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In my mind, I'm picturing different human controlled regions throughout the Milky Way (maybe entire planets, continents on different planets, cities, et cetera). So the differing human nations would all be relatively advanced (e.g., FTL travel). However, I want there to be a few regions, which have homogeneous styles. As one example, I'd like to have an Art Deco/Dark Deco region. All of the buildings would fit this theme, most fashion would fit this theme, and most consumer goods would fit this theme. However, I'm having a hard time coming up with plausible explanations for how it would work in a relatively free society. I know I could do something like, "That's the way it is in Art Decopolis.", but that seems to be a cop-out to me. The best I can come up with are relatively iron handed regulations, or social stigma.

For buildings & architecture, the best I can come up with is that buildings constructed in such a matter would be given a generous property tax credit. Non-compliant buildings would not be given the credit, and they'd be hit with a heavy tax penalty.

For fashion, I imagine it would mostly be upheld by cultural standards, and that domestic clothes designers would keep the trends going. I also imagine that the natives would consider radically different styles to be low class, scandalous, or degenerate.

For imported goods, a tariff could be applied to items that are "out of style".

However, I imagine that there are better alternatives to the above. Thanks.

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    $\begingroup$ A civilization spanning the Milky Way would certainly be more loosely connected than Earth is today -- after all, one can travel from any city to another one day at most. And yet, if you look at our Earth you will notice that cities in different countries look different; there is no way one could mistake Almaty or Moscow for an American city. People have this built-in tendency to develop national styles or habits or customs. Now, having a regional style mimicking specifically a historical period such as Art Deco is very unlikely -- one cannot swim twice in the same river. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Feb 20 '18 at 7:57
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    $\begingroup$ You have different styles in Texas and in France, despite the fact that travel is relatively cheap and relatively free. Just scale the reasons a bit. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Feb 20 '18 at 8:16
  • $\begingroup$ Dammit, I was just half way through writing an answer when the question was closed. The short version : This happens naturally without coercion or regulations(due to reasons I can't explain in a comment despite already having written), if large regions are built at the same time. Maybe the Human Empire colonizes or redevelops large regions as a single focussed project? $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Feb 20 '18 at 16:32
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The IKEA mega-corp sells standardized flack pack easily deploy-able buildings and infrastructure. Using these is far easier and more cost effective over anything else, making any another other way of building a extremely expensive novelty.

The mega corp makes every vehicle and commodity you could ever want, all using their extremely compact and cost effective system. Anything else, costs more and longer to produce and is usually of a lower quality.

The IKEA mega-corp has a total monopoly over dozens of systems and a huge market share over hundreds of others.

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Religion. Religion is always an answer for such problem. It don't have to be per se some deity but just let Bauhaus run the government and you will rule that function over form and so on.

Contrary to that some people may be worshipers of rivers, trees and the answer that can be hear in a wind. And you end up with everything Art Nouveau. Of course, you will have some atheistic heathens but even if they decide to go full Cubism in a world of Social-Realism. But they will incorporate some of what surround them in their cubic.

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Take the Macro view and drill down and, as always, follow the money.

Your galactic regions will develop around whichever planet has the most and best resources. The most money, if you will. Money is going to eventually equate to power. Surrounding planets are going to fall into subservience to supply the needs of the Central planet. Just like on this planet before mechanized travel shrunk transit times from months to hours. Cities were where the money and power lived, and surrounding farms and towns served the city.

The art and construction styles are going to organically grow after the resources on each core planet. For example, it the core planet has a lot of stone available that is easy to get to, you will end up with a lot of stone buildings. Lots of forests means lots of wood building. Nothing but mud around? Adobe!

More stylistic cues will be taken from the culture of the wealthy people on the wealthy planets. If BobBob Yoyo, the trillionaire from Earth, was really into 20's Art Deco and Tim BUrton films, and he settles on a planet with lost of forests, Iron and Sand, you are going to get something that looks like Gotham from the Batman Animated Series. If a distant descendant of Bill Gates lands on a planet that is predominantly like the Pacific Northwest, then you will get lots of wood, and if they are fans of Lord of the Rings, you are going to end up with an Elven Paradise.

Those stylistic cues are going to spread out to the subservient planets. After all, you want to make your masters comfortable when they come to visit. And what the wealthy do, the less wealthy aspire to. They style will be similar, but the materials may differ. On the planet with a lot of iron that feeds the planet that has turned into a tolkeinesque dream, you may get steel that is wrought into the shape of trees, and so on.

It doesn't apply to just buildings. Fashion, consumer products, etc. are all going to be influenced.

As for a hard and fast border? Well, even here on Earth, there are communities that strictly enforce building codes that go way beyond just minimum quality standards. There are places in the DFW Metroplex that require brick construction, shingle roof, and certain colors and its part of the building code. I believe Santa Fe, New Mexico had a hard limit on construction materials and number of stories within city limits. A planetary building code is not too far fetched.

Borderline planets are going to end with an eclectic mix of styles. Art Deco and Adobe. High Elf and New York Brownstone.

But it all starts with the money

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  • $\begingroup$ This is an underrated comment. $\endgroup$ – Geoffrey Carlton Feb 20 '18 at 21:17
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The government is a Dual Monarchy

This is a historical term used for the Hapsburg emperors of Austria-Hungary. In short, the Habsburg Empire expanded willy-nilly in the 1700s with the collapse of the neighboring Ottoman Empire and Poland. With all its additional territories, there came to be two distinct powerful groups of nobles, the Germans and Hungarians.

Ultimately, to placate these separate groups, Austria-Hungary was formed from the old empire, a dual monarchy. There were two 'kingdoms,' the Austrian Empire (Cisleithania) and the Kingdom of Hungary (Transleithania). The two kingdoms had their own parliments, the Imperial Council of Austria, and the Diet of Hungary. They had their own laws and judicial systems and what have you. The only things they held in common where foreign policy and the military, both of which were under the control of the Emperor.

Now this wasn't a particularly successful arrangement, but in principle it could work if the two sides got along better. In fact, it might work even better if there were more parties to agreement. If the various Bohemians, Poles, and Croats in the Empire got their own monarchies as well, then there would be a Quintuple Monarchy, with more coalition building and cooperation. For your galactic empire, there might be many states joined under a common empire that only deals with foreign policy and defense.

With separate governments, cultural differences can thrive

Now, Hungary and Austria were not that different to begin with. They are both offshoots of Latin, Western Europe, having been associated with the Pope since ~1000 AD; more than 800 years of common history by the time of the Dual Monarchy. But it is concievable that the empire could be radically more different.

What if a Catholic Germanic nation was fused with an Orthodox Ukrainian one? What about a Muslime Turkish one? Those groups of people were all nearby. Furthermore, those regions had distinct architectural traditions from Latin Europe, which is the thrust of your question. It is relatively easy to imagine a German capital with buildings in the Western tradition contrasted to a Ukrainin capital with onion-domed buildings in the Orthodox tradition or spindly minarets such as Hagia Sophia. Where one tradition values stained glass, the other might value tapestries or mosaics.

Conclusion

This is a long winded way of saying, you can have to culturally distinct peoples joined in a common political union, by creating a government structure that leaves them jealously guarding their own independent cultural traditions. As such, the distinct architectural traditions in each land might develop separately from the other regions of the conjoined Empire.

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Short Version

You can have something like :

  • The famous Art Deco region of Junction City, New Planetia
  • The Hung Gardens of New New Las Vegas (OK, that's weird)
  • The Adobe Walls of Adobe City (bound to happen)

But those will be local, not on the scale you want.

Long Version

I want there to be a few regions, which have homogeneous styles. As one example, I'd like to have an Art Deco/Dark Deco region. All of the buildings would fit this theme, most fashion would fit this theme, and most consumer goods would fit this theme.

I know you want reasons why this could happen, but it could not realistically happen on such a large scale.

First and foremost people are individuals and if experience tells us anything it's that telling them they have to conform will immediately generate resistance. This is particularly the case with anything associated with personal identity.

The primary reasons why people build and create different looks in Earth cities (and that's just one planet !) are :

  • Climate - different architecture for different conditions
  • Historical development - some styles relate to local culture and keep being "echoed" in modern designs because many (but not all !) people like tradition
  • Money - some people like to flash the money around, some don't and most cannot !
  • Cheaper availability of different materials in different places
  • Habit and expectation - As strange as it sounds we have different habits and expectations from our local architecture and homes and offices. For example, in North America screen doors are all over the place, but in my home town (Dublin, Ireland) I've never even seen one ! Mostly that's a habit and an expectation, not a practical issue.

But these differences happen on a very small scale, not just on a larger scale. Different roads can be in different styles, never mind planets.

There are some reasons why local areas may enforce a look or appearance :

  • Historical preservation - an area may be a tourist haven and people don't like to rock that financial boat or there may be legislation preventing you from changing the appearance of locale (visit the UK and see this in operation).
  • Too hard or expensive to change - typically tower blocks are like this and await major economic developments to change them.

But these (again) are local issues, not global.

For buildings & architecture, the best I can come up with is that buildings constructed in such a matter would be given a generous property tax credit. Non-compliant buildings would not be given the credit, and they'd be hit with a heavy tax penalty.

This doesn't make sense unless your government gets something out it. Why would a government care about the appearance of anything (I know mine doesn't) ? So I don't think this works.

It also runs into a problem if people are in a region where a particular style is just not practical. Live in a hot region and then try living in a suitable home for that region in a cold region - bad plan.

For fashion, I imagine it would mostly be upheld by cultural standards, and that domestic clothes designers would keep the trends going. I also imagine that the natives would consider radically different styles to be low class, scandalous, or degenerate.

Might work for fashion, but will not remain constant over a large time or space. When I was growing up my mother (by no means a conservative) would not have left the house without a scarf on her head, but that changed when I was still young. It will doubtless change again.

People just don't stay that constant and rigid and some people will always push on any limit and no matter what eventually that limit will move a little.

For imported goods, a tariff could be applied to items that are "out of style".

Tariffs beget tariffs.

Meaning that if you impose a tariff on someone bringing goods into your economy, they will immediately impose a tariff on you bringing goods into there own.

And tariffs will be changed in response to the whim of the people, even if that people was a single ruthless dictator. So this cannot remain constant either.

Another answer said ...

The IKEA mega-corp sells standardized flack pack easily deploy-able buildings and infrastructure.

What would happen ? Well in no time some enterprising local entrepreneur would decide they could make a lot of money selling something else. And they would ! Locally sourced materials and labor - everyone likes that !

So flat pack might do for some people, but not everyone and that sort of thing becomes a status symbol. So people start customizing their property simply to look different and gain some kind of status boost.

Anything else, costs more and longer to produce and is usually of a lower quality.

And that would actually make it more likely people wanted it !

But there is a more fundamental reason why this won't work : even IKEA sell a variety of appearances. They do this because people want different things and are willing to pay for it. They do it because every new season brings people wanting "the latest" look - even if it's just paint on the wall or wallpaper or floor coverings or this year's fabulous new garden gnome design. People like new things, because ... well, they're all mad, I think. :-)

So this won't happen (realistically) on the scale you want, not even on a planetary scale and probably not even on a city-wide scale in the long run.

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If travel and communication between worlds is easy then it is quite easy to maintain region styles. If you like Art Deco, you move to the Art Deco region. If you don't like it, you move to a region that suits your taste.

Of course, most people raised in a region will prefer that region's style. A small percentage will care enough to move.

Regions could develop from a designer with a specific flair building a small section of a city in an area that is otherwise a mix of styles. Those who like the new style will move there. If more people like it they will move to near that area and remodel to match it.

If you start with a culture like Japan's where people try to fit in and then make them flexible enough to look for a place that they will enjoy fitting into, you have a society that can form multi star systems of specific styles.

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The simple solution is that originally most buildings in the region were built at the same time as a part of the same development project.

There are economic benefits to uniform style. First, it reduces costs of design. You can design a flexible basic template system for designing buildings, interiors, and neighbourhoods once and then apply it a few billion times as needed. And since everything is based on the same templates, everything fits together, works together, and can be assembled from the same low cost mass produces components using the same procedures workers already know.

This is also somewhat self sustaining. It makes economic sense to keep using the same templates as the region already has an efficient supply chain for components of that template and the work force is already familiar and trained with it. It also avoids compatibility issues. And keeps maintenance costs low.

Thus later redevelopments and expansions in the same region are likely to happen using the same template system and end up eerily similar.

New styles would happen when a region does not already have a supply chain for a pre-existing style and the development project is large enough to justify the one time cost of developing a new template.

There would also be buildings that deliberately look different. Art museums and some religious and administrative buildings make a statement with their appearance and that works better if there is a noticeable difference.

This would reasonably extend to furniture, vehicles, and clothing. If all your buildings have the same style, furniture and vehicles should match. And clothing should match those.

There would obviously be people looking different because they want to look different and make a statement but most people do not want to make statement most of the time. So people would mostly be in local style but add a personal touch by how they combine elements and with one or two personal "enhancements".

This is fairly normal for humans, actually. It just looks unusual to us because we have entire industries that are constantly creating new fashions in order to create artificial demand for new products with higher profit margins.

Your people are no longer falling for that. Easiest explanation is that those template based designs are very good in addition to being affordable. If the template system allows for millions of good looking combinations from components that are always in style and always work together and comes with clear instructions of how to match the system to your own looks and any occasion that can realistically happen... Why would you pay extra for something different?

In conclusion there are two conditions :

  1. Large scale and routine initial regional development projects distant from already developed regions. Reasonable for colonizing the galaxy.

  2. Architecture and design in general has matured so that template based "design in bulk" can produce high quality solutions competitive with custom designs. This seems somewhat reasonable, if the colonization created sustained demand for such template systems, they would be improved over time.

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