Architectural Psychology in Utopias/Dystopias: William Morris's News from Nowhere, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and J.G. Ballard's High-Rise
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Perusing three utopian/dystopian novels set in London, namely, William Morris’s News from Nowhere (1891), George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), and J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise (1975), this dissertation scrutinises the functional use of architecture in utopias/dystopias as a primary element rather than a mere backdrop to manipulate the psychology of the characters in line with the domineering ideology the writers explore either to praise or attack. Morris’s utopian novel News from Nowhere delineates a socialist society in a future agrarian land called Nowhere to criticise the mechanic and dehumanising environment of the Victorian Era. By reading the work side by side with the essays of Morris on socialism and Arts and Crafts movement, as well as the park movement in the nineteenth century, it is observed that in the depiction of the pleasing land of utopia, Morris incorporates his socialist and artistic ethos to reflect the positive role of utopian architecture. On the contrary, in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty- Four architecture is used as a means of oppression to serve the Party’s corrupt ideology. Drawing on Michel Foucault’s Panopticism and Michel de Certeau’s concepts of “strategy” and “tactic,” it is seen that the totalitarian government of Oceania attains its power through the manipulation and control of architecture, which affects the psychology of the characters in a negative way. In much the same way but in a totally different context, Ballard’s High-Rise is also about the negative impact of architecture on the thoughts and behaviour of the tenants of a high-rise building. In the light of Freud’s discussion of civilisation, Henri Lefebvre’s socio- spatial diagram of the production of social space, and Michel de Certeau’s concepts of “strategy” and “tactic,” it can be said that in High-Rise it is the eponymous high-rise building, which brings about violence due to the negative effects of modernist architecture on the psychology of the characters. Consequently, in these three utopian/dystopian works, the functional use of architecture, is especially crucial, for the ideologically loaded architecture in each one of them is at the centre of the major events the writers explore.