Batman and Architecture Finally United in ‘Batman: Death by Design’

Courtesy of DC Comics

From Tim Burton’s steamy, gothic megalopolis to Christopher Nolan’s cold, Miesian jungle, Gotham’s malice has always been manifested in its architecture. Writer Chip Kidd and artist David Taylor have pulled this nefarious background character to the forefront in the tale of Vs. Mega-starchitect, entitled Batman: Death by Design

Read more about Batman : Death by Design after the break…

Courtesy of DC Comics

In the throws of a construction boom, Gotham has become a hotbed for new landmark buildings. Plans are afoot to demolish the crumbling, art deco Wayne Central Station and replace it with a lavish, animal-ribcage-esque transportation hub, designed by celebrated fictional starchitect, Kem Roomhaus. (A heady blend of Koolhaas, Calatrava with a pinch of Libeskind, it would seem). Bruce Wayne is faced with opposition to these plans from the city’s wealthy socialites, while Batman must pursue the mastermind behind a series of design related disasters at Gotham’s many construction sites.

Courtesy of DC Comics

Kidd has loaded Batman: Death by Design with architectural references aplenty; even though some have all the subtlety of a crime-fighting-spandex-clad billionaire (I’m looking at you, Roomhaus). Once you dive deeper, the layered plot is packed with coy nods to all manner of architectural movements, designs and texts. The author has noted that inspiration for the story rose from the demolition of New York’s Penn Station in the 1960′s, and the series of fatal crane collapses which occurred in Manhattan in 2008.

Illustrating such an architecture centric novel is no small feat. The artist, David Taylor, has been lauded for his draftsman-like depictions of Gotham, which really steal the show. He shows an ominous noir skyline, which is bottom-lit by the seedy glow of sodium streetlights. Switching between small and large panels, he nuances Gotham’s architectural marvels with dark strokes. One such example is the, Roomhaus-designed, glass floor nightclub called ‘The Ceiling’, which is precariously cantilevered high above the dense labyrinth of Gotham.

By characterizing this hybrid mega-starchitect as a “an affected, narcissistic creep”, in Batman’s words, Death by Design is possibly an attack on heartless monumental urban intervention. A common criticism, in our world at least, is that huge starchitect designed buildings are often more about the personality of the designer and less about the personality of the city. By making the architecture of Gotham a centerpiece of the story and drawing parallels to Penn station, Kidd is acknowledging that. Although the city is a sum of private buildings, the city as a whole has a character, which is collectively owned and isn’t the property of a single group or person (not even Batman).

‘Batman: Death By Design’ can be found on Amazon.

Cite: Rackard, Nicky. "Batman and Architecture Finally United in ‘Batman: Death by Design’" 08 Feb 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 Aug 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=330378>

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