The Bartlett School of Architecture


Gaming Giant Ubisoft Commissions Collaboration with Bartlett Tutors Sandra Youkhana and Luke Pearson

16 May 2023

The duo’s design practice, You+Pea, was asked to create an architectural model responding to the game world in Assassin’s Creed Unity.

Close-up view of architectural model and 'parkour maquette' of a route through the city layout from Assassin's Creed Unity

The designers were invited to respond to one of Ubisoft’s games in any way they chose, as part of the game manufacturer's ‘Carte Blanche’ series; this initiative showcases inspiring and emotional aspects of their videogames, with designers reinterpreting game worlds through an original creative asset. Sandra and Luke selected Assassin’s Creed Unity, in which Arno Dorian, a member of the mysterious order of the Brotherhood of Assassins, must race across eighteenth century Paris against the backdrop of the French Revolution, to expose the true architects of the Revolution and avenge the murder of his adopted father. Ubisoft released the game in 2014, constructing a faithful digital recreation of the French capital, with accurately depicted Parisian features like Notre Dame Cathedral, the Tuileries and the Bourse de Commerce, as well as intentionally included anachronistic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower.

Sandra and Luke decided to create a large physical architectural model of the game environment. The maquette was conceived to express both space and time, reminagining Paris as a parkour landscape. The model traces ways of moving throughout the city, navigating paths of travel across the vertical space of the skyline: jumping, running and climbing, rather than just moving conventionally at ground level.

We were interested in how Unity opens up the city in a new way to players; rather than just experiencing things from the street, being able to navigate across the buildings, the rooftops, the facade: interacting with architecture in a different way.”

- Sandra Youkhana

They mapped out their route through the game by playing it and using screenshots and gameplay footage to build a digital model, and applied research about how the game was built, from procedural design techniques to dealing with copyrighted elements. In a video released this week by Ubisoft, Sandra and Luke explain their design process and how their background as architects and urban designers inform the world-building inherent to video games. 

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeeYIzpAgls

We’ve been gamers since we were young - being transported to these worlds informed our decisions to become architects. We’ve always been interested by spaces… the things that people do in spaces, and their relationships to people and their lives.”

- Luke Pearson

Sandra and Luke co-lead Videgame Urbanism, a studio and research cluster within Urban Design MArch which integrates video game design approaches into architectural design. Luke Pearson is Co-Director of the new Cinematic and Videogame Architecture MArch at The Bartlett (currently taking applications for 2023 entry), and an Associate Professor. Sandra Youkhana is a lecturer (teaching) at The Bartlett, an architect and a PhD candidate in Architectural Design. Together they launched architectural design studio You+Pea. Its game-based works have been exhibited at galleries including the Victoria & Albert Museum, Architekturzentrum Wien, Vienna and at EGX London, the UK’s leading gaming expo. Sandra and Luke have also written on the relationship between games and architecture for journals including Perspecta: The Yale Architecture Journal (MIT Press, 2022) and books such as Design Studio: Intelligent Control (RIBA Books, 2021). They published their own book, Videogame Atlas: Mapping Interactive Worlds, through Thames & Hudson in 2022.

More information

Images: Stills from Ubisoft video (see video for full credits)