Victorian Spaces with a Touch of Steampunk
The undeniable aesthetics of red brick and wrought iron, so widely spread during the Victorian period, has found a powerful outlet in steampunk. What are the types of spaces most likely to pop up in a steampunk book or visual? Let’s explore.
Perhaps the most iconic type of Victorian industrial building, the factories are a direct result of the Industrial Revolution. Sturdy enough to hold heavy machines and harnessing the power of the steam engines, they were an essential factor – along with the railways – in the development of the cities (though not necessarily of the workers’ lives as well) during the Victorian age. While they are cool to use as spaces in a steampunk novel, the thick smoke they released on a daily basis was not exactly the most exciting thing to see (or breathe).
Highly versatile and fun to customize, they are one of the coolest industrial spaces in the steampunk fandom – I have one in my novel Laevium as well. I fell in love with workshops when I saw James Watt’s working space at the Science Museum in London. In the fictional world, some interesting ones I can think of are Andrew Malvern and Claire Trevelyan’s workshop in Shelley Adina’s Magnificent Devices, and Penance Adair’s workshop in HBO’s TV show The Nevers. Actually, looking back at said TV show, that workshop is the only thing I truly liked from beginning to end (apart from the overall setting). But I digress.
Warehouses and docks
I grouped them together because, most of the time, they are interconnected. Warehouses are part of the same aesthetics of industrial architecture developed from the iconic Victorian red brick buildings typical for the Industrial Revolution age. Huge spaces now reconverted to serve other purposes, they make an excellent setting for a steampunk scene. Especially when they are in the proximity of docks.
Speaking of docks, what I love most about such spaces is how lively they are. I researched this kind of space quite a bit, since the opening scene of the second novel in my Cerulean Airship steampunk series takes place at St Katharine Docks. There is something picturesque about how docks used to look like during the Victorian age, so bustling with activity that you can almost hear the accents and sounds. This is why I was so stunned to watch an action scene in the movie Enola Holmes taking place at some London docks that were completely deserted. Really? In broad daylight?
These beautiful giants made of glass mounted on wrought iron frames can be turned into great steampunk environments. They have the looks, and the functionality. The only limit is the author’s imagination. Want an original workshop space or a setting for crazy steam engines experiments? Greenhouses can deliver.
Let’s face it: though they are important, industrial spaces are not the only ones making the steampunk worlds. And when it comes to scenes set in posh environments, with classy characters, nothing is fancier than a Victorian private library or study or parlor. I for one vote for private studies. I love them.
Of course, this is a brief list, which only includes a few examples. The architecture used in the steampunk imagery is way more exhaustive and bended according to each author’s inventiveness. But always an integral part of each fictional universe featuring airships, devices, mechanical contraptions and all those little gadgets that build up the worlds we love so much.