As we developed our ideas of the world depicted in Ayn Rand’s Anthem, Charles Santino and I wanted our locations to match the symbolic movements of the characters as well as showing a convincing physical environment. There were several locations, but basically we were dealing with the city, the starting point of a journey, and with the house in the forest, the end of that journey.
When I first visualized the city or large village, I was thinking of it belonging in the Dark Ages. That seemed reasonable, and my first approaches showed the city as being built of roughly cut timbers, and tables inside were chopped from logs. Charles pointed out that our point in designing the city wasn’t really the coarseness of construction, so much as it was the overall uniformity of design, appropriate to a society of equals. Charles suggested that we think of a city built of interchangeable panels. If I were thinking in terms of a future world, say one like that shown in Brave New World, it would have simple to come up with the structures. It would have would have been something high tech and shiny.
Our buildings could not be high tech. What I thought of was something similar to adobe. In fact, what I had in mind was suggested by the images in Exodus of the Hebrew slaves making bricks mixed with straw. If you’ll note our buildings, you’ll see that most of them include panels, generally about six foot square. There are wooden roof poles and structural elements made of adobe, holding the panels in place. I think this is believable, considering the nearly tropical location we’ve given the city. There is clay, there is wood, there is vegetation.
At the other end of the journey of Equality 7-2521 and Liberty 5-3000, is the mysterious house which has survived from the Unmentionable Times. It must present a complete contrast to the interchangeable buildings in the city. It stands alone, a testament to individuality. Still, almost the only description of the structure in the novel tells that it has a flat roof.
As Anthem was written in 1937, I had in mind what would have been modern design in that time, and I thought of the Bauhaus architects as I formed my outline of the house. As I moved in and through the house, though, I realized that I was leaning more toward something suggesting Philip Johnson’s houses in the Hollywood hills from the 50’s. I think that’s fair, as Ayn Rand around the time of the writing was a scenarist for Hollywood films.
In the interior décor, though, one image solidified my approach. When Liberty finds colorful, cheerful clothes in the closets, what would I do? This was a black and white book, after all. Obviously, the clothes had to be paisleys! From that point, I was in the sixties with my furniture and swirling patterns on bed spreads. There are hangings with patterns intended to suggest Navaho rugs.
Perhaps our design work in the house isn’t quite what Ayn Rand had in mind, but I think Liberty 5-3000, the Golden One, would approve.