Inception and generic architecture(s) of the mind

So I finally watched Inception like 6-7 months too late? On a smallish (compared to in theatre) iMac screen. But was suitably blown away. The idea of artificial, spatial gymnastics is nothing new. The film was however, provocative in its application of psycho-spatial constraints to the dream(ing). The labyrinths in other words must be more imagined than real. The selection of architectural archetypes: private residence, skyscraper, and urban scape,  is also interesting. Ellen Page plays a character who sits somwhere between the master-world-builder and psycho-geographer. Adriane the architecture graduate student that is hired to craft the three layers of built environment is given only one real constraint. Her work must be a sort of generic “un-concious” architecture. Almost, a-historical in an intensely personal sense. It must not include real places or people. As in not in the memory of the inceptee. Her construction(s) thus go beyond post-modernism towards a digital mashup, atemporal condition. Not truly relying on specific historical precedent but shared typologies. Ellen Page’s character is hooked because of the ability to “create” anything.  Though in reality the limits of the dream world insertion require a generic architecture.

Super Colossal’s review  (here) highlights this exact point: “Yet amid this fantasy, the backdrop is consistently the generic, ordinary city… It explicitly states that the role of the architect (read level designer) is to create a place in which the dreamer is comfortable, so that they do not realise they are dreaming, enabling the team to steal (or insert) whatever secret they are after. Hence, the generic downtown anyplaces we are shown.”

All this makes me reflect on a recent discussion about Generic Architecture, in a thread over on Archinect (here), this spring.  Wherein I wrote, “I guess a big distinction would be between those who see generic as good (an almost vernacular) vs bad (a cookie cutter type approach).” After viewing Inception, is it possible to conceive of the psychological benefits or considerations of generic architect? Was Adriane’s work highly personalized or deeply generic? I think one would have to admit both. Is there a way this sort of dualism could be applied to more physical forms of architecture? Perhaps the dualism could be to develop a both vernacular and yet also generic architecture…..


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