“Bioshock Infinite,” released in March to critical and popular acclaim, is set in the floating utopian (or, really, dystopian) city of Columbia. Situated among the clouds, Columbia is more than just a steampunk version of Avatar‘s floating landscape. The hit game’s urban environment is rooted in the architecture of a time when America’s cities were growing fast and finding a visual identity they could project for the world.

“Bioshock Infinite” itself is a first person action/adventure story from Irrational Games and 2K Australia that was released across multiple platforms. The player steps into the shoes of Booker DeWitt, ex-Pinkerton agent with a troubled past sent to the lofty city of Columbia (powered by “quantum levitation”) to rescue a young woman named Elizabeth. Elizabeth is intelligent and capable though is a sought by Columbia’s dictator-cum-prophet Zachary Hale Comstock. Caught in a battle between Comstock’s jingoistic American paradise and the populist rebels opposing him, Booker and Elizabeth need to fight their way to freedom as they see political strife that exposes the dark underside of early 20th century America.

Gameplay aside, how did the developers cook up Columbia’s architectural character? It’s not pure fantasy and fabrication. In fact, its design has roots in many architectural movements and events. Read on to find out!


Story by Zachary Edelson