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Whenever one thinks "steampunk", anyone with a desire to turn steampunk into an actual historical event can Google up "Victorian era" and study the architecture from there. But in a subgenre as fictional and as expansive as steampunk, it's not that simple, is it?

Another problem is that when one describes architecture, they usually bring up the purpose of that particular architectural style more than the physical shapes of those architectural characteristics. For example, one could describe Greek architecture "with an emphasis on symmetry".

So the simple question is this: Physically, what are the most popular and the most practical characteristics and features of steampunk architecture?

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  • $\begingroup$ Are we looking at upper class residential architecture, the slums, the factories, the universities or the exhibition spaces and utility buildings (power, transport hubs, etc)? $\endgroup$ – Scott Downey Jul 28 '16 at 19:24
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    $\begingroup$ I think the physical shapes have as much to do with the architectural characteristics as the purpose does. I would more readily describe Greek architecture as using columns and angles than as "with an emphasis on symmetry" $\endgroup$ – L3R5 Jul 28 '16 at 19:26
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    $\begingroup$ I recommend you read a webcomic called Girl Genius for ideas. $\endgroup$ – Renan Jul 28 '16 at 19:38
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The primary way that steampunk will be different from today is the transmission of energy and information would be through mechanical and fluidic means rather than electrical as we are used to today.

Architecture would have accommodations to allow for the use of mechanical transmission inside and between buildings. Communications would be via devices like pneumatic tube transport. Because of the size and space requirements for these devices, there will be a need for protected galleries in the houses for driveshafts, pneumatic tubes, drive belts, reduction gears and other assorted mechanisms. There will also be room inside the galleries for maintenance men to enter and perform work. Another consideration is there will probably be storage rooms for tools and spare parts in the larger houses and public spaces.

Tenements and row houses will have much smaller galleries, since there will be fewer services provided for poor people. One might imagine an open attic spanning the entire top of a row house for the drive shaft and belts leading down into the rooms below, much like the machinery hall of a factory.

The other thing that will be evident in a Steampunk world is the ned for elevated pathways for pneumatic tubes, driveshafts and other mechanical parephanalia. Because of the size of the devices, they will resemble miniaturized elevated railways, and may even serve as the roadbeds for real elevated railways (especially in densely populated areas where there would be lots of tubes and drive shafts in close proximity). Of course, since there are limits to how far mechanical or fluidic transmission could go, the system will need lots of repeater stations.

Since large blocky buildings housing boilers, steam engines, Babbage machines, vacuum pumps and other paraphernalia will take a lot of room. The city and especially the wealthier citizens will probably try to disguise the buildings with clever facades. People won't be fooled since there will still be smokestacks, large structures that carry the pipes and driveshafts and a big driveway for the coal delivery service, but will probably appreciate the effort to make the buildings either good looking to unobtrusive.

So architecture will be adjusted to take the needs of mechanical and fluidic systems into account.

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  • $\begingroup$ So, something along the lines of Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs then. Huge buildings, huge machinery, huge pipes and low life for workers. $\endgroup$ – Mr Scapegrace Jul 29 '16 at 6:21
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Any, and I do mean ANY architectural style can be steam punked, in the same way that anything else can be steampunked. Sure, ornate Victorian styles are de rigeur, but if you include these it can be set in any era and put up against any style. The Girl Genius webcomic is a pretty good source for all things steampunk BTW (despite the fact that they call it a "gas-lamp fantasy.")

  • Brass elements
  • Exposed hardware/cogs
  • The color green: dark green glass, other dark green elements
  • Amber glass, amber lighting
  • Organic details that contrast with tech. This can be in the form of ornate grill-work, patterned after vines in a particular pattern, rich wood detailing, marblework, insect motifs, or floral patterns.
  • Pipes because of the steam

Other answers here talk about space for large engines and the like. This will be true in some places, but not all. There are no real rules that will call for high ceilings (some labs might be in basements, and it will be all about chemistry). I've outlined the stylistic elements rather than the practical ones. You mentioned Greek architecture--that can be Steampunked! Each of the muse statutes are metal rather than stone, and each represents an area of SCIENCE! Brass decorative fittings on columns, pipes as part of the fresco design and so on. Steampunk, when it isn't strict, can be overlaid on to anything.

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The technologies that influenced building styles most are concrete, steel and glass. All three would be readily available in a steampunk world.

There would likely not be much difference in the living space architecture, as its style is not much affected by technology. The most significant difference would probably be that dark baths would not be very practical without electric light. Also, aluminium would be very expensive. But overall, architectonic/artistic and economic considerations would be more important than technological ones.

For industry architecture, I think the large industry hall would have remained dominant, as you need it for the large steam engines. Many small steam engines would probably not be economical. But other than that, I again think the architecture would not be influenced much by it.

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