Architecture as Pop Music

Architecture has been compared to music in many ways over the years. Some think that architecture is frozen music. So, let’s have a little fun with this. Imagine if architectural styles were people taking one of those online personality tests – something like “What Song Is Your Theme Song?” or “What Song is Your Anthem?”. We’ll be limiting ourselves to music between 2000-present because using songs from their own time period is far too easy.


The Renaissance spanned the 14th – 17th centuries. It took a lot of inspiration from the Roman’s and is known by its symmetry, proportions, and geometry – it’s so very orderly.

I’m going with Lindsey Stirling’s cover of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day. A classical instrument making something new.


The Victorian era was all about showing off your status. New money and cheaper goods were expanding the middle class, who were only too happy to spend their money making them feel a bit more like royalty. The only problem was the upper classes weren’t too keen on these nouveau riche. “Royals” by Lorde is perfect for people that wish they were part of the Victorian upper class.

Arts and Crafts

This anti-industrial movement pushed for handcrafted items. Every person in The Vespers plays an instrument (if not more). Their music has a handmade quality about it – very different from the highly electronicized music we sometimes have.

Art Nouveau

Stemming from the Arts and Crafts movement, Art Nouveau was all about the arts and took its inspiration from nature – particularly curvy lines….you could say that they were bringing sexy back.

Art Deco

Big and bold, Art Deco combined the Modernist style with the love of craft that was prominent in the Arts and Crafts movement. The style represented luxury, glamour, and technological progress. As it gained steam, it featured rare and expensive materials. This style requires a flashy, catchy song. Fergie’s “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody” is catchy and the music video is a little more than flashy.

International Style

The international style brought in a stripped down architecture.

Pentatonix’ stripped down version of Havana fits in perfectly. As an a capella group, Pentatonix removes all the instrumental ornament from Camilla Cabello’s song.


The post-modern movement was a rejection of modernism’s sleek, clean lines – similar to the Arts and Crafts rejection of industrialization. The post-modernists looked to historical references and re-interpreted them.

Postmodern Jukebox’s cover of Creep by Radiohead takes a modern song and reinvents it by throwing a vintage vibe on it.

This was actually far harder to write than I expected. I foolishy thought it would be easy to match current music to architecture. What do you think of my choices? There are lots of other architectural styles – what music would put to them?

Ready Player One

Recently, I watched the movie ‘Ready Player One’ which speaks to both my movie buff side and my inner video game nerd. Set in the not so distant future, life is spent between “normal” daily life and a virtual world. I was intrigued by their representation of architecture in this setting, where people are more concerned with their virtual lives than reality.

Our journey starts in the hero’s bedroom, as he leaves the house in the morning. The house is a typical trailer that you would find in a trailer park with a slight twist. It’s stacked on top of multiple trailers about 100 feet in the air. As the camera pans out, we see the whole landscape with several trailer towers, precariously stacked on top of each other. Clearly, in this world where reality comes in a distant second to the virtual world, people have less interest in their surroundings. Also, the people funnel all available income into gear that makes their virtual lives better, sacrificing other creature comforts. This poses a challenge for architects. How do you address changes in society? Do you create virtual architecture or focus on adapting current architecture to meet needs that arise from the virtual culture?

In some ways, the movie does address this question. If you have ever put on a virtual reality headset you quickly learn that reality still has an impact. The impact can be quite literal, as there’s the possibility of running into a wall or furnishings. In the movie, this was resolved by standing on a multi-directional treadmill before donning your VR headset. The treadmill shifts direction when as the person does, allowing a full range of motion, without obstacles. This solves the walking into a wall issue. In addition to the treadmill, there is a harness that keeps you from falling.

So how does architecture adapt to societal changes and values, like this alternate reality? Historically speaking, it is one of the things architecture does very well. Just think about how homes here have evolved with changes such as indoor plumbing. Or how architecture responds to differing climates to make occupants as comfortable as possible. Architects spend a great deal of time thinking about and improving the human condition.

Crenellations like this were once necessary in architecture for fortification and protection. Photo by Scott Bowen.

With the growing popularity of virtual reality, it will be interesting to see if the future develops as depicted in the movie. Would the architecture follow a similar trend? Will people spend less money on tangible items, including architecture? If so, how do we respond to accommodate the movement of people in a virtual world?