Control: Graphic Brutalism

The visual medium plays an immense role in shaping our lives in the 21st Century, where we are constantly being bombarded with electronic information. The digital world has engulfed our everyday lives.

This platform has enabled us to recreate the mood or setting of a place from past or even envision a utopian future. Movies and video games are breaking the barriers between real and fiction.

Last year Remedy Entertainment has brought the action-adventure video game ‘Control’ published by 505 Games. The avant garde concept brought by the game designers have set a fresh perspective on designing and experiencing games.

Similar to Remedy’s previous title ‘Quantum Break’ which redefined immersive gaming experience through its intricate complex story telling embosomed with graphics, architecture and music. This time it has gone beyond the crux of real and unreal; rambunctious magic.

Control is set in the confines of a brutalist skyscraper in New York City, referred to as the “Oldest House: Place of Power” in-game. The world design director of the game Stuart Macdonald describes that brutalism brings in power, strength and stability.

The game features this enormous concrete edifice that is demanding and arrogant. A vast government building that showcases its architectural environment from the modernist movement.

This tower is invaded by a paranormal entity called ‘Hiss’. It’s a force that conveys its strength through the concrete walls that shift and transform, portrayed along with eerie threatening noises in the background.

As Jessa Faden, we have to deal with these negative forces with a supernatural firearm that adapts into variety of forms, with other special abilities in hand like telekinesis, levitation and the ability to control.
Architecture does impact on everyone’s emotions.

It can generate strong reactions. The designer’s intend was to create this tension and gritty atmosphere using brutalism in the virtual space. The whole game takes place inside this raw concrete structure. The interiors expand and constantly shift forms defying the laws of space-time.

This aggrandized space creates the twisted story with cinematic elements that revolves in crafting the complex plot. The design of the building takes its inspirations from the 1950s and 1970s style of public works and government buildings, like the use of large concrete blocks.

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The AT&T Long Lines building designed by John Carl Warnecke was the real world influence behind the Oldest House. It is a building in Manhattan which has no windows, which inspired Macdonald to create the monstrous monolith.

Similarly, other real world buildings such as the Boston City Hall, Andrews Building at University of Toronto and Met Breuer were also taken in for design ideas. The impact of strict geometry being affected with abnormality creates an ephemeral contrast in showing the impossible architecture.

The grey shades in the interiors make the lighting effects dark, spooky and mysterious.

Works of few real world architects were also derived into the game’s structures. Tadao Ando’s exceptional transcendental concepts on lighting were intricately blended into the game’s scenarios, such as strong religious and spiritual elements in large symmetrical spaces.

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Carlo Scarpa’s ritualistic staircase design that ascended onto other parts of structure was also reflected. The team even took inspirations from films like Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and The Shape of Water to evoke the oppression, processes and ceremonies followed in the agencies.

Kubrick’s concepts of balance, symmetry and single point perspective were used in evolving the visual identity. Art Director Janne Pulkkinen looked at detailing the lighting and visual effects for the game. Concrete is highly photographable.

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The chunky nature of concrete plays well when there is lot of destruction and chaos in distinguished lighting. The interior spaces exude a sculptural look when light washes over these surfaces.

The cultural history of the material brings an aesthetic resilience that is a spectacle to experience in a variety of forms and shapes. The monumentality of the buildings does embark on a journey into the past, a quest revived in a major big-budget game going all grey and austere.

The entropy of stifling forms clearly wraps the mid-century style with mystery and unknown.

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The team at Remedy has brought an intense game that beautifully carves into the depths of real and unreal, using architecture to unravel the enigma and explore the extent of architectural design in the virtual reality.

  • Text: Ar. Jayakrishnan Ranjit
  • Photos: Eurogamer, Wikipedia

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