instead of "growing" out of the mountain, it is simply dropped on existing plateau.
    The growing from natural shapes fits very well with an organic urban plan and with the connection of at least HBE, and of course SE, to nature. The MoCT is one such example, and urban planning could definitely be another. I think tying HBE urban planning to natural shapes would depend on how strong our connection is to SE. The stronger a connection, the more natural shapes would make for a good visual resemblance.

    All in all, I hope this is something which is at east considered for future background. I personally would find a lot of enjoyment and immersion from it.
  • I wonder if it would be a strong enough differentiator between HBE and SE to consider very similar architectural styles but with different building materials. HBE being more of stone and precious metals, and SE being more wood and rough cut obsidian, like HBE style but with a more rustic feel. Once again reaching to LOTR to visualize my thinking, I would consider comparing Rivendel (SE) and the harbour that the main cast departs from at the end of the 3rd movie...appologies the name escapes me...but as a suitable HBE representation.
  • Hey guys, this is an area I actually think I could contribute a lot to, as, well, I'm an architect lol. The idea of high elven architecture is something I've tbh, given way too much thought to over the years. I actually think most video games have actually gotten it wrong, and the closest approximation to what I think would be an appropriate reflection is the earlier GW artwork. Even that though I think isn't quite right. The word organic get's thrown around in the world of architecture far too much, usually by undergraduate students who don't actually know what it means, and usually as an excuse for just designing something curvy without any logic behind it. If you actually look at nature everything is incredibly ordered and based around mathematics, indeed the very idea of classical proportion is based around the golden section; a ratio found in nature. The actual term for that type of curvy design would be parametric (see Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry).

    Personally, the way I think high elves would design, would be a kind of contemporised classicism but using a gothic vernacular, very much based around rules and logic. The buildings would have a minimalist sensibility, and be about light (that's what gothic architecture was all about, new technology that let them build massive windows, it's often referred to as the architecture of light), and interior spaces wouldn't be the opulent rococco stuff we see in video games but more beautiful backdrops for the elves themselves, allowing the focus to fall on the craftsmenship of individual objects and clothes. Just quite how reduced the level of ornamentation would be is actually something I've been working on a little for a terrain project I have planned (frickin love building me some model buildings).

    Anyway to give you an idea of the sort of thing I'm talking about, here's a church renovation in germany by a british architect called John Pawson, he's like the king of minimalism, an absolute zealot, I don't think High Elven stuff would go this far, but it's just to give you an idea:






    Now imagine this with gothic arches rather than romanesque and it's starting to paint the picture I'm describing.


    Another building to consider, one I refer to a lot in my own work, is the Cistercian abbey of Le Thoronet, this is an absolutely astonishing building in France, and the simple way in which grand moves are executed is something I'd see Highborn Elves using a lot, though not quite so austere.






    I think High elven design would essentially revolve around a few architecural elements:

    - The round tower
    - The cloister
    - The gothic arch
    - The fishscale tiled roof
    - Towers would have convex conical roofs (very hard to build)
    - Slender bridges
    - Utilising grand landscapes, e.g. mountains, cliffs, valleys, sort of like Turner sketches.

    In terms of urban planning I think they'd follow a very ordered system, probably have a penchant for radial city plans, possibly mon-saint michel style spiral streets even.

    Anyway here's a few quick preliminary sketches I did trying to work out the elven vernacular, long term plan is to build that tower using 3d printing, just need to massively improve my grasshopper and rhino skills...

    Apologies for photo quality. And the shitty sketches lol.






    The post was edited 1 time, last by Ielthan ().

  • @Aegon interesting, the 2nd and 3rd image make me think what if Santiago Calatrava designed High Elves :p.

    The 4th one I like a lot, that's more in line with the sort of thing I was thinking. I should have mentioned water elements, in particular waterfalls. Unfortunately hard to plan gaming tables with waterfalls in :(. My planned table can be seen in the 1st sketch, a tower defending a river crossing, want to have a dwarf mine eventually on the other corner, cue war of the beard scenarios lol.
  • Better with alcohol wrote:

    I wonder if it would be a strong enough differentiator between HBE and SE to consider very similar architectural styles but with different building materials. HBE being more of stone and precious metals, and SE being more wood and rough cut obsidian, like HBE style but with a more rustic feel. Once again reaching to LOTR to visualize my thinking, I would consider comparing Rivendel (SE) and the harbour that the main cast departs from at the end of the 3rd movie...appologies the name escapes me...but as a suitable HBE representation.
    I believe you are refering to the Grey Havens? I can see them as an example of high elven planning and archtecture, but I ahve unfortunately seen too little of them to say anymore. I would put Rivendell possibly between HBE and SE. To me it would classify more as nature affiliated HBE than SE, but I can definately see where you are coming from.

    @lelthan, excellent drawings, quite envious of your skill. Always interesting to see other perspectives and I like your minimalistic take. Perhaps there could be some kind of cultural difference in HBE society between the minimalists and the, well, more extravagant design?

    @Aegon, you seem to have brought a third style, a more bombastic (?) one? I like this one too, I think we need them all. :D

    Oh, and organic? Yeah, that gets thrown around a lot in urban planning too.
  • If anyone has followed the different styles for Chaos Dwarfs through the years (including in architecture), you're probably aware that they all sit happily side by side. As implicated above, the more the merrier! Especially so if the style twists between towns or regions would seem very distinct and dizzying to humans. Beautiful proposals and pictures.

    As to the cloak of beards, we're using the Phoenix Crown as a chamber pot.

    The post was edited 2 times, last by Karak Norn Clansman ().

  • @Karak Norn Clansman:

    Still not good enough to make it into a magic item ;) .

    Anyway, as it was touched by a Dwarf, it has lost all its value.

    So we made a new one, a better one instead :) .

    "What is dead may never die, but rises again, harder and stronger".... oh wait, wrong universe :D .
    Furion about our SeaGuard (V.0.202.0): "I don't expect much of them, and indeed not much have they delivered"