The last couple of days I have been pretty giddy. I have been getting very excited about something that is just around the corner. And tonight it is finally here.
At 9pm on AMC my favorite show The Walking Dead will kickoff season 7!
The Walking Dead is by far my favorite show on television. I would put it above other favorites like Game of Thrones, Stranger Things and House of Cards…..I just can’t get enough of it.
The funny thing is that I am not much of a horror buff, never read comics and I originally had no interest in the show. Like a lot of people that didn't watch the show I assumed that The Walking Dead was just a campy show about zombies. I also am not a big fan of blood and gore so that was also a turnoff.
But then I watched it.
The Walking Dead is about People and Community
There is no doubt that the zombies are a big part of the show and some scenes get pretty gruesome. But The Walking Dead is much more than that. The Walking Dead is not about the zombies. The Walking Dead is a show about people and how they get along during a pretty awful time. The zombies are merely a backdrop. Similar to drunk college kids in our neighborhood. You see them stumbling around the sidewalk, mumbling, slobbering and if one of them bites you that is a very, very bad thing.
The Walking Dead is also about Architecture
This is not just my way of making this blog relevant. (kinda is though) Fans of the show know that Architecture plays a huge role in The Walking Dead. During the apocalypse having adequate shelter is extremely important.
I once introduced you all to a Roman architect named Vitruvius in a blog called What is Architecture? In that post I shared how Vitruvius defined architecture as Firmness, Commodity and Delight. In The Walking Dead, the best architecture is characterized by Firmness and Commodity with delight taking the back seat. But I would argue that delight does play a role and I will get into that later in the post.
Still don't believe that The Walking Dead is about architecture? The importance of architecture in The Walking Dead is highlighted by the fact that many of the seasons of the show are defined by the buildings and places that the characters inhabit.
Let's look at some of places we have been in The Walking Dead.
The farm was from season 2 of the show. This was really the first time that the characters had some sort of place that felt like home. The farm certainly fulfilled Vitruvius's 3 values of Firmness, Commodity and Delight.
Under this roof bonds started to form and a community began to form. Of course that was short-lived as a hoard of walkers swamped the farm and everyone was forced to evacuate. But it was nice while it lated.
The Prison (West Georgia Correctional Facility)
After the farm the characters wondered the woods until finding the prison. Season 3 and the first half of season 4 are focused around life in prison. But not the kind of life in prison we think of. These folks were actually happy to be in prison.
As you can imagine, the same type of protection that keeps people in a prison are also effective at keeping people out of the prison. So our band of characters were just tickled to stumble upon the prison where they felt safe from the outside world. Eventually some jerk named The Governor f'ed up the serenity of the prison but just like the Farm, it was nice while it lasted.
Woodbury has been my favorite setting in The Walking Dead. Woodbury is modeled after that Main Street America that we all love.
Two and three story brick buildings with classical proportions and handsome details. Beautiful storefronts and awnings really gave life to this quaint little town. One of my architecture professors at University of Maryland, Karl Du Puy would describe the town of Woodberry as "Apple Pie, Motherhood and Chevrolet."
Alexandria is supposed to be located in the Alexandria, Virginia. The reality is that the faux town of Alexandria is right around the block from the faux town of Woodbury in the real life town of Senoia, Georgia.
This little town has the feeling of a new urbanist community such as Seaside, Florida or the I'on neighborhood in Charleston, South Carolina. For those not familiar with the term new urbanism, this is a form of design that involves new suburban communities that are designed to more urban standards. The neighborhoods are meant to be more walkable, compact and of higher architectural standards. These cutesy little towns were popularized by our friend Andrés Duany and his team at DPZ.
Alexandria has a nice feel to it, but one of the main complaints about these new urbanist towns is that they feel and look too perfect...like Pleasantville. Even the characters in the show Michonne and Daryl seemed turned off by the Pleasantville feel of Alexandria.
Nonetheless, Alexandria is arguably the best place the characters have lived.
This stately house known as The Barrington House is the centerpiece of the small walled community known as The Hilltop. This architecture would best be described as Georgian. Georgian architecture takes reference from the greatest architect of the Italian Renaissance: Andrea Palladio.
So what if I was an Architect during the Zombie Apocalypse?
In honor of The Walking Dead I have decided to imagine that I am an architect during the Zombie Apocalypse. Despite the pic above, I am not a zombie architect..just an architect living in a world of zombies.
My goal as an architect in the Zombie Apocalypse is to design the best architecture for my clients. Coincidentally, this is the same goal I have today.
I am basing my Zombie Apocalypse off of the universe as presented in The Walking Dead because "it's like realistic bro!"
For those not familiar with the show I should describe a few key details:
- Bad News for Humans - In The Walking Dead a majority of the Human Race has been zombified. The characters on the show refer to the zombies as 'Walkers.' In fact everyone on earth is infected. This means that you will turn into a walker even if you die by natural causes.
- Zombie Behavior - As is typical, the walkers are the undead that like to eat people. They can hear, smell, walk and that is about it. The good thing is that the walkers are very dumb and very slow. They officially die with some good old fashion brain trauma. An experienced surviver can easily deal with 1 or more walkers. Of course a hoard of walkers becomes much more dangerous. The important thing to point out is that the walkers do not have X-Men like abilities such as the zombies portrayed in other movies like World War Z and I Am Legend. These Walking Dead zombies are the more realistic ones!!
- Humans are the Worst - The biggest threat is not the walkers, but the other survivors who have become militant assholes. As the show has developed there is greater danger posed by rivaling clans of survivors.
And that is about all you need to know.
So what makes good architecture during the Zombie Apocalypse?
Town Planning during the Zombie Apocalypse
The Walking Dead has done a good job at highlighting the importance of community and having a town. There is strength in numbers and being part of a community has many advantages during the apocalypse. In fact, at times life was pretty good as shown in the towns of Woodbury and Alexandria.
How to design a town in the Zombie Apocalypse?
Wall and Fortifications
It is paramount to have a wall around your community during the zombie apocalypse. The wall is there to primarily keep out the walkers but is also important to keeping out the other survivors, which I already mentioned were militant assholes. You would also be wise to have some sort of look out tower for seeing over the wall and for sniper positioning.
It is best to keep everyone in close proximity. This allows you to leverage resources, enhances communication and is just a lot more fun. Compact development also allows for a more walkable community. Gasoline is hard to come by so it is best to get around on foot.
It is ideal to have a community meeting space. This is where you can gather everyone and share news and plot plans for war and whatnot. It also provides opportunity for leisure such as bingo or a good old fashion hoedown. You'd be wise to include some robust acoustic treatment inside your meeting space. You wouldn't want noise getting out and attracting walkers.
Unfortunately, you really need a jail during the apocalypse. For the same reasons we need jails today plus you may need to quarantine somebody who has gotten sick. As I mentioned before, people who die from natural causes will turn into a zombie. And then those new zombies go and bite somebody, then you have another zombie. It's bad news bears.
How to design a house in the Zombie Apocalypse?
Just like Jane Jacobs said, having eyes on the streets makes neighborhoods safe. This is especially true in the zombie apocalypse. During the day you would be best served spending your time chilling on the porch rather than in the house. This gives you better notice in case some walker has slipped the gate. Plus, you have no air conditioning, no Apple TV, no Facebook, no Snapchat. Porch life is the only life in the zombie apocalypse.
Open Floor Plan
Open floor plans are here to stay. You always have to anticipate that your home will one day turn into a battle ground. Better to have plenty of open space for slaying zombies and for drop-kicking some bad guy.
The open floor plan also reduces the amount of blind spots. Zombies are notorious for hanging out just on the other side of that doorway and biting you on the ankle. Fucking zombies!
I would prefer to have a flat roof with a terrace. Great for defense, escape, rooftop garden, etc.. And sipping on brewskis. I am convinced that there will still be beer in the zombie apocalypse.
I struggled with this one. Wood floors tend to be a little noisy. This is beneficial because you could better hear if a walker was creeping up on you in the middle of the night. At the same token the noisy floor could be detrimental to a stealthy escape.
Despite the noise risk, I have decided that the look and warmth of a wood floor is worth it. In a time like this that is so morbid it is nice to have something with some warmth.
The Zombie Apocalypse is filthy. There are going to be days where you have fallen into a stream and are covered in mud or days where you have slayed a hoard of zombies and are doused in guts. The last thing you want is zombie brains soaking into your natural marble counter top. Eww!
Quartz is slowly taking over the market in residential design and in the zombie apocalypse it will be even more popular. Quartz is an impervious surface that is essentially anti microbial. It is the most durable countertop available. Perfect for the zombie apocalypse.
Soft Close Cabinets
Remember.....those Zombies can hear! Acoustic design is important and these soft close cabinets allow you to keep the noise level to a minimum. And they are just so satisfying!
Sustainable Design is very important during the Zombie Apocalypse!
It is unfortunate that it will likely take a zombie apocalypse to fully embrace sustainable design. Our granola eating hippies will be happy to know that sustainable design is king during the zombie apocalypse. Keep in mind that you likely have no electricity, no air conditioning, no super market, no working plumbing, little to no gas, etc. The green revolution is finally here!
Operable windows, cross ventilation, overhangs to shelter the sun....These all fall under the category of passive solar. With no air conditioning this will be very important.
Solar power could be a life saver in the zombie apocalypse.
For those that don't know, solar thermal is a technique of using the sun to heat water. This is a closed loop system that cycles water from a tank up to the roof through panels. The water heats up as it passes through the roof panels and then transfers the heat to the water in the tank. Currently solar thermal still requires a small heater to boost the water to higher temperatures, but that is a luxury likely unavailable in the zombie apocalypse.
Capturing rainwater in cisterns will be very important in the zombie apocalypse. This is definitely low hanging fruit.
You can no longer rely on Chiquita for your bananas and say good bye to having avocados at any time during the year. It's sad...I know. Between the no avocados and no Facebook you might as well be a dang zombie!
Oh well.....You better roll up them sleeves and start working the land, son! Growing your own food is going to be key in the zombie apocalypse. In fact, in The Walking Dead food is sometimes used as currency.
Like, why did I write this article? Is this really Buildings Are Cool material? I think so.
On Friday, Danielle and I were having dinner at the Tattooed Moose. Danielle asked what I was going to blog about this weekend. I said, "I'd really like to write about The Walking Dead."
After chuckling about the idea we quickly started brainstorming ideas over a basket of duck fat fries. It was fun.
This was a pretty silly exercise, but I found a couple things really interesting. Architects would be extremely important during the zombie apocalypse and sustainable design will be paramount in the apocalypse. It really would be the only way.
This was a fun blog to write. I hope you enjoyed it and I hope you check out The Walking Dead tonight!
So what did I miss? If you were an architect during the zombie apocalypse what would you design?