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Ascetic Aesthetic

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"It seems that perfection is attained not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to remove."

Locations set the mood of a scene just as much as the characters in it, and few locations say so much with so little as those with the Ascetic Aesthetic. A setting built with an Ascetic Aesthetic is "decorated" in a modern, minimalist and exceedingly clean style. Walls will likely be plain, featureless gray or white, perhaps with a light blue accent. Buildings will have either no curves at all, favouring a blocky and efficient feel, or have oddly sterile "organic" curves. Furniture will likely be plain and industrial, favoring function and comfort over style.

The net feeling these places will evoke is the absence of it. Rooms, buildings, and cities will seem cold and empty even when full of people. Though Minimalism as a style can have a lot of character and personality, the Ascetic Aesthetic invokes an uneasy emptiness, be it of life (people are alienated), nature (nothing non-human lives there) or oppression (Dystopia loves this decorative statement).

The most extreme uses of this trope will be just one moving van away from becoming a White Void Room.

One of the main inspirations for this trope was the spotless whiteness of most NASA technology and spacesuits back in the day (which served the practical purpose of making it easier to see if equipment was damaged or contaminated in any way). This was very true in 2001: A Space Odyssey, which in turn helped solidify this aesthetic as "what The Future was supposed to look like" for the next decade or so.

This may be justified if it's a hospital, bio-laboratory or high tech factory where everything has to be clean, but usually goes a little farther in making the set dehumanizingly impersonal. Futuristic settings post Zeerust will usually embrace a form of this trope where Everything Is an iPod in the Future and there are Shiny-Looking Spaceships. Often includes Transparent Tech, and maybe even a Holographic Terminal. Not surprisingly, the polar opposite of this trope is the Used Future, where the edges will be dented, the patina scratched, and the once angelic halogen lights will flicker if they still work at all.

Please note that authors don't always cover every inch of their settings with an Ascetic Aesthetic. It can be localized to just one room as easily as a planet. For this reason, stories that feature a place with an Ascetic Aesthetic will often be contrasted at one or more points with at least one homey, hearthy, or all-natural location, where the characters who are closer to Earth dwell. If two factions embrace these opposite aesthetic and philosophical views, expect Slobs Versus Snobs.

Another uses for this design aesthetic is that it doesn't distract viewers as much as homier or "busier" sets like the Bazaar of the Bizarre, turning the focus on characters and any significant decoration or out of place element. Like a flower pot, pet cat, dropped MacGuffin or blood covered wall. Because when something is out of place or has Gone Horribly Wrong in these locations, it's very easy to tell.

In the shiny end of Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty.

Compare and contrast with Design Student's Orgasm. Closely related to White Void Room and can be paired with White Is Pure.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Hueco Mundo, part of the afterlife and the world of Hollows, in Bleach is a barren desert with almost no features aside from a petrified tree here and there. The ground is made up of stark white sand and the sky is always pitch black and completely featureless aside from the moon. Aizen's fortress in Hueco Mundo, Las Noches, is a better example architecture-wise. It's the size of a country and, from the outside, mostly just looks like a gargantuan, white box sitting in the desert. The inside is a bit more complex, but the architectural details are usually pretty bizarre.
  • Death Note introduces its Anti-Hero Antagonist L in a room like this, with nothing but his laptop and four white walls. Of course, it's hard to tell because he's sitting alone in near darkness. Most likely used to foreshadow the prevalence of Intelligence Equals Isolation in the shaping of his character, or, as some theorize, to dip into the series' underlying meditations on Zen Buddhism.
  • In Saint Beast, Zeus' shrine and Heaven's Palace are opulent for their sheer size but there's very little filling the space and the dominant colour is white.
  • Tiger & Bunny really strikes home on how empty and lonely Barnaby's life is when his apartment is shown for the first time. The place is a large, modern studio, with hardly any decorations and almost no furniture save for an ergonomic chair and an elaborate computer/television setup that he uses to obsessively investigate his parents' murders. His superhero partner Kotetsu's bachelor pad, on the other hand, is a sprawling, messy and colorful loft full of bookshelves, CDs, and photographs of his family. The contrast could hardly be sharper.

    Comic Books 
  • The starship Entreprise-2061 from Pouvoirpoint is one big gray floating block, no frills. Interiors are bare and functional, when not inspired by Verner Panton's design. The only robot is tangram-shaped, made of black geometric shapes.

    Films — Animation 
  • Despicable Me shows Gru as a down-to-earth, but homey-in-a-kind-of-way villain, whereas Vector is shown as being a villain that looks like he purchased all his furniture from Steve Jobs. He also plays a Nintendo Wii, which features the same aesthetic.
  • The monster-holding facility in Monsters vs. Aliens, coupled with Unnecessarily Large Interior — and no, that little bitty "Hang in There" poster doesn't perk things up any.
  • Duloc in Shrek. In an otherwise medieval setting, this city's buildings are all white, clean and precisely proportioned, decorated only with royal banners, glossy photobooths and puppet shows chirping about how perfect it all is. Makes one wonder if Duloc's builders are a hivemind.
  • The Axiom in WALL•E is completely full of the Aesthetic. No surprise, as EVE is based on an Apple Mac.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Aside from the "Dawn of Man" segment, 2001: A Space Odyssey practically defines this trope.
  • Patrick Bateman's apartment in American Psycho looks stunningly elegant and organized. He's also got dozens of corpses piled up in the back rooms.
  • The urban environments of Anon (2018) have a very grey, sterile feeling to them, with everything depicted right down to the smallest object as being in near-perfect order and synchronicity. Of course, this is to subtly make the film's dystopian, no-privacy-allowed society even creepier.
  • LexCorp in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice seems very informal and open-plan, with stark white walls and most space taken up by a basketball court. At one point, Luthor invites someone to "step into my office"...then sits down at a snack bar and starts talking shop.
  • Beyond the Black Rainbow: Mirrors, hard surfaces, sterile walls, and TV screens everywhere give the Arboria Institute this aesthetic.
  • In Cube 2: Hypercube, the death-trap maze of interconnected cube-shaped rooms has a user-friendly look, with sleek white surfaces and touch-to-open panels.
  • The city of San Angeles in Demolition Man has less charm than a hospital waiting room, and physical contact between citizens has become an archaic practice, replacing "fluid exchanges" like kissing and intercourse with VR simulations.
  • The buildings, interiors, apparel, and most of the scenes in Equals are sleek and minimalist, in a palette of white and shades of grey.
  • Equilibrium uses this to show the difference between the clean, calm, boring, and unemotional society and the dirty, downtrodden and emotional heretics.
  • The Heart of Gold in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) is clean and white, emphasizing how advanced it is.
  • In Invasion of Astro-Monster, the underground complex on Planet X is composed primarily of plain white tunnels with curved walls.
  • In The Knack... and How to Get It, Tom, who is a bit mad, moves into the townhouse advertising for a tenant (without notifying the landlord first) and immediately empties out all the furniture and paints it completely white — floors, windowpanes and all.
  • In Logan's Run, the dome city is decorated on these lines. In reality, much of it was filmed at the Dallas Market Center.
  • The Sarang moon base in Moon has a white, geometrical atmosphere that emphasizes the loneliness felt by the protagonist. It is a bit dirtier than the typical example, though.
  • How the Tet and anything related to it (the Towers, the drones, the firearms) is represented in Oblivion (2013). Borders Everything Is an iPod in the Future in some places (like the Towers' communication consoles).
  • The whole office building that Hulot bumbles through in Playtime is designed to look very clean and shiny and new and ultra-modern; the whole effect is off-putting and alienating.
  • Genesis House in SAVE ME has shades of this — a little unusually, since its aesthetic is a sort of Pueblo desert retreat type of thing. But the orderliness, the amount of time spent doing chores, and the insane number of (often apparently pointless, and often ignored) rules about what the men there can and can't do, all point to this trope.
  • Miranda in Serenity, with the colony's sterile neatness contrasted with the long-deceased bodies of the colonists. Also shown with the scenes from the Academy at the beginning of the movie, and on the Alliance ships in the series proper, which were designed to look sterile and colorless with both architecture and uniform.
  • Star Wars contrasts this trope with a Used Future aesthetic.
    • The Empire uses a clean, dark and minimalist aesthetic, which is why the stormtroopers are stark white in spite of the general aesthetic that Dark Is Evil.
    • Cloud City has its interior decoration dominated by the use of white, though underneath the shiny veneer of the public spaces most of the place is actually dark and industrial. Further, the clean and neat appearance of the place neatly foreshadows that it is not a safe haven for Han, Leia, Chewie, and C-3PO, but has been secretly seized by Darth Vader and The Empire.
    • Princess Leia's starship in A New Hope, the Tantine IV, has mostly white and chrome interiors, befitting a diplomatic starship belonging to the Imperial senator from the very wealthy world of Alderaan.
    • The Rebel flagship, Home One, is shown in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi to share the clean regal asthetics of the Tantine IV.
  • The TRON franchise has this as a Zig-Zagging Trope. Depending on what part of the franchise is being used and what is being depicted, it can ricochet between this and Design Student's Orgasm. The films tend to go for this (particularly TRON: Legacy) as they're systems under the control of brutal tyrants who have zero tolerance for anything they'd consider out of place (and in the latter, the tyrant's been in charge for the Grid equivalent of a thousand years!), but a Deleted Scene in the original film and TRON: Uprising state that isn't always the case, particularly when it comes to the Programs' personal spaces.
  • The Transworld building's Floor Zero in Upside Down comes off like this, at least in the part of the floor where all the cubicles are.

  • Captive Prince: The nation of Akielos tends towards stark minimalism, in contrast with the intricate ornamentation used in its rival country Vere. When Veretian castles are remodeled in the Akielon style, it just looks bleak, but properly designed Akielon cities are beautiful in a way that even touches a Veretian prince.
  • In The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the interior of Ridjeck Thome, and specifically Lord Foul's private quarters, is like this; everything is elaborately and beautifully worked, but it is completely sterile and colorless, devoid even of Foul's minions (who are housed elsewhere in the fortress). The result gives the chambers, an empty, frigid, lifeless and oppressive air that beats down on anyone who enters, described as a perfection that exists only to express contempt for all things that don't measure up to its standards.
  • "Escape!": The prototype hyperspace ship has excessively minimalistic design. The only permanent feature is a meter that displays current distance from Earth. Everything else, such as bathrooms and cabinets, are recessed and only opened by the computer in charge.
  • Inheritance Trilogy: One rare sign that Prince Relad — who spends most of his time in a hedonistic stupor, expecting to die as soon as his sister claims the throne — has Hidden Depths is his private quarters, which are austere and functional, with a strategic world map inlaid in the floor.
  • Legacy of the Aldenata: The SubUrbs start out this way, but very quickly become Used Future.
  • In The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, the eccentric psychologist Mr. Standish works in an unadorned white office, with a bare black desk, a bare glass coffee table, and an empty black picture frame. He is so dedicated to this that he keeps his phone in a drawer when he's not using it. Kate asks him why he doesn't have any ornaments, and he says of course he has ornaments, they're an essential part of a healthy psyche. He then takes one out of another drawer, looks at it for a moment, and then puts it back.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Andor prominently features minimalist white interior design in the Imperial Security Bureau on Coruscant and the Imperial Prison Complex on Narkina 5.
  • In Battlestar Galactica (2003), the colonials and Cylons have very different design aesthetics, with the former being in a run-down warship, with even the newer ships (ala Pegasus) are distinctly utilitarian; the latter in ultra-modern organic/technological starships.
  • This is invoked in the Community episode "App Development and Condiments" as part of "futurization" of the campus. The episode itself is an homage to films such as Logan's Run and Zardoz and presented a "dystopian" society (though being Community, the society is confined to the college, in the present day, and is all just the result of them using an app to rate each other).
  • Doctor Who:
    • The original 1960s incarnation of the TARDIS interior. Attempts by some designers to update the look of the TARDIS to make it look consciously futuristic look, by today's standard, more dated. A prominent case is the redesigned console used from "The Five Doctors" to "Battlefield", which featured a more '80s-oriented design, including working BBC Micro computers, that resulted in the prop readily dating itself after the Classic Series' cancellation in 1989. From 1996 onwards, the TARDIS set design has moved away from asceticism to embrace steampunk and clapped-out organo-gothic.
    • Also presented in many of the Dalek designs, in particular during the serial which introduced them.
    • "The Girl Who Waited" has the Kindness Centre that Amy winds up trapped in. Most of it, except for the garden section, is a sterile white.
    • The hospital ship Tsuranga in "The Tsuranga Conundrum", which has the justification of being a sterile environment not intended for long-term human occupation.
  • In Farscape, the insides of the Scarran ships are unusually white and clean, compared to the outside of the ships, which have Spikes of Villainy.
  • Justified in Flashpoint, in the apartment of a man who's been coping poorly with Photographic Memory. Overwhelmed by the sheer mass of past images in his head, he'd simplified his living quarters as much as possible, with white furnishings and minimal necessities in all-white rooms, so seeing them wouldn't add still more imagery to his accumulated memories.
  • Massive Dynamic from Fringe is in love with this style, combined with Sinister Geometry.
  • Good Omens (2019) uses this trope in its depiction of Heaven — clean, spacious, lots of light — and manages to make Heaven look like the headquarters of an oppressive impersonal multinational or the nerve centre of a totalitarian dictatorship, purely by exaggerating absolutely everything about this aesthetic. Clinically clean and with too much brilliant harsh white light.
  • The time travel chamber in Guest from the Future is a white room with a control stand in the center, and the Time Institute is made of polished metal panels.
  • In Helix, parts of Arctic Biosystems are sleek, modernist and spare to the point of creepiness, which makes it a perfect backdrop for an outbreak of The Virus. Some promos Exaggerate the contrast, showing Bad Black Barf dripping on stark white modernist furniture and walls.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1981) uses this trope: of the various spacecraft encountered, the Heart of Gold manages to combine the clean white aesthetic with a sense of everything being cheap, tacky, plasticky and somewhat scuffed at the edges.
  • Made For Love centers around a tech company named Gogol, which produces technologies ranging in nefariousness from the privacy-invasive to the fatal and has eerily clean, all-white decor.
  • Orphan Black:
    • Any scene where Rachel Duncan is in is likely to be in a room like this, particularly in the earlier three seasons, in which the Dyad Institute featured more prominently. This is even reflected in Rachel's style, almost always wearing some form of white, and mostly dressed in minimalistic outfits.
    • Susan Duncan's hideout is a variant; the designs are mostly minimalistic, but the walls are a faded brown as opposed to white. As with Rachel, the clothes she and her companion Ira wear reflect this, being pristine white.
    • P.T. Westmorland's mansion at Camp Revival averts the trope, being quite old-fashioned in a way that recalls the late nineteenth century and the early Edwardian Era. This is done entirely on purpose to help sell the ruse that it is actually P.T. Westmorland who lives there, and not a fraud named John.
  • Severance (2022): The severed floor at Lumon is ominously stark in its appearance, with smooth, white walls, a lack of windows, and simplistic decoration and technology.
  • Star Trek:
    • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the starship Enterprise looks like it was designed by Future Ikea, because it's always clean and sterile. This actually works to exalt the small touches that characters add to their personal spaces. Picard has an exotic fish in his office, and Data has Spot the cat. One interesting detail, though, that the set designers added was the curved wooden oval with the tactical station on the bridge. It is probably the only time in the franchise that we see a Federation ship with natural materials featuring prominently in the design. In interviews, they mention it was to add a "homey" touch that also reinforced the "cruise ship in space" feel. Some of the concept sketches for the Next Gen Enterprise included hanging plants on the bridge. Indeed, in the show itself, a captain of another (smaller, older) Starfleet vessel refers to the Enterprise as a "Flying Hotel".
    • Played with in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Depending on the episode, Sisko's office is rather minimalistic, which can be jarring compared to the rest of the Ops set, which is quite busy. This serves to highlight that there's a lot more to running what is essentially a city in space than the episode may indicate. The variation on Sisko's office depends on which character is the focus of the episode. If it's not Sisko, we typically see it from the point of view of the character (i.e. the employee talking to the boss in his office). The only personal effect will be his prized baseball, which sits on a stand on the desk. If it's Sisko, it will be shot from his point of view, which will highlight a collection of models and oddities that will typically be behind the camera (as well as a couch he will be more relaxed while sitting on) and he will typically be playing with the baseball.
    • In Star Trek: Enterprise, the interior of the ship is designed not to look like a space ship but rather a submarine, feeling dark and more cramped that ships of later timelines. When the crew visits a creepy AI space station, it contrasts with their ship in that it is bright, white, clean and minimalist.
  • Like Good Omens above, Supernatural depicts Heaven as uncannily clean, white, and filled with ethereal light. This only enhances how the angels value obedience rather than actual goodness and in fact are very detached from humanity.

  • Austra's "Utopia" video depicts the titular utopia (or perhaps dystopia) with stark, sterile, Spartan architecture and decor bordering on White Void Rooms.
  • The video for Björk's "All Is Full of Love" features spotless white rooms and robots.
  • See Minimalistic Cover Art for this trope in record sleeve art. Main culprit: Peter Saville.
  • David Byrne's stage design for Talking Heads' 1983 tour, as seen in Stop Making Sense. The instruments and microphones were painted matte-black to get rid of "distracting" elements. Byrne wouldn't even allow cups of water onstage, to the irritation of bassist Tina Weymouth.

  • One episode of The BBC's radio comedy anthology Alexei Sayle's The Absence of Normal is about the wife of an architect who is absolutely obsessed with this trope. She has a secret flat filled with nicknacks and comfortable chairs, which she sneaks off to as if she were having an affair — and when he learns about it, he's probably more upset than if she had been.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering offers various examples of this. The perfect metallic plane of Phyrexia and, later, in Alara there are the Sphinxes and the neatly polished Etherium.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, the Tau prefer their constructions to be ergonomic and functional, with every component designed to fit perfectly with every other component, such that it forms one common whole. Living spaces do occasionally have frescoes on the walls and floors, with abstract labyrinth-like patterns, though the colors are so subtle as to be almost unnoticeable unless one focuses directly on it, the intention being that it serves as a meditation aid. To Imperials, who have skulls, statuary, exposed wiring and centuries of battle damage on most of their buildings and equipment, the effect is of Alien Geometries.

    Video Games 
  • The entirety of the world in the indie game Against the Wall, which is "set on the side of an infinite brick wall". Don't look down.
  • Antichamber: Walls are plain, featureless white and areas have no curves at all, favouring a blocky and efficient feel, which invokes an uneasy emptiness of life. This helps build the game's dream-like atmosphere.
  • The Abstergo Entertainment Headquarters in Assassin's Creed along with the normal Abstergo Headquarters have this aesthetic, even the Animus, to the point that one of the employees of Abstergo Entertainment complained that the building was "kinda sterile".
  • In Borderlands 2, most areas controlled by Hyperion fit this design philosophy. All of the Hyperion areas have a very modern, clean, white/yellow paint job and look neat and orderly, especially the interior of Hyperion buildings and the yet-to-be-occupied city of Opportunity. Handsome Jack actually deliberately enforces this, as he has essentially declared the act of littering to be punishable by death.
  • In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the player comes across a single, all white room. It is unique to the game's setting (where every other room is a mess of papers and litter), and strangely uncanny.
  • At the end of Devil May Cry, you plunge into the Underworld, and it has much of the expected tropes such as Fire and Brimstone Hell and Evil Is Visceral, complete with a giant beating heart and the implication of the whole place being a living organism. You then pass through the final door to confront Mundus, and you are greeted with a bright, clean, stark hallway, lined with pillars and generally looking like a copy of some ancient Greek temple, leading up to a stunningly crafted statue that is in fact, Mundus himself. The sheer beauty and deliberate, skilled architecture of the area may surprise players after trudging through blood and lava, but it also hints that this place is more eldritch than what came before.
  • The Nano Age buildings in Empire Earth are all stylish and predominantly white.
  • Fallout:
    • Cleanliness of the (operational) Vaults in the classical games is in stark contrast with the grit of the outside world, as noted by a few characters. Their inhabitants are effectively prisoners there, subjects to Overseer's authority who has secret, immoral orders from the government regarding them. After a Vault opens and the populations leaves (few are so lucky), its empty halls become even more reclusive. The background music for Vault 13 contributes to the atmosphere of nothingness and isolation.
    • Fallout 4's Institute plays this up, with a Raygun Gothic-inspired aesthetic dominated by gleaming white and orange plastic, chrome, and glass structures. On the surface, it appears to be a technological utopia, being the only group in all of the Wasteland to have significantly advanced technology since the Great War. However, this belies the fact that the Institute is single-handedly responsible for destabilizing the Commonwealth, regularly kidnaps wastelanders for unethical experiments, and utilizes synthetically created humans as slaves. Their aesthetic nicely contrasts the Diesel Punk aesthetic of the Brotherhood of Steel, the Steampunk aesthetic of the Railroad, and the Cattle Punk/American Revolutionary War aesthetic of the Minutemen.
  • In Final Fantasy XIII, the final part of Orphan's Cradle, immediately prior to the Final Boss, is a stylish, clean white room that looks eerily like a lobby or waiting room (in fact, it is called "Narthex", a term used for the lobby area of Byzantine church buildings). Unsettling, especially considering the surreal alternate dimension previously traversed to get to that point.
  • Kingdom Hearts: The Castle That Never Was and Castle Oblivion utilize this aesthetic, as does Naminé's room in the Twilight Town mansion, accordingly. These are all associated with the "empty"/"incomplete" Nobodies.
  • Mass Effect:
    • The Citadel is presented this way at first. Mass Effect 2 works a lot to subvert this trope. The Wards (parts of the Citadel where normal people live) are much dirtier and more crowded than the pristine Embassy section. Omega practically passes for a Blade Runner set, all to make the sequel Darker and Edgier.
    • Zig-zagged with the new Normandy: apparently the intent of the brightly lit steel-and-white colour scheme of the SR2 was to invoke a cold, sterile, medical atmosphere compared to the old Normandy. Unfortunately, a lot of players had found the SR1 to be under-lit and eye-straining, and actually preferred Cerberus' choice of décor. Then in Mass Effect 3, the Normandy 2 is in the middle of a retrofit when Earth comes under attack leaving exposed wires, tools and incomplete sections of the ship exposed to the crew to give the sensation that even with everything that happened in the previous games we just weren't ready.
  • In Miitopia, the Sterile Plant, unsurprisingly, carries this spotless white look. The heroes don't seem to be bothered by it though, treating it as just another dungeon with an end boss, just with a different theme than normal.
  • Most of the public spaces in Mirror's Edge are this way, albeit with bright colours to offset the white, everything's so clinical in its cleanliness that it quite effectively drives home how oppressive the regime truly is. It's notable that of the colors used, one is absent: green.
  • My House has the Brutalist House, a blocky concrete rendition of the titular house with no furniture or decor to speak of, surrounded by walls of similarly ascetic apartments.
  • Oni does this, in keeping with its Animesque style. In an inversion of Artists Are Not Architects, the level design done by actual architects was commonly slagged by players as excessively bland.
  • In Persona 5 Royal, up to defeating Yaldabaoth, most of the Palaces aren't subtle in displaying how despicable or malicious its ruler is, with the headquarters of said Yaldabaoth being a literal apocalyptic wasteland overlaid into Shibuya filled with carcasses and skeletons of massive creatures. However, once you reach the Third Scenario, the true final Palace happens to be a replica of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, its interior being a bright and warmly lit mental health clinic filled with cognitive patients seeking eternal happiness, leading to an enclosed research ward with barely anything but creepy-looking Shadows, and finally leading to a warmly lit conservatory/paradise resembling the Garden of Eden. The problem is that said cognitive patients are brainwashed into shells of their former selves that feel nothing but happiness, enjoying the rest of their lives swirling around the center Tree of Knowledge with creepy smiles plastered on their face. Unlike most previous targets, however, the ruler is ultimately a kind, altruistic and ambitious man having been ascended to being the new God of Control, just heavily misguided in his ideals.
  • Pokémon Sun and Moon: The Aether Foundation's specialty. Each of their bases of operation is decorated the same way. Their headquarters, Aether Paradise, is an entire artificial island made of Ascetic Aesthetic. In spite of this, they're ultimately good people, even if their leader did go a little far.
  • The test chambers in Portal, to some extent. The offices backstage also use this style.
  • Around the Turn of the Millennium, several annual contests known as "Geocomps" ("Geometry Competitions") were held for Quake III: Arena masters for who could build the best map with only ten textures. This led to a very extreme form of this trope with structurally complex but extremely sterile and abstractly textured maps. Some of them were very striking to behold.
  • The Turing Test: The test chambers follow a minimalist and exceedingly clean style, with a blocky feel and no curves at all, and present plain, monochromatic walls, with no features except for the elements required to solve the puzzles. Justified in that they're composed of pre-fabricated modules, arranged to suit the crew's needs for storage, and later rearranged to create puzzles destined to prevent TOM's access.
  • The Yi-Lono-Mordel Control Room of the Interactive Fiction game The Weapon is described as this.
  • Many technological environments in Xenogears feature variations of this theme, with it being most common to Solarian facilities and equipment.

  • Last Res0rt is pretty clean and sterile to begin with, but Gabriel's ship, the White Diamond Crisis, is especially so even by the comic's standards. It goes for shades of mint/teal and lavender rather than pure white, though.
  • Many of the halls and rooms in Tower of God, specifically in Evankhell's Hell and other testing areas are big, spacious, blank and white, with little detail. Makes it slightly unnerving, but also easy to draw.

    Web Original 
  • Lucky Day Forever has the Whites' Society, which is used to contrast against the Proles's dirty, colorful society.
  • In Starsnatcher, Lucas gets his first taste of Seizer civilization when getting probed on in a laboratory that fits this aesthetic with its sterile walls curving into one another. The rest of Seizer civilization plays with this trope. While their settlements are very clean and sterile, they are made of dynamic nano-metamaterials that can change the color of walls, display artworks, or just show ads in case the sterility becomes boring.
  • In Within the Wires, the Second-Person Narration of a set of Relaxation Cassettes distributed to a patient at the Institute drops her calm façade to opinionate that the Institute is "white and sterile".

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Abbeys and monasteries tend to represent the Ur-Example of this trope. In particular, in the Middle Ages, the Cistercian Order became famous for the severe and austere but beautiful architecture of their abbeys and monasteries. The Cistercians specifically eschewed ornament as distracting from the religious life, and instead focused on building their facilities to let in the light (both for spiritual reasons and because the Cistercian’s were very work- and business-oriented and more light meant more time to work).
  • Hospitals and anything that has to do with biological research, and with good reason.
    • Hospital bedrooms and such, anyway. Hallways and such that don't need strict cleanliness can be more decorative, apparently.
      • Children's hospitals tend to be a stark contrast to the normal hospital look. Children's Hospital Seattle has two main buildings, one for surgery and appointments and one for hospital bedrooms. The building for appointments is entirely aquatic-themed (to the point that they have a huge orca whale decorating the middle of the building and fish statues somewhere on most floors) and the building for hospital beds is entirely jungle-themed, with the same attention to detail. It has an overall calming effect, which is useful when your patients are all under the age of 21.
  • Many an office or classroom uses this, so much so that employees decorate their cubicles to offset the maddening blandness.
  • Most factories are designed like this in the interior, which would keep employees bored enough at the scenery to focus on the manufacturing job.
  • The Wii and the Wii Menu, right down to the white-and-cyan scheme.
    • The Nintendo Switch counts as well, especially in contrast to its showier competitors.
  • The living areas for many a military recruit or cadet, due to The Spartan Way being adopted to varying degrees. Indeed, "Spartan" is another word used to sometimes describe the minimalist nature of this aesthetic.
    • Spartan is vastly different in that the point isn't blank and soulless, it's function over form and comfort. You don't actually need a bed to sleep, a designated corner technically works just as fine; you don't need bay windows, but having holes big enough to see what's going on outside could give you vital information you can use to influence your next action, etc.
  • Apple Inc. started using this as its main design aesthetic from the late 1990s and onward.
    • It's Older Than They Think. This style was Steve Jobs Author Appeal from the very start and was first applied in the early 80s,note  with Jobs' insistence on the clean, uncluttered lines of the Apple's GUI and the adoption of the sleek, geometrical Snow White design language first seen in Apple IIc and then used until the mid-Nineties, though with Jobs being ousted in 1985, new Apple leadership started to scale down these designs, replacing them with jewels like the 20th Anniversary Mac. It wasn't until Jobs returned to the company in 1997 that minimalism got restored. Note that Jobs, a lifelong Buddhist, was probably inspired precisely by the Zen approach.
  • Japanese Zen practitioners have had this aesthetic mastered for centuries; so much, that it's nearly a cliché to imagine Japanese rooms as mostly geometrically sleek, serene and empty, with possibly a wall scroll or a nude branch of a tree artistically propped up at an angle as the sole decoration.
  • Bauhaus architecture; the style's name was coined by one of its most famous proponents, German architect Walter Gropius. Frank Lloyd Wright hated the aesthetic and accused it of lacking a soul.
    • Ironically, both are now regarded as leading figures of the architectural modernism, and Wright actually shared a lot of ground with Gropius.
  • German designer Dieter Rams is the Trope Codifier.
  • Clean Style/German Style (see a trend here?) of automobile tuning. It focuses on invisible mechanical improvements, lowered suspension, large rims and tyres and very Spartan bodywork exterior, inasmuch as even factory brand badges are sometimes removed.
  • The Washington Metro. Rather than the usual American subways with square stations with low ceilings and tiled walls that veritably scream "1920", or the Moscow Metro model of opulent, palatial stations, the Metro goes for vast circular or elliptical stations with high ceilings in concrete with rounded-rectangle coffering, brick-red hexagonal tile floors, clean white-on-black signage (in Helvetica no less) and prolific use of rounded corners (many of which make the structures look like they could've come from Picard's Enterprise despite being designed at least ten years before that ever aired) and escalators. Oh, and it's remarkably efficient, the information displays — themselves simple, square, and unornamented — always tell you exactly how long you have to wait for your train, and it is seriously, seriously clean.note  Provided that the system is operating (which, since about 2015, has been an issue due to chronic negligence with maintaining the rails), it's one of the most if not the most pleasant subway ride in the Americas.note  Get a load of all this!
  • Swedish home furnishings company IKEA is famous for its "Scandinavian design." What this means, as a practical matter, is products with clean lines and little if any kind of ornament and distinctly un-flashy color schemes (white, gray, black, and shades of brown are most common, along with plain metal for metallic items and plain wood for wooden items). There are exceptions (like their bizarrely colored "Gubbröra" rubber spatulas — seriously, guys, dark blue and lime-green? Hot pink and purple?), but for the most part if you're getting IKEA, you're getting this aesthetic.
  • The passenger compartment of most airliners from the 1990's onwards tend toward softly curved white with lines of lights. However, the relatively dark carpet and in some cases, the seats, diverge from this.
  • Skydiving aircraft are devoid of any upholstery and passenger gear sans the mandatory crash belts, and usually have their doors replaced with roll-up screens. Justified, since each extra kilo to the sky is dead weight and fuel consumed.
  • The International architectural style and its offshoots, Bauhaus and mid-century modern, codified a lot of this look, and its prevalence in modern buildings in the early-mid 20th century probably helped make it synonymous with "the future" in a lot of period sci-fi. It tended to go a bit easier on the sterile white, though, especially in the furniture that was influenced by it; black was was probably more common (it's easier to keep clean), as was bare metal, and whenever natural materials like wood or leather were called for, they generally kept their natural colors (with a bit of varnish or preservative stain).
  • On Sound Transit's Link light rail line in the Seattle area, the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, formerly used by Metro buses, has an aesthetic similar to the aforementioned Washington Metro, while the newer underground stations primarily use a neo-Brutalist concrete and stainless steel cladding motif, and the aboveground stations echo the aforementioned International style.