Build a World – Week 2

After our introductory week, last week, we were then given another project which is part of the first module for this year. It’s super exciting but it’s a bit daunting too because our brief is very open to interpretation, I mean it’s literally to “build a world” and it’s going to be hard to come up with original ideas although I guess it’s supposed to be challenging and terrifying. This is part of this year’s Creative Elements module and spans just twelve weeks. 

The best video on YouTube…

So yeah, our brief is to “build a world”. What?

My assigned teammates for this project were Jordan Baxter, Jonathan Nugent and Méabh Gilheany. This first week is ideation where we come up with concepts for a world however, once we do it gets stolen swapped with another team’s and we then progress to work on that one instead.

First thing’s first, we began by breaking down the brief and looking at the definition of the word “world“: a common name for the whole of human civilisation specifically human experience, history or the human condition in general, worldwide, i.e. anywhere on Earth or pertaining to anywhere on earth. 

Drawing from this, we then started by throwing the first ideas that came into our heads at the whiteboard and branching off from them; looking at possible shapes a world could be, where it could be, the climate and size.

Our masterpiece of ideation

The phrase “human experience got us thinking and we talked about popular games such as Minecraft which is a survival game based in a cubic world and the Halo game franchise in which some worlds are in the shape of rings:


It also brought to mind the books; Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne in which the planet is hollow and a whole other ecosystem exists inside with dinosaurs! and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld book series in which he created a flat, disc-shaped world held up by giant elephants on the back of a huge turtle that flies around in space of course.

Jules Verne   Vs   Terry Pratchett


This caused us to question if we were going to make an entirely new planet… A simple town or patch of land could be somebody’s world too.

So we decided to move away from the idea of making just another alien planet into more quirky areas such as micro-worlds (small worlds, for example a forest made of mould and microbes), less physical worlds such as a digital/cyber/sound world (almost like The Matrix) and worlds captured in movement (like a world that is constantly changing/rolling/turning inside out).

The Matrix Reloaded

We did some research online and Jonathan looked at different planetary climates and terrains and found some weird and wonderful stuff such as the hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor where creatures there can survive without light and oxygen.

Hydrothermal vent

Méabh was on a mission hurling links at us left, right and centre! She found some great sites on alien/futuristic citiesOne of her best discoveries was a “Tiny Worlds” video from Rushes‘ CG team, depicting little machines working hard to eliminate litter from our streets:

Jordan had been out gathering photos of a forest and came back with an array of interesting pictures.

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It soon got us thinking about an organic world that is growing or on/in something that grows. One of the photos that stood out was a spider web and we considered a world on a string and how it could cope with being stretched and released.


I liked the idea of a constantly changing environment, for example if the life cycle of all the plants around you were extremely fast – you walk down to the end of your street for a loaf of bread and a jungle has grown, died and rotted away all around you in the space of five minutes!

We came up with more micro-world concepts such as a world inside the human body – which reminded me of a cartoon I had seen, Rick and Morty, where a microscopic theme park Jurassic Park had been created inside a living person:

Cartoon show Rick and Morty

Then we thought of a world of bacteria and how different microbes could make up the landscape as they all look so weird and alien (some moulds).

A woodland of mould?

Méabh discovered a book called Microworlds by artist Marc Valli, where he places little figurines in fascinating situations, giving us a snapshot of what life would be like if we were that tiny.

A quest to Hawkin’s Bazaar toy shop in Belfast for some more inspiration turned out quite fruitful and pretty funny. We found a bucky-ball toy, that Jordan recorded, that expands and collapses when you apply force to it, which would be great to study for the moving world idea.

Later on I went to Gizmos and found this plastic ball with a marble puzzle inside and we thought about how our world doesn’t have to be a solid shape, it could be made of many levels that can move and interact with each other.

Puzzle ball

The expanding and collapsing movement of the bucky ball got us thinking that our world could be made of tiny “pebbles”  that can move towards and away from each other constantly, gracefully gliding past each other or smashing all to smithereens.


This advert sprang to mind for the pebble worlds:

We were teetering towards the growing/organic world. Jordan had a great idea of a world of cavemen where the planet had evolved for us creating it’s own natural formations/buildings. For example trees and foliage working together to form walls and shelters and housing estates and instead of roads there would be floating lily pads in fast flowing rivers.

Another concept was a world that grew from within a flower or from a “planet tree”. Here’s concepts of the flower one:

The different landscapes are illustrated on the inside of the petal. As the flower grows the petals expand out and the landscapes spread out from each other kind of forming their own “countries”.

A funny idea was to have our world set in a train carriage. There’s roughly 32 seats and two tables in a carriage, the concept was to have different environments on and around a number of seats, for example; a jungle over the back four seats (covered with leaves, vines hanging from the ceiling, insects, monkeys etc.) then across from that an extremely icy and windy bit (with snow all over the seats and icicles). There could also be a river running through the walkway and maybe a small waterfall.

The funny side of it was that it would be full of ordinary sized people (from different walks of life like Amazonian tribes and/or city folk) who are all kind of squished against each other and into these different environments/seats but just get on with it. So you could find an Inuit cooking fish in the desert (hot, sand-covered seats) or a farmer somehow milking a cow in the middle of the river-walkway!

Just imagine it a bit more packed and a bit less nuts! Haha, it makes me smile when I get on the train.

Looking deeper into our theme got us thinking about Jordan’s idea where the planet forms cities for us to live in, so we looked it up and found this artist, Patrick Dougherty:

By shaping the willow as it grows, he is able to form sculptures that are also organic buildings. Pretty cool.

One idea that stuck out was the “planet tree”, where our world was growing from or in a tree. This reminded Jonathan about Yggdrasil: an immense tree that is the centre of Norse cosmology and that connects the nine worlds. I’ll let Thor explain it better (relevant between 1:20 – 2:30)!

Then we thought a world in a tree just isn’t original enough so what else could we use? How about some seaweed, wall ivy or a tumbleweed? This led us to the library where we found the “Illustrated Book of Trees and Shrubs” by Eleanor Lawrence and Vaclav Vetvicka:

One of the illustrations gave Jordan the idea of a city in a pinecone and we also looked at one in a tumbleweed as you could incorporate movement.


Goblin Town from Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

We focused on 3 main concepts: the world growing from a plant, the planet with an organic civilisation and the mouldy landscape, however, we decided to go with the world in a flower.


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