BLANK SPACE | Fairy Tales 2017 Winners
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WINNERS ANNOUNCED:
FAIRY TALES 2017


In front of a live audience at the National Building Museum in Washington D.C., Blank Space, AIAS, and the National Building Museum announced the winners of the fourth annual Fairy Tales competition. With submissions from over 60 countries, the award-winning entries explore current events and the creative process through wonderfully crafted short stories and artwork.


 

 

The winners were chosen by a jury of more than 20 leading architects, designers and storytellers, including Marion Weiss, Michel Rojkind, Jing Liu, Dan Wood and John Maeda, among many other distinguished judges. Chase W. Rynd, the Executive Director of the National Building Museum, and a jury member for the competition, said:

 

“The proposals put forth in the Fairy Tales competition create entire worlds of the imagination – they build their immersive stories as much by what they don’t say, as by what they do. The winning entries in this year’s competition include oblique references to current events, mundane daily activities and human emotions that we all easily relate to – they make visible how we shape space, and in turn, how space shapes us. The images and narratives are so wildly outlandish, and yet, so grounded that it seems like we could mistakenly stumble into any of them. They are personal and powerful – a testament to the power of architecture as a world-builder.”

 

Since its inception in 2013, the annual Fairy Tales challenge has attracted thousands of participants, and winners have gone on to develop their stories into successful Kickstarter campaigns, short films, comic books, and exhibitions.

 

This year’s jury selected three prize winners, an AIAS winner, and 10 honorable mentions:

 

First Prize goes to Mykhailo Ponomarenko, a Ukrainian trained architect for his entry “Last Day”. Mykhailo is currently based in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and works at the landscape architecture firm EDSA, Inc. His entry utilizes classical painting techniques to create monumental landscapes with strange scifi megastructures inserted into them. The relatively mundane occurrences in the story make it feel like these wild scenes could in fact be real. “Landscapes have always inspired me to put something weird, unreal and out of human scale into them. Something not feasible and not practical that contrasts with the natural surroundings, but also exists at the same scale. These satirical interventions lead to new ideas and feelings about nature – they make the viewer more aware about the environment and our harmful impact on it. We are flat surface creatures. Sometimes I feel that we crave it so much that the planet is going to be turned into pavement so cars can go anywhere, and our industries could continue expanding. The “Saturn Rings” in my proposal represent these flat surface desires but in a more poetic, optimistic, and friendly manner.”
– Mykhailo Ponomarenko

 

Second Prize goes to Terrence Hector, an architect from Chicago with an M.Arch and BS in Architecture from the University of Illinois at Chicago. His entry, “City Walkers” or “The Possibility of a Forgotten Domestication and Biological Industry” tells a beautiful story of a sentient species of architecture that moves slower than humans can perceive. That doesn’t stop human beings from harnessing every possible bit of energy from “The Walkers” in addition to spawning settlements in their wake. “The city in this story was an exploration of civilization and urbanism as humanity’s relationship with natural and biological systems that exist on a vastly longer timescale than the human lifespan. Creating a closer relationship time-wise between human and natural timeframes let me derive a new urban typology, which also acts as a parable of overexploitation. I was trying to work through an inferred genealogy from the USS Monitor to Hayao Miyazaki, working through a tradition of humanizing massive, aggressive machines.”
– Terrence Hector

 

Third Prize goes to Ariane Merle d’Aubigné & Jean Maleyrat, two French architects that met in architecture school, for “Up Above”, an imaginative story of refugees in the sky that build shanties on thin stilts, high in the clouds, to escape oppression, regulations, and inequality on the surface of the earth below. “Revisiting the world of fairy tales by participating in the Blank Space competition was very stimulating. The short narrative takes a look at reality through the marvelous and the fantastic. We have tried to highlight contemporary issues and concerns by letting the supernatural burst into reality. Migration, the accumulation of wealth, overpopulation, the terrorist threat and pollution are some of the issues with which we live every day. We highlighted these concerns and our love of art through this poetic tale. Our generation often aspires to an “elsewhere”, in our “elsewhere” the rules of the game have changed.”
– Ariane Merle d’Aubigné & Jean Maleyrat

 

The AIAS Prize for the highest scoring entry from an AIAS member goes to Maria Syed & Adriana Davis, two architects that met while studying at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, for their story titled “Playing House”, an exercise in illustrating the destructive power of split-personality. Starting with traditional drawings of a modest dwelling, the drawings, and in turn, the narrative, devolve into a series of accusations, misunderstandings, and multiplicity. “Playing House embodies the idea that architecture can eclipse the personality of its occupants, where the character and style of the architecture dictate the mood of the inhabitants. The loud textures and discordant angles of the home sparked the idea for the story: transitioning from room to room manifests itself in drastic physical and psychological change. The drawings, the genesis of our submission, address architectural conventions of projection drawings, merged with the unconventional appearance of the home to create friction. This act is mirrored in the story, where a typical visit from a neighbor turns peculiar. The two creators of this project worked closely throughout their undergraduate career, creating an inseparable partnership for their first collaboration.”
– Maria Syed & Adriana Davis

 

The Jury awarded 10 honorable mentions to: Minh Tran, Alan Ma, & Yi Ning Lui: Xinran Ma; Jun Li, Joris Komen, Yuxing Chen & Yina Dong; Carly Dean & Richard Nelson-Chow; Aidan Doyle & Sarah Wan (Wandoy Studio); Dakis Panayiotou; Julien Nolin; Michael Quach; Janice Kim & Carol Shih; Chong Yan Chuah, Nathan Su & Bethany Edgoose.

 

The Fairy Tales competition has become a repository of the social and environmental issues that are at the forefront of everyone’s mind on a yearly basis. They capture the zeitgeist of the year in highly imaginative, and sometimes tongue-in-cheek ways. Blank Space founders Matthew Hoffman and Francesca Giuliani expand on how the competition has grown since its inception in 2013:

 

“Over the past 4 years, thousands of participants from around the world have crafted their own architectural fairy tales. Architects and designers have always been fantastic at generating graphic representations of their ideas – but what has improved the most is the quality of the text narratives. With each rendition of the competition, it is obvious that the participants have learned from the best qualities of year’s past, and have gone on to craft their own extremely innovative fictional stories. The competition has proven itself as a collective exercise to show the world new ways of discussing and writing about architecture, and in this most vital sense, it has been a great success.”

1st Prize

LAST DAY

By Mykhailo Ponomarenko

They were on the edge, facing the gorgeous mountain view and majestic ring of the Saturn A6, hovering around one of the pinnacles.

 

Saturn A6 was a huge artificial platform, which used anti-gravity engines to fool the laws of Nature and to prove to the creator of the universe that we can control the game. In places, where it was hard to make a living because of a lack of flat surfaces and picturesque landscapes, Saturn technology brought a new range of emotions and experiences to its citizens. Saturn A6 was an agricultural platform. The people were extremely happy to work in their “fields of opportunities”, and, at the same time, contemplate the stunning views around them.

 

Martina and Sefora were visiting Martina’s grandfather, who had a potato field in Sector 3. Life was good on the farm, but at times the people would lose access to satellite signals, interrupting their internet and other network connections for weeks at a time in some cases.

Since it was agricultural platform, nobody rushed right away to fix it, like they would do with at the resort platform, for instance.

 

Anyway, it was one of those interrupted weeks and the girls went to the stationary phone on the opposite mountain. Sefora wanted to call her “mami” and a couple of friends to share her experiences on Saturn A6, and to vent a bit about the “hijos de putas” on the maintenance crew. While she was on a call, Marti tried to catch the signal. Who knows, maybe she can check her Facebook from here, but Fate wanted them to stay tuned with reality during that week.

 

After cities were built all over the land and the oceans, the only place to move was the sky- and we conquered it. Now we thrive and are in a harmony with Nature. We opened ourselves to its beauty and we embraced it – we live above it and we live with it. Saturns were all over the world now. Totally safe and clean, they provide us with fantastic views which make us conscious about surrounding world. They changed our collective mindset, and led us to rethink our place in the world and our impact on it. Any person who worked on flat land, a farmer for instance, now was capable to keep working on their land – suddenly you could better the feel scale of the sky and the depth of space. In addition, people grew accustomed to the higher altitudes, helping them grow more stamina and richer imaginations for future generations. Most of us had way too narrow of a world view. With Saturns, we started suddenly seeing the bigger picture. This helped us become more aware of our impacts on Earth’s landscapes and ecologies.

 

Saturn technology was introduced to the world in Vnutrigorsk (Внутригорск in Russian, meaning “inside the mountain”). This first occurred in the USSR in 1967, and was discovered by pure accident. Nikodim, a shepherd on the mountains in the Altai region, noticed a missing member of his flock. Martha, one of his most precious sheep, was nowhere to be found. After a brief search, Nikodim found Martha in a crack in the mountain’s surface. Bent on protecting his flock, Nikodim went into the crevice after her.

 

After a while of exploring the flesh of the mountain, Nikodim finally found himself and Martha inside a huge cave on the opposite side of the mountain’s surface. The laws of physics did not work in a conventional way here, but he didn’t noticed out of fear and a shroud of darkness. He later reported the mysterious cave to the Village Council, who sent geologists to investigate. This is how the Great Gravity Anomaly – GGA, was discovered.

 

After discovering the GGA, the area become overpopulated with all types of people, intellectuals and undesirables alike, including scientists, laborers, and military. The GGA was such an extravaganza, they decided to build a scientific research institution and a new town to accommodate all the people. That’s how Vnutrigorsk was established.

Research on the GGA conducted in Vnutrigorsk helped the scientists develop an anti-gravity engine. These findings led to the building of the first Saturn. They were called “Saturns” because of the rings, platforms hovering around the mountaintops, resemblance to the planet.

 

My father had heard rumors about a “weird town in the mountains” and the first Saturn being built. So, in summer 1978, he and a friend went to see it. A day-long trek to the mountains in the Altai region would lead them to Vnutrigorsk. When they arrived in the region, on their way through the mountains they saw a very picturesque road. From a distance it looked like a DNA strand and spiraled above and through the mountains. This spiral thrilled them for 15 kilometers and in the end got them down into the valley. Dad concluded that it was some sort of symbolic entrance to Vnutrigorsk – and then they saw the town. It was unbelievable. A huge cylindrical hole was made in the mountain and the town was wrapped on the inner side of it. Apparently, there is zero gravity in the center, because on the poles there were two big research facilities, and on the sides were typical Soviet residential areas, so the guys went to explore it.

 

It was a small Soviet town with straight rows of five-story houses, typically among the people called “Khrushchevka”, with lush yards in between them. I grew up in similar house and yard on other side of the country, so I got the feeling of “urban design” instantly. Also there was a school and a kindergarten. All other necessities were provided within the research facility.

 

When you were standing there in one of the yards, you could look up and see people on the opposite side! It was remarkable! Kids there had very peculiar games, all related to throwing stuff from one yard to another on the opposite one above you, without hitting the research towers. Some people would use slingshots.

 

On every house entrance there were seniors, mostly grannies, sitting and talking. My dad noticed they were discussing them, probably because they looked like tourists. One boy came up and asked where they had come from. Dad said who they were and what they were doing. The boy seemed excited, and after an exchange of a chocolate bar and a charcoal black pencil, the boy guided them to the roof of one of the houses. The view was absolutely surreal. Mountains and valley were tilted 90 degrees. Around one of the pinnacles they saw a Saturn – the very first one! The scale was enormous, but at the same time it was harmonious with the surrounding landscape – it was the whole town looped in a circle. Its horizontal line contrasted with the verticality of the mountain. It was serene, high and absolutely inaccessible from land.

My dad and his friend saw numerous objects flying around it, probably carriers of people and goods. While looking at Saturn and Vnutrigorsk from the roof, the boy offered to them to throw a piece of a brick to the opposite side where some bullies lived. Dad laughed, but refused.

 

At the end of the day they started the drive back. Mountains, Vnutrigorsk, Saturn and the “DNA” highway were way behind them. Coming around the last corner of the highway, they were floored to see two more rings hovering over the flat fields. Dad never saw Saturn that close. On top of it were Khrushchevkas again, and lush greenery in between, and big institutions and light poles, all covered with the warm light of the setting sun. They came to a stop under the center of one of the rings. They felt like they had saw the future. It was as if the whole city could fit it in your hand, and it could. It was the end of an era for my dad, but he knew that tomorrow a new one would begin, holding untold opportunities. Silently the rings hovered in the sky- waiting.

2nd Prize

CITY WALKERS

By Terrence Hector

I struck up a conversation with a foreign traveler, a diplomat from an unspecified country, one of the many vassal states of the Russian Empire, as he remarked on an illustration in Augustus Pugin’s “Contrasts”, which I was then reading. Upon seeing Pugin’s Illustration of a Catholic Town in the 15th century and then altered by industry, he claimed to have knowledge of an ancient city where the opposite change had occurred, not because of the idiosyncrasies of local religious architecture, but because “the Towers of Industry had died.” Finding his choice of words unbelievable, he assured me the meaning was literal, and I pressed for more information. He claimed to be in possession of a history from the end of this city’s age of natural industry, and would provide me a copy for analysis and translation. He did not reveal his name, and I lost contact with him, my only source of information, after that week. The only lead for future investigation is the similarities between the wording of the document and medieval descriptions of the flora of the island of Socotra, as well as anatomical similarities to the subphylum Tunicata as described by Lamark, and these relationships are explored in my illustrations.

 

The following text is an abridged translation of that document, supported by illustrations depicting the buildings / organisms described.

 

Nobody quite remembers when we began to coexist with the Walkers, but everyone remembers when they began to die.

 

The City had always seemed to exist since the beginning of history, its continued prosperity the consequence of a mutualist relationship between two species: the City Walkers and the Human City Dwellers that lived amongst them.

 

The Walkers, while they were certainly alive, existed at a tempo so much longer and slower than the human lifespan that they functioned as landscape and urban architecture as well as domesticated animal. It is believed that the first human settlers in what is now the City mistook them for geological features or monstrous abandoned termite nests upon their discovery. They dwarfed even the tallest trees, and as far as the early city-dwellers were concerned, theses creatures might as well have been part of the landscape (Plate 1). They were incomprehensibly slow, taking a step once every lunar cycle. Settlements grew beneath, and then around and behind the paths of individual beings in the herd.

 

The Walkers were massive, bowely creatures; 200 foot tall rotund and hollow bio-vessels supported on six stocky legs (Plate 2, Figure 1). Their chitinous skin was covered with and softened by thick layers of dirt and dust, giving them the appearance and color of unfired pottery. Existing representation of the Walkers shows the individuals that made up the herd being uniform in appearance, with only minuscule differences in what could be considered identifying features. A column of holes, single file except for a pair on the widest part of the “belly”, were evenly space on the anterior surface of the Dorsal Chimney, defining what could be considered the Walker’s “face” (Plate 2, Figure 6). The “belly” rested on, and drooped over, the secondary Ventral Chimney, to which the legs were attached (Plate 2, Figure 2).

The Walkers’ digestive system, the discovery of which led to their inevitable exploitation, was a form of passive filter feeding. Airborne bacteria and microscopic animals were sucked in and digested, with resulting air waste exhaled out of the Walker’s Dorsal Chimney (Plate 2, Figure 4). The persistent airflow, both in and out, made the insides of the Walkers habitable to humans, and would lead to the first Walker-mills. The micro-climates and constant, isolated wind flow was at first used to power simple, small machines. Tiny, parasitic Mills were precariously fixed to the bodies and chimneys of the Walkers at the strip of the dorsal holes, and for larger industries windmill sails were placed inside the Dorsal Chimney. As the demand for production continued to grow, the scaffolding and cantilevered mills developed into united factories, encasing the Walker they were mounted on (Plates 3 and 4). These traveling Towers of Industry became seats of oligarchical power, surrounded by shifting neighborhoods supporting them. The production from the Towers was enough to supply entire monopolies, with the Walker’s constant wind harnessed for a single purpose.

 

The Walker’s lunar step-cycle was the rhythm around which the city grew. Trails of buildings sprouted in their wake, and administrators and royal scientists gained prominence through the institutionalization of predicting Walker movement, tasked with preventing construction under potential footfalls. Transient markets followed in the Walker’s shadow, selling and bartering the goods produced above them. The city slowly followed the herd, living and profiting from their production.

 

For several hundred years the Walkers walked and left their trail and the city grew, until the Walkers stopped and fell and died, one by one. It was believed that some previously unknown sense caused the remaining Walkers to avoid the bodies of their fallen kin. The tempo of the city suddenly accelerated; it was now beginning to live on a Human timescale. For the first time, there was a space in the city that could be built up without any chance of traditional Walker intervention, and these “Graveyards” surrounding the monumental corpses became flourishing permanent settlements and the first instances of solely Human architecture (Plate 5). The remains of the Walkers and their factory shells were repurposed as markets, temples and other civic institutions, and the fabric of city, expanding to replace the lost industry, filled in the space between them. The former icons of the city became massive public monuments, dead forms instead of living creatures shaping a living city.

 

The Herd, the Towers of Industry, the Walkers have died, and a new, dead city has formed in their place.

3rd Prize

UP ABOVE

By Ariane Merle d’Aubigné & Jean Maleyrat

«  This Article applies to any inhabited structure with a low floor above 70 meters from the earth’s ground.

 

Houses falling into this category are considered to belong to the SkyIsland domain. Therefore, they respond to other laws, tax system and building standards than those that govern the rest of the country. »

 

  • Landisland, Art. 61.2

 

I’m Lucy. I had to escape the earth ground to take refuge in the clouds.

 

This exodus comes from the radical changes of policy led by the Landisland government. This includes changes in the fiscal austerity policies that we have to face, and the increasingly numerous and contradictory standards that govern our society.

 

I could not pay my house anymore, so I went to an unoccupied shelter in the clouds. We rather went up. Because there is no turning back possible and it is in the name of the survival of all my family that I had to make this choice.

 

The first man who created his own house in Skyland was John Moore. He is known to be a crazy creator and a famous architect.

 

The people smuggler took the last money we had. We arrived at Skyland with nothing. Fortunately, the community of Skyland lives frugally and we can support ourselves by meeting our needs. The notion of the accumulation of money that upset and undermined our system (which seemed so solid to everyone) does not exist here. For the simple reason that there is no currency, the whole society operates in barter and simple exchanges within the community. Everyone produces what he is in the ability to produce, or offers the services he can render to the members of the community. It is a rather disparate community like hills hidden between the clouds.

 

Each of our housing is subjected to the harshness of the weather almost daily during the most difficult weather.

 

My House is a small and very functional house and the Earth seems very distant from our windows. The house can be confined in an inflatable bubble to protect its occupants during storms, which can be very violent at this altitude. This protective bubble facing the elements, would also allow us to protect ourselves if the community undergoes a new bacteriological attack. This seems to be a mode of attack that is spreading more and more.

 

Our zeppelin is parked under the house and allows us to move very easily. The children go to school thanks to the zepplin bus that passes every morning.

 

And below the garage of the zepplin, I had a greenhouse built. This greenhouse gives us a lot of work every day but allows us to be self-sufficient in vegetables. In addition to being advantageous, this production is completely organic. When our production exceeds our needs, we can share it with other members of the community, which is very rewarding.

What I miss most about my life on earth are the works of art I was going to see, revisit or discover almost daily at the time. Sometimes I think I see my reality through the works of my favorite painters, Caspar David Friedrich, Edward Hopper, Pyke Koch and Philips Koninck. These moments of illusion are comforting. Recently, I began to paint paintings that particularly affected me, adding elements of our new way of life.

 

Here is our situation, it is neither enviable nor envied, the poor and the miserable people are above, among the clouds now. The wealthy forced us to move. This gentrification took place at almost the point of rupture of our terrestrial system, the polluted soils resulted from a policy of privatization of land and famine for the survival of the species, they said.

 

10 billion inhabitants can’t live on earth. Organized or unorganized riots and civil wars have only decimated the proletarians. And from that moment, some anarchists, outside of any system, have seen this legislative flaw.

 

Few people have our way of life, but we are spared from the conflict and radicalization on the surface of the earth. We can’t be part of the rich ghetto so we escape from the surface of the earth. Because of no public space, the Earth, no longer feeds us. Our planet benefactor is now the sun; It provides us energy and grows our meager crops. We cut off all contacts with the landowners voluntarily because we no longer want violence and politics of oppression. Here, what matters is ultra-communitarianism, at a family and limited community scale.

 

We are not building a civilization, we are outside the earth, not yet dead but already in the sky. Survival is our religion.

 

Of course, there are the smugglers, former legionaries, they take all the risks to pass from one world to the other. In exchange the energy, we abound they bring us food that we can’t find here. Deficiencies, diseases are numerous up there, and medical drugs are rare.

 

We build nothing, everything is ephemeral, as proof, the collapse and death of an entire family during the last storm, our frail feet, our piles are our life line and unfortunately the neighbours had not consolidated enough their feet.

 

They have all disappeared in an instant, without body, without matter, it is the void that serves as the object of mourning.

 

The richness of a world like heaven is matter. We are surrounded by the lightness of air and emptiness, and man can survive in an element like this, but his protection comes from the mass. The rich and high castes of the sky are those who manage to keep the stone or the earth on their platforms more than 100 m from the ground. Here the rich are the maraichers.

 

The scale of values ​​has changed.

AIAS Prize

PLAYING HOUSE

By Maria Syed & Adriana Davis

On the eve of the day that marked twenty years since his mother died, Adam sat pensively in his rocking chair. He leaned forward in his seat and looked out onto the sharp, pointed balcony. The world outside looked as frightening and alien as ever. The house had always been Adam’s friend and provider. In the house, he played house.

He knew very little of the world beyond his grand front stoop. A world very different from the one he grew up and still lived in. He sat back in his chair, gently closely his eyes and drifting into a twilight of sleep and fuzzy memories.

 

***

Adam’s Memory, circa 1996 (twenty years ago)

 

Let me start at the beginning, how I saw the world. My bedroom was my safe haven. I always found comfort in the sharp balcony, protruding out over the street. Sometimes I sat there. But mostly I stayed in my room. It seemed whenever I left my room, patches of my memory faded. I felt something electric jolting through me in the other rooms. A strange presence. So I sat in my rocking chair, with only the loud veins of wallpaper speaking to me. Ever since that time my memory faded, Mother forbade me from leaving my bedroom. It was safer this way.

 

So there I stayed. After years of rocking back and forth, my chair beating against the loudest rug on the loudest floor. The house always took over my thoughts. Mother decided, “The party will come to you. Adam, it’s time to celebrate your 20th birthday.” Mother invited everyone on the street, including Carrie Cornice, a curious young woman next door. The party started at six o’clock, and Adam stood on his balcony, anxiously waiting to see who would arrive.

 

He saw Carrie walk up the treacherously triangular stoop, and eagerly ring the doorbell. Mother didn’t answer, and he heard the doorbell reverberating through the loud wallpaper and surfaces. With a deep breath, he walked downstairs and opened the front door.

 

As he opened the front door, a cool and crisp gust of fall air blows. Carries’ long, blonde hair blows over her face. She combed her hair back into place, their eyes meeting. For a second, they both freeze as if they are peeking into each other’s soul, trying to read each other.

 

Carrie snaps out of it. “Oh. Hi. I’m Carrie.” She says as she extends her hand out for a handshake. Seeing Adam still spaced out, she continues, “Uh, your next door neighbor.” She says pointing towards her house. “Oh. Hey. I’m Adam.” He responds with a long pause, as his eyes follow her finger pointed towards her house and back to meet her gaze. Then he realizes her hand still extended out. He quickly grabs her hand for a shake. A shiver runs through his spine. “Come on in.” He says. She starts walking, and slides towards him, trying to get past him and through the narrow and diagonal doorway.

 

As her body brushes against his, he shivers again. He couldn’t figure out if it was her or just the cool wind. He shuts the door behind them and walks behind Carrie, into the living room.

 

Curious Carrie removes her jacket while looking around eagerly. “I’ll take that, please.” Adam says as he takes her jacket and puts it in the coat closet. “Have a seat.” He gestures toward the couch. Carrie settles down, all the while glancing around at the room, noting all of the strange features in color and shape.

“Would you like a drink?” He interrupts. “Sure.” Carrie responded, with a palpable tone of excitement in her voice. Adam walked towards the kitchen.

 

A new resident in the neighborhood, Carrie instantly noticed how different and odd Adam’s house was. She had been eager to see what the house looked like on the inside. Now was her chance. She stood up and started walking towards the staircase. As she approaches the first step, Adam quickly appeared from the other side of the room. “Hey!”, he calls from behind her. “Everything okay?” He asks nervously glancing towards stairs.

 

“Of course.” Carrie responds as she reaches out for a drink from his hand. “Thanks!” She says quickly. Adam watches as Carrie chugs down her wine. She notices Adam staring through the bottom of the glass and felt self-conscious. A bit embarrassed she sets the glass on the table and enthusiastically exclaimed, “Do you mind giving me a tour of your house?”

 

Adam, baffled at the abrupt question, paused for a second. He looks towards the top of the staircase. As flashbacks run through his mind, he decides it is not a good idea. Just as he is about to tell Carrie, he glances over to her and his eyes meet her super curious and excited eyes. He doesn’t take another second to think.  “Sure. Uh. No problem.” He responds nervously while forcing a smile. A million thoughts rushing through his mind. He brushes off the negative thoughts. “What could possibly go wrong?” He thinks to himself, remembering all the times his memory blacked out.

 

As he led the way, Carrie excitedly walked rapidly to catch up to him. They walked up the creaky staircase. Grabbing Adam’s hand, it seemed like something changed within Carrie felt a strange jolt inside her. Adam paused and looked at her. With a large smile on her face Carrie looks at him. Adam starts walking.

 

As they approach the door to his room, he reached for the door knob, pauses, closed his eyes and takes a deep breath. He reluctantly turns the knob and swings the door open. Carrie’s eyes get huge with amazement. She runs to the center of the room and looks around to get a panoramic view of the whole room. She feels weird. Like a different person. Suddenly, he noticed a change in Carrie’s body language. She was acting more reckless. It was different than the effect the room had on himself. He could sense danger. The room had taken over Carrie’s thoughts and being, transferring its erratic finishings and architecture into her physical visage. He saw what was happening; the house would soon consume Carrie’s life the same way it had consumed his. So before it’s too late, Adam grabbed Carrie by the arm and took her downstairs and out of the house.

 

Adam shuts the door. He returns to his life. In his house. By himself.

Honorable Mention

iDENTITY: VIRTUAL REALITY THERAPY FOR CULTURAL IDENTITY CRISES

By Minh Tran, Alan Ma, & Yi Ning Lui

Testing Period: 01/2016-01/2017

Name: Patient X

Birth date: 18/08/1994

Age: 21 years old

Lived in: Konghai City (Vietnamese colony of Shanghai, with many Hong Kong immigrants), Londsfield (Huddersfield settlement of London)

Occupation: Architectural Assistant

 

Abstract:

 

The following report on “iDentity”, investigates a new Virtual reality therapy treatment for patients suffering from a cultural identity crisis. Computers have generated 3-dimensional labyrinths that relate to patient X’s childhood, teenage, and adult years, as she moves between Konghai City and Londsfield. A supervising therapist will monitor patient X, and the simulated experience will consist of an Oculus (visual immersion) and a sensory plug connected to the patient’s spinal cord (recreating kinaesthetic, olfactory and auditory effects.) Finally, the patient will be asked to rebuild her virtual world, so she can destroy certain memories and reconstruct others. The treatment aims to empower her with a sense of creation and control towards her own iDentity.

 

Introduction:

 

VRT has proven effective in treating various phobias such as fear of flying, and its immersive tools can be used as a meditative tool. The use of “exposure therapy”, where the safe, controlled exposure of an uncomfortable situation helps patients overcome their distress. Patient X shows symptoms of cultural displacement, feeling detached from her family, and struggling with both language difficulties and cultural lifestyle differences. The following report allows the patient to confront some of these insecurities.

 

Stage One: (Childhood)

 

The following sessions investigate patient X’s childhood, in particular her residencies in Konghai City and Londsfield. A Vietnamese street house amalgamates with an English boarding-school house, creating an architectural specimen of her past.

 

The patient enters the virtual reality and finds herself sitting on a passenger seat on the London Underground. The train seems to be coming to a halt, and a sign on the station platform reads “Euston Station.” Instead of the train doors opening, a ladder descends from the roof, and the patient climbs up it into a Victorian terraced house. A circular window shows a cloudy day outside. Empty cup noodles boxes lie scattered on the floor, and the patient takes a right down an outdoor corridor to avoid the mess. The virtual reality glitches, and the patient falls down a set of stairs, through an eletrical utility pole into a Vietnamese street house. She follows the sound of a woman’s voice into a living room, and the air becomes heavy with humidity. The patient notices dishes being laid on a lazy susan, and the delicious smell of bittermelon soup lures her towards it. Sitting at the table, a melody starts to play, and it seems to be a strange remix of the Vietnamese national anthem and a church song. At this stage, the places that impact patient X’s iDentity aren’t related so much to nationhood, as the home is simply seen as a centre of felt value where familial and biological needs are satisfied.

 

 

Stage Two: (Teenage years)

 

The following sessions investigate patient X’s teenage years, in particular the Asian and Western festivals that she celebrates. This coming-together of people helps her foster ties with loved ones, of whom she holds close to her iDentity.

 

Unlike previous sessions, when the patient enters her virtual reality this time she finds herself in a fully constructed world; a Wonderland of Festivals. She stands before what looks like an amusement park, its neon lights shimmer in the dark, and various stage sets, theme rides and playgrounds overlap each other. She enters the park through a large gate lit by huge, glowing neon mooncakes, and finds herself on sandy ground. Simulated families light lanterns that sit in rings around them, yet Greek columns and a twinkling Christmas tree remind the patient of Londsfield’s St George’s Square. Inside a brick house, the patient re-experiences her first English Christmas, watching the Queen’s speech and eating pigs in blankets. A huge conveyor belt with illuminated pumpkins churns into motion, signalling for her to board a dragon boat and row herself towards a mini Times Square. She climbs a rooftop terrace to watch the countdown on a flashing billboard, and around her simulated people hug and kiss.

There is a sharp, snapping sound, and the Christmas tree’s twinkling star tumbles to the ground. The patient realizes that all the stage sets are in fact temporary structures, fixed onto steel trusses. The wonderland’s changeability challenges the patient to think of her iDentity as multi-layered. Differences in specific traditions seem minor, as she realizes the wonderland is all about celebrating things with loved ones.

 

Stage Three: (Early Adulthood)

 

The following sessions investigate patient X’s early adult years, where her university experiences build her character and shape her iDentity.

 

The virtual reality that the patient enters this time is the most complex she has seen so far. A hurtling mini bus ride gives her an overview of the glittery kingdom, and she alights near a Chinese pagoda. The ground starts moving and the patient finds herself having to run, past Big Ben and the London Eye on what feels like a familiar path. Elements of Konghai City glitch in sharp, intermittent bursts, as dim sum boxes whizz through the air and dense currents of flying windows zoom by. The patient finds herself spending an extremely long amount of time in a university’s architecture studio, surrounded by students drawing and making models. She realizes that she loves being surrounded by other creative people. When she finally escapes the studio, the patient finds herself in a pub where the architecture students are now eating pork baps and drinking pints of IPA. Feeling tired, the patient follows the faithful light of the BT Tower to the Victorian house in the centre of the labyrinth, where she can exit the virtual reality.

 

The dazzling chaos resembles the most exciting and challenging chapter of patient X’s life so far. The exhaustion of studio work, the good crits, the bad ones, the bad break-ups as well as the life-long friends that patient X makes all shape her now extremely multi-layered iDentity.

 

Stage Four: Build your World

 

Until now, the patient has been following controlled stimuli in the context of treatment. The following exercise allows the patient to explore and re-invent her iDentity labryinth. This exercise is essential for closure: she can now inspect the layers of her iDentity and re-invent it.

 

The patient begins by creating a safety island of “home” in the centre of her universe, mish-mashing an architecture studio with a Vietnamese street house. Pretty neon signs and British street lamps light her way into the unknown as she steps leaves the house, and dumplings and pork baps are served to her on a hybrid lazy susan merry go-round. She starts to organize the other constructions of her memories, grouping similar ones together. The patient realizes that eating dim sum with her family is not too different to bonding with classmates over a few pints, and creates a “Festivity Funland” where ladders and bridges connect simulated social gatherings. She also creates challenges for herself, as her simulated family reside in a house quite far from her, forcing her to be independent and making herself cherish them more. Interestingly, she chooses not to delete any memories, and makes a “secret vault” inside a fragment of a big ben-pagoda, so she can examine nasty experiences for future reference. Bamboo scaffolding shows the paradigm is still under construction, as the patient should not feel her iDentity is fixed in any way. Murky forms in the blank space around her blur in and out of view, the world is in limbo and it is waiting to be filled with even more dazzling creations.

 

Conclusion:

 

“iDentity” is a virtual reality therapy treatment that investigates how cultural environments and their built forms shape one’s sense of selfhood. VR-based therapy has already proven effective in treating various phobias, and it is a powerful tele-medical tool. After completing the VR-therapy treatment, the patient now has a greater self-esteem and feels less inhibition towards her cultural insecurities. The patient can access her iDentity labryinth whenever she wants on her Oculus Rift, and this 3-D model has not only become a treasure trove for her memories, but a map of her history and critical inquiry of herself.

Honorable Mention

ONE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS

By Xinran Ma

Ladies and Gentlemen. Welcome to One Thousand and One Nights. It is a superb immersive experience unlike anything you have ever seen. The moment you walk into this grand palace, the dreamscape will be presented and wait for you all to explore. Are you ready?

 

Don’t be intimidated. They won’t harm you. It is our prestigious etiquette to greet our distinguished guests. Generals, soldiers, hunters, maids, emperors, dancers, scholars and whoever in front of you are merely the components that construct this world. They are the hosts of the upcoming dreamscape just like you are the hosts of your reality.

 

Don’t be shy, please walk past the front gate. Please walk through the border that separates dream and reality. From now on, the journey starts. The grand avenue right in front of you will lead you to our destination, the theater, where the show takes place. You are the audiences who need to observe, feel, resonate with each story and construct your own interpretation.

 

Don’t be distracted, please follow my voice. Open the doors, hold your breath, your Alice-like experience starts. Enjoy One Thousand and One Nights. Yes, it is very dark. Be careful. Take some time to adjust to the environment. You probably can see nothing but the dim lights and the glowing signs on the floor extending all the way to the horizon. Each sign indicates a scene. In the show, there will be two reality exists simultaneously. One is the reality that all of you are in; the other is the reality that will emerge in front of you. There is no physical separation between the two. Aside from the old-fashioned way that is to merely stand watching, each scene will provide you a thrilling way to cross the border to indulge in it. You’ll see.

 

Step forward to Night 1, Scene 1: Prologue. Please pull the curtain and listen to the audio. 

 

Night 1. The Infinite Palace.

Night 1. Scene 1. Prologue.

Once upon time, there was a king who built a utopia – The Infinite Palace. Nobody knows when it was built. Nobody knows where it locates. Nobody knows how large it is. The palace, of enormous scale was virtually a palace of palaces, which was composed of countless number of palaces, only to meet the king’s obsession of palaces. Every day, he would celebrate this masterpiece with entertainment and rituals. He and his people were living happily in this secret paradise.

 

The foyer, which used as a public space, serves as the intersection of three paths. From left to right, the paths lead to three featured spaces of the palace – the Museum, the Main Hall and the Roof.

 

All right, ladies and gentlemen, please walk around the curtain and you will find a balloon that can take you to explore into the scene. Limit number of people only, the rest of you please step back and walk to the next scene. Please pull the curtain.

 

Night 1. Scene 2. The Museum.

The king has his own Museum. However, it is not a normal museum but rather a museum of palaces. He commanded to build a library exclusively for the collection of palaces. All the palaces were carefully built in a gigantic shelf, similar with a bookshelf but in a much larger scale. All the entrances of different palaces were stacked together, in the form of the grand bookshelf-like building. Every now and then, when he was in a nice mood, he would go to the museum, target the palace he was interested in and spend his vacation in it.

Interesting, isn’t it? The guest who is tempted to challenge and explore further is more than welcome to find the appropriate size of ladder behind the curtain and climb all the way past the border up to the one you are interested in. It can be very steep, so watch your step carefully. The rest of you please follow my voice and walk to the next scene.

 

 

Night 1. Scene 3. The Main Hall.

The Main Hall was the core of the whole palace connecting all the hallways. In such space, it was difficult to differentiate inside and outside. Human was no longer the master of the space but rather the space itself. Geometrical patterns of the road system formed into an absolute order, binding all the buildings and gardens. The ceiling was the mirror of the sky where the king believed that it was the way to keep humble embracing the breathtaking cosmos.

 

Have some knowledge about the constellation? Feel free to play with the globe to obtain an idea of the stars that demonstrate on the ceiling. Meanwhile, there are also aircrafts offered around the corner for you to navigate in the scene. Those who are ready for the last scene of Night One, please follow my voice to Scene 4.

 

 

Night 1. Scene 4. The Roof.

The last path from the foyer led to the roof. The roof was the place for the king to observe, meditate, and worship. Infinite palaces were connected together to form countless courtyards. Each courtyard was virtually embodied a city that the king ruled. The center courtyard was an exception. It was a reflection of the moon. Every full-moon night, the king would invite the Masters to conduct the ritual. They would use ropes to connect all the palaces and dance over them to express worship.

 

Thank you for listening, those who would like to experience even closer, there are two ways to choose: the telescope in front of you and the airship behind the curtain that can take you into the scene.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen. What is the difference between dream and reality? Keep that in mind. Hold your breath. Here comes Night 2.

Honorable Mention

MY BROTHER ERNEST

By Jun Li, Joris Komen, Yuxing Chen & Yina Dong

At some point, the dust had just never settled. Some deliberated for a while about its origin, but it was clear – the dust simply had no intention of returning to the surface it had once called home-many other elements would follow suit. A Fried Sun Tomato filled with a warm orange colored liquid floats motionless between the clouds. A sucklet bathes in its round belly, he is the keeper of sun and it’s warm tomato soup. Friends had felt similar effects, feeling light afoot, gravity now seemingly on their side. The change was gradual, pleasant at worst, and for many the change was welcome, even if meant living upside down.

 

For a while, a few years, everything, even the ocean in large slowly undulating bubbles, floated. The ground was mostly gone, consumed, ground up and eaten as a paste on sandwiches, that soon too would run out. Eventually, everything was gone, consumed, with the exception of a few animals, some unwanted – but all needed. What wildlife remained were a variety of mutations and transformations – all very selfish genetic modifications, made before the dust never settled. Creatures and objects lost and gained new meaning and purpose, lines were blurred and tales were stretched. With all the weight of the world removed, new gravity allowed the oceans to lift, first in parts, then all at once. The new ocean that would form against the stratosphere – The Upsideup Sea, was filled with young siglets, shark purses and asparagus shoots. A Pigshark and his sucklets swim slowly between the ventricles of the sweetheart trees, sharing close intimacies beneath the calm surface of the ocean. Things were considerably close to normal, a little far fetched, at times, a little stretched. Right before the dust never settled, the human form had taken a true form of efficiency, a long neck for shameless voyeurism- specifically for peering at other’s phones, a single large eye for low light conditions and a blue skin, perfect for absorbing warmth from the tomato sun.

 

On Wednesdays, right after tea, Ernest would launch himself upwards towards his boat which floated calmly above his jellyfish home in a grove of trees. The journey to the boat was brief, Ernest floated towards the sweetheart trees, flapping his short arms violently to direct his ascent, it was far from graceful. His fishing pig, Bert, lived on the boat full time, taking weekends off occasionally. I imagined that fishing was a pleasant experience, that Ernest bobbed quietly in the water, talking softly to Bert, explaining at length the process of asparagus drilling. Pigsharks were delightful creatures, Bert had started as a pigshark, he had chosen this line of work when presented with options on his first birthday; to be a groundhog or a pigshark.

 

Before the dust never settled, the earth was a solemn place, the land was covered in pig farms and the oceans filled with albino sharks and jellyfish. So much so that when the dust began to rise, there was a mass migration of creatures, unthinkable acts of crossbreeding and untold romance between the creatures. As time shifted sweetheart trees would form as the last remaining octopi would rip the hearts out from their lovers, holding them tight whilst dangling their tentacles on the ground – often tickling passers by.  And now, the oceans are filled with pigsharks, who suckle the sweetheart nectars and the skies with jellyfish, who glimmer in the sunlight.

My brother Ernest (pronounced Ear-Nest), oh he was so smart, had invented all these practical methods for survival in the new world. He built antigravity groundhogs, jellyfish houses and fished upside-up for siglets – shark piglets. He was a seamstress, proudly wearing his own handiwork, he never went to bed without his pajamas on. Ernest was a realist – practical  and focused, he would later tell me that it was his uncanny disdain for frivolity that helped him survive the floating years. Beneath it all, I believed he was devoutly spiritual. My mother always worried that he would be alone in life – in hindsight, that was almost inevitable.

 

Creating the jellyfish home was an artful act, it was both practical and beautiful at the same time. Ernest would pause for a moment once the Jelly had been tethered to the ground, staring wide eyed into the sky. He told me that during the night time the houses glowed and flickered like stars when he was up on The Upsideup Sea looking down. Usually found floating around between the Upsideup Sea and the earth, unaffected by the gravitational shift. The jellyfish would descend toward the earth as they approached death and if done properly, Ernest would catch the jellyfish just as they began to fall upwards. He had struck up a deal with them, exchanging their life for his gravity. And when the warmth of the juicy red sun left us for the evening, the jellyfish houses would glow, their yellow tentacles lighting up the warm, soft groundhog floor.

 

In his spare time, his asparagus drill would take him down through the hard earth surface deep into the gene pool, mother once said he was an excellent swimmer. Ernest realized that the subtle internal vibrations of the asparagus would slowly chisel its way through the body of the earth. At the center he would exchange used genes for new genes, and, collect and deposit his collection of stones – which he sometimes found in the kidneys of his fishing pig Bert. What confounded me is that he would feverously cover up his excavation when he was complete and then proceed to fling his asparagus drill up over his head, grinning wildly at the sight of it spinning uncontrollably through the air.

 

“The asparagus grows among the sweetheart trees and can be best harvested at midday, when the tomato sun is at its warmest.” – My brother Ernest.

Honorable Mention

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: THE GREAT WALL OF AMERICA

By Carly Dean & Richard Nelson-Chow

Introduction:

November 8, 2016 was a profound day for all Americans. When Donald Trump lost the popular vote yet won the electoral vote, the divisiveness of the country was more apparent than ever. Democratic voters, clustered in urban centers, and Republican voters, spread across industrial and rural areas, represented two Americas with vastly different expectations of the incoming president. Today in 2019, it is a different story. The past three years have been filled with economic and political disasters stemming from trade wars, the defunding of social programs, and a decreasing trust in the press and the political establishment. Desperate citizens, believing less and less of what they read in the news, look for guidance from the only man who can save them: their president. Policies and ideologies which once were considered controversial at best and dangerously authoritarian at worst are now part of the ordinary political lexicon due to repeated and sustained exposure. Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the Mexican border is gaining mainstream support.

 

Trump’s campaign was fueled by emotion and rhetoric rather than fact and policy. His promises elicited support particularly from rust belt communities who were frustrated and angry that the world was passing them by; Trump sensed the anger and channeled it towards a scapegoat: immigrants, who he falsely accused of taking their jobs. His announcement to build a wall wasn’t based as much on policy as it was a way to portray the US southern border as a hotbed of crime and terror. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems… They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” But by the time of his election, the wall was the face of his immigration and national defense policies.

 

Three years later, the 25 million jobs that President Trump promised are non-existent. The American unemployment rate has tripled since 2016 to over 15 percent. Trump’s core supporters have continued to lose their jobs, but this is due more to technological innovations than illegal immigrants: five million truck and taxi drivers alone have lost their jobs to driverless vehicles. These people still need a scapegoat. The scapegoat is still the immigrants. The solution is still the wall.

 

Back in 2016, shortly after the election, the AIA released a statement confirming their commitment “to working with President-elect Trump to address the issues our country faces, particularly strengthening the nation’s aging infrastructure.” While this statement initially faced backlash across the architecture community, an increasing number of architects have come forth to publicly support the wall. Even presidential candidate Kanye West recently weighed in during a campaign stop at the GSD, saying “we need the brightest minds of this generation on this s**t.”  Perhaps it’s partially out of desperation (an estimated 50% of recent architecture graduates are unemployed) or perhaps it’s due to the slow normalization of Trump’s rhetoric. What was initially considered racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and un-American language has slowly become ordinary in the American media. People are now convinced that building a wall is not only logical, but a necessary step in re-asserting America’s greatness. They think it will protect American jobs, make the country safer, and produce a monument which will last for centuries.

 

 

Brief:

 

“Build walls, not bridges.”

-Steve Bannon, Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President

 

By now, we know what the problems with the border are. The Mexicans keep coming and taking our jobs. And you know what, I don’t blame them. When you have a country with open borders, letting whoever wants to come in, I would come too if I was a criminal.

 

But we finally have the support to build a wall. And we’ve spent the past few months negotiating a deal with Mexico, and you know what, the Mexican government is going to pay the full cost of building the wall. The full cost. So now we announce this Call for Submissions: The Great Wall of the United States to Make America Great Again.

 

For those who are saying that the wall is unnecessary, I say: read up on history. There are so many examples of great countries which have built walls. The Romans had many, many walls. Israel has a huge wall. Even the Chinese—and I don’t like the Chinese very much—but I have to say, they have a pretty big-league wall over there. Walls are important and this wall is going to be the biggest, most advanced wall ever. The most amazing wall in history.

 

The wall is going to be about 1,000 miles long. This is less than half the length of the Great Wall of China, but this is where designers come in: it’s going to be twice as iconic. Tremendously iconic. We used to build so many iconic structures. The Erie Canal. The Hoover Dam. When was the last time you saw the US building something like this? The government has not built anything good since the 1930s. But now we are going to build incredible structures again, starting with this wall. This wall is going to be the greatest and largest infrastructural project in the world. The greatest in the world.

 

The call for submissions for the wall is open to anyone who has good ideas. We suggest that the design include a good workplace for the hundreds of US Border Protection officers who serve our nation. Also, while keeping our borders safe is the top priority, it is important that the wall be innovative and triumphant.

 

We have waited too long to close our borders and even right now, thousands of illegals are coming into our country. But we are finally going to put a stop to this. With the help of a talented architect, America we will stop the flow of immigrants and create a masterpiece which will be unsurpassed.

 

Finalists:

NASAA

The US-Mexico border is an expansive landscape, diverse with beaches, riverbanks, urban areas and uninhabited deserts. Similar to a traditional wall, we conceive of a building that is linear and continuous, which follows the natural topography and the sinuous plan of the Rio Grande. Unlike a traditional wall, our proposal introduces a series of interior and exterior programmed spaces in hopes of creating a vibrant community along the US-Mexico border. Our proposal enhances the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape and enriches the lives of the border patrol agents as well as American citizens who will visit or who will even choose to live next to the wall.

 

GODMA

Today, there exists a consensus to construct a physical embodiment of the United States border. While a politician is interested in his or her own country and that which defines it, the architect is interested in form and creating spatial conditions. The two professions have historically been institutionally symbiotic. Architecture, although apolitical as a discipline, has a tendency to produce highly political things. Even the most banal architectural form creates boundaries, defines territories, implies ideology.

 

Björk Engels Group (BEG)

A wall is one of the most important ingredients of architecture, but by itself, it is nothing. A wall over 1,000 miles long along the border sounds petrifyingly pragmatic and boring, but it doesn’t have to be. My proposal inserts joy and fun into a physical landscape that has been suffocated with crime and fear. Wonderwall challenges some people’s belief that this wall is a moral sacrifice, and reinvents the wall into a socially, economically, and environmentally productive object.

 

Piotr Zoomtar

I spent one summer of my childhood building and repairing walls. Some were wooden, but most were stone walls. Building a stone wall is like doing a large puzzle where only certain pieces are able to fit into each other. I still remember the ecstasy of finding the perfect stone that would be the interlocking shape that I needed. I can smell the earth when I would lift the rock, revealing a suppressed world beneath. I didn’t like building these walls. I didn’t like how one person could decide to block the view of another.

 

Oola Fürelisson

A curtain of water extends the length of the border. The wall consists of small drops of water falling 10 feet from continuous perforated pipe. A border between two countries is invisible to the eye, just like the wind. This wall will make visible both: the relentless definition of two countries and the ephemeral forces of wind and light. The mist will render everything else beyond invisible.

Honorable Mention

COURSE OF EMPIRE

By Aidan Doyle & Sarah Wan (Wandoy Studio)

What could lead a guy to be so devoted to ancient edifices, to a world long gone? What was it about the pull of that far-away time that he couldn’t stop thinking about? It’s 1743, you’re 23 years old and your name is Giovanni Battista Piranesi. By any other standard we’d consider what you’re doing to be completely and utterly mad. It’s obsessed, you’re obsessed Giovanni. We never see you, you’re hunkered in this room all day long.. you’re a grown man and you’re obsessed with the past. What about the present, the world outside, your family?!

 

That’s what we imagine his brother saying to him, or maybe a friend or parent. You’re nuts dude, you gotta look outside every now and then.. there’s an actual world out there just as exciting, just as challenging as these imaginary marvel’s you undertake. The house is filling up with etchings. They’re everywhere! We cannot walk in a straight line in the hallway upstairs. What are we gonna do with all these plates? They’re beautiful, but we need to find them a home somewhere. And those acids, you really must open a window. It stinks in here Gio!

 

He had been sitting in his room around the clock for the past two years. The memory of him playing freely like the rest of his friends had long become remote. A young artist devoted not to paints or frescos, oh no; no, the young Piranesi commits himself to the most painstaking form of artistic expression imaginable.. etchings! At first blush not the method that lends itself to volume. And yet, despite the laborious process, he left behind thousands of plates in all sizes. They combine to form the most phantasmagorical collection of snapshots into antiquity the world has ever seen. Most of his days were devoted to taking road trips far outside Venice, measuring ruins for hours in piedes and braccios under the hot sun. Days spent documenting by campfire, piecing together clues from a world one and half thousand years before. Then returning home to the Floating City with a vast catalog of obscure knowledge, only to disappear to his room for days, but for the occasional meal.

 

We’ll never know what motivated such feverish exploration of the past. But not just the past. To explore, capture and recreate in what is obviously a fictional, idealized new context. Did he merely wish to reawaken people’s imaginations to these powerful artifacts strewn along the countryside? Did he suffer from an excess of compassion for old dead things? What was the object of reaching back through Greco-Roman memory to the origins of Rome, to the classical influences of Greek culture? The stuffed corpus of work offers no simple answers. But it is not just a collection of preservation arguments or nostalgic re-awakenings, it is the harmony of nature and civilization writ large.

He was not alone in his devotion to capriccios (caper, prank, whim, caprice). The tradition had started a hundred years before. Alessandro Salucci’s and Viviano Codazzi’s vedutas were painted depictions set on rediscovering the origins of the city through fantasy. Each time to revivify these sleeping decrepit structures, and plant them like visual memes, back into general consciousness. Whether an etching, oil on canvas or coal scratchings on a cravat, the taproot discovered in each work is the basis of all architectural memory. These recreations are the built world’s visual archetypes. The places from whence all this other stuff comes.

 

The Tomb of the Metelli (shown top left) is a particular oddball. Simultaneously huge, yet small, this resting place for the remains of the Family of Metelli seems like it wants to up and float away when you’re not looking. Piranesi captured its maintenance with whimsical staffage (small human figures). Ruefully, in an inscription at its base, he describes ‘This noble tomb was stripped not only of most of its magnificent ornaments, but still of any other marble that covered it.’ Once the marble was gone, all that remained was brick, mortar and the skeletal remains of the once-noble family. Today you can find the lumpen mass along the side of the Appian Way (shown bottom left). It is a stunning thirty foot tall remnant with no place to be. Consigned to a permanent non-place between the fault lines of civilizations. This sight may make Piranesi pretty sad, it did us.

 

Just as the capriccios of these Masters allow erstwhile civilizational moments to be passed on through time, often with fantastical juxtaposition, we want to see the Tomb of Metelli take a new journey. Today, the enduring civilizational artifacts are infrastructural in nature. Machines have remade our landscape. Cars have facilitated this peculiar transformation of the places we live. Unlike the Republic of Venice during the early modern period, utility is now the governing principle of civilization. Course of Empire extends through five meditations. Each a small effort to recast the present. And so, a Tomb carrying the remains of a once-noble family, will travel through a world they would consider fantastical beyond comprehension. Is there a better place to continue Piranesi’s obscure fascinations?

Honorable Mention

LEFTOVERS OF A DREAM

By Dakis Panayiotou

The reason he developed and built that residence at the top of the hill was purely intuitive. It was also a mater of excessiveness. He was really egocentric and self-indulgent. The style is essentially and emphatically random. It is a diversified composition of pure raw and expensive materials. At the end of the day he was never happy. That has been said before by the mother of his first partner somewhere outdoors while having sea bass with lemon and virgin olive oil. And some extremely thin flat bread with cheese.  It was delicious. However in the future he will be trying to become lacto-vegetarian. The action of this will be fascinating because it is something impracticable for him.

 

I walked up the stairs to see you.

You were not looking at me.

I noticed a birdcage like form covered in red.

 

I placed a precious ornamental sculptural mockup that I discovered on my journey I was for 2 years 2 years ago. It was protected. I always like to play with natural force balancing objects and structures. I never knew it would be so not important for other people around me. Yes I always want to be surrounded by others. Well the red was blood. My sculpture broke. He moved inside and he destroyed everything.

 

I had left the door open.

The wind was vigorous.

 

He was not feeling well. Wondering whether he would leave and travel to a new place, a new scenario, a new dream. Long surviving forage for an opulent, sybaritic, debauched lifestyle. That also might be a lie. He was fascinated instead by the sacrament and spiritual meaning of life. I was not being part of it. A static moment, something is gone. A colossal fabric in voluptuous crimson red velvet. Dust. Tracing back to a vexatious notwithstanding orgasmic pleasure. Utmost delicacy. (Fig 2)

 

I walked for hours lost in a set. A mind set. I am still not sure if this is reality or some version of it. It was a long sand, like infinity dunes. I arrived to the point where I had to deal with a strange convoluted scenery. The decorations on the walls had been transformed to create a non-guarding gate that leads to a pink, monolithic, empty Pompeian house. He was really fascinated when he saw the drawings on the wall of the villa Boscotrecase.  This time he found the way to re appropriate forms shapes and geometries from history for his own pleasure. He lived always doubting whether his work should not be important for anyone else. (Fig 5)

 

I started dreaming before I fell asleep.

 

I got out a few minutes ago. I think of you too much. She must be thinking of me too. I am wondering. Sometimes the need to follow and repeatedly revisit a memory is hurtful. I remember when there was a powerful tension; when our eyes were staring at each other. Harmony. I am still here, without any movement, almost like a stuffed body filled with idle feelings. No ripples until I just got back in. (Fig 3)

 

I used to stare at you.

I used to feel passion.

Tense.

I wanted to preserve this so it could last forever.

It has to feel like a small secret monument.

I used to feel strong.

This weather is hurting me but it’s divine.

It destroys me.

 

I always end up protecting you. I don’t know why I developed this design intuition when I create an environment. It’s stronger than you. You can get support from it. It’s delicate. You can convolute the way you look from inside of it. You always look precious. It feels sensual, living in a voluptuous fragile cage. Sometimes you are not able to identify the two in this dialogue. Who is the most powerful? Who has the strongest status? The one who interprets and makes it or the one that exists inside of it? Clearly, there is something missing or something more. (Fig 1)

 

It is white’s enrapture,

Life grows through its fractures.

You are there,

I am not aware!

 

The delicacy sometimes reflects on you, it shines on you. I do feel protected and also feel the protector myself. Once I am gone this transforms to an abstract inhabited entity.  It’s a foolish thought.

 

Sadly, without this death, I can’t live. (Fig 4)

 

 

Once more

kill me

Once more

hurt me

Once more

end me

Once more

love me

Once more

kill me

Once more

end me

Once more

hurt me

Once more

love me

 

 

I want you to question the status of the whole entity. I also include myself in this. Feel free to stare at me. Feel free to talk to me. Feel free to come and touch me.

*The colossal red velvet fabric is missing at this point.

I am also fascinated with the “tantamount” function on this typing machine.

 

 

Eutychius, London 2016

Honorable Mention

AMAZONIA PIER: MANUFACTURING AN ARCHITECTURE OF PLEASURE

By Julien Nolin

The wonders of our world aren’t always what we’d expect them to be, lads. And sometimes, fact and fiction are closer than they are apart. This much is as true as it could ever be right in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest. Where you might may assume one of the great natural wonders of the world, a quite a different one awaits.

 

✕          ✕          ✕

 

And so we find ourselves thundering down the mighty Amazon River, it’s whipping tongues and torrents thrashing at the hulls of precarious ships, braving its power. Enveloped by lush shades of green, alive with the eerie howls and cries of crazed beasts within, the River falls only second to the mass of its surrounding rainforest, engulfing anyone mad enough to venture within…
Or at least that is what Téo, the hero of our short tale, had dreamed about making his way up the massive river on a Brazilian passenger ship, as so may do. It hadn’t quite been a week ago when Téo first felt compelled to travel to the middle of the Amazon Jungle on bright summer’s day.

 

This day had been one not unlike any other, he  had sat on the bus to go to work, sifting through the infinite column of pictures on his phone, only taking a moment to gawk at the larger-than-life display by the electronics shop by the Praça da Sé in São Paulo, and had had avoided the same homeless man’s eyes, this time to lay his eyes on the can of soda he was holding.

 

And not unlike most who find themselves with a gleaming ruby can of coke between their hands, Téo didn’t give his soft drink any more than a moment of thought
But for some reason, on this day, Téo felt compelled to look further. He wondered where this little can came from, and how far it travelled finally make into his hand. He had heard many whispers of a great amusement park, deep within the mouth of the Amazonian rainforest, where the impossible happened on a daily basis. A park where man and machine formed one to create these cans along with many more goods.

 

Téo had been surprised to know that in the heart of the grand Amazon rainforest, lay a bustling metropolis of over 2 million people: the city of Manaus. He had known many of the goods bought and sold in South America passed through Manaus for assembly, but little more about this mysterious place, a city which, rumour had it, owed its survival to the presence of major international companies and their low-cost factories.

 

He looked down to the pamphlet he had been clutching since it was handed to him along with the other auspicious passengers.

 

“Come experience the Amazon without going into the Amazon!”, it read. What could they have intended by that, he thought. Skimming through the booklet, little details were given on the magical place and what wonders it held.

 

It wasn’t long before he heard the extended gasps of the family sitting behind him. When he lifted his eyes, he found before him jutting out onto the Amazon River, the great Amazonia Pier. There it stood, its three towers standing strong, as roller coasters and other attractions spun around them. A sort of hybrid structure, between the mechanical manufacturing processes of industry and the mechanics of amusement rides.

 

Suddenly a crackle was heard from the boats speakers:

 

“Hello and welcome to Amazonia Pier. My name is Two-Can and I will be your guide today, taking you through the wonderful fun our Pier has to offer. You are now in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest, wherein lies the bustling megalopolis of Manaus, our province of Amazonas’s capital! The park itself is divided into three islands for each of the main steps of the products’ making process. The Island of Production, the Island of Assembly, and the Island of Testing.

 

During your time here at Amazonia Pier, you should feel free to engage with commodity production on any and every level you feel comfortable with. We have outlined three main levels of engagement, each with their own degree of effort involved, to be thoroughly enjoyed at each of our wonderful rides.

 

The first level is a passive or visual one, requiring little effort but also providing little pleasure. The second is our personal favourite, the active or producing one. and the last one is the active testing one, where our products are tested on you for your enjoyment.

All in all, we sincerely hope you find the right balance of whatever level of engagement suits your individual needs, and which will surely have you grinning ear to ear by the end of your stay.

 

From all of us here at the park, we do hope you enjoy your stay! Now, get making!”

 

As they finally docked onto the pier, Téo stepped off the ship. Ducking under the roof of the ship, he lifted his eyes toward what seemed like a whole new world unlike what he had ever witnessed before, unfolding right in front of him. He could hear the churning of machine parts, a mix of the mechanical buzz and steam breaths of a factory, yet as he walked closer, these sounds increasingly transformed into passing screams of joy.

 

He stepped through the front gate while small carts carrying half assembled goods zoomed overhead as a splash of cola fell from one of them just inches away from him. Around him, frightened faces turned into gleeful ones as the rides twisted and turned, the patrons punching and squishing parts into assembled products.

 

As he made his way through the first island, he recognised the island of production as all around him, bewildered patrons rushed to make parts for the various goods he assumed from from the major brands he had noticed at the entrance.

 

He continued his way through the park. The second island held all assembly activities, where the crazed patrons would hastily assembling parts.

 

The last island, he noticed the products being tested on the patrons themselves, who seemed to absolutely love it.

 

He made his way to the very back of the park, where it met the city. The area was almost deserted, only past the exit gates could he see a group of young local men standing and apparently waiting for something. As he reached them, he noticed their eyes locked on something behind him.

 

A giant candy-cane slide give out onto the the city limit, beneath it a large net attached to four tall wooden posts was stretched out with what seemed to be a abnormally large empty soda can. As he turned back to address the men, he noticed their bodies suddenly stiffen, their eyes wide open, as they dashed toward the net. All at ounce, enormously sized pills shot out of the slide, headed straight for the net, followed by even larger toothbrushes, all discarded from the park, though the slide. The men scurried onto the net, to grab what they could. Behind them another group of young men brought bags to carry the goods. Téo watched in disbelief as they dismantled the large items, only to bring them back to a small market place, where these parts were being resold.

 

He turned back to look at the park. What was this place? As a roller coaster zoomed by above him, he noticed gleeful faces turn to demented ones, and wonderment turn to delusion. The light of the setting sun suddenly hit the park differently, something had shifted within him.

 

He took the pamphlet out of his pocket again. Was this the ‘real’ Amazon he had been promised? Before him, tourists, consumers, pleasure seekers, all melded into one grinding machine, culminating into the bizarre spectacle of a manufacturing of pleasure.

 

 

✕          ✕          ✕

 

 

We’ve seen, lads, the true wonders this world has to offer, and that things are almost never what they may seem, especially in the great machine of our everyday lives.

 

Yet, is it us that depend on the machine, or might it be the other way around? And how much of this relationship benefits from a healthy mutualism versus what may in fact delve into parasitism? If so, who, then, is the parasite?

Honorable Mention

SAPPHIRE CITY

By Michael Quach

After the financial Crisis, Dorothy swept from her black and white world to the magical, beautiful, dangerous and technicolor land. There she meets Good MP of the North. Andrea (MP) advises that if Dorothy wants to go home to Skemdale, she should seek the aid of the Conservative, who lives in the Sapphire City. To get there, Dorothy sets off down the Blue Brick Road. Along her journey to Sapphire City gains a small following; the Tinman who wishes for the return of the steel industry, the Scarecrow who wants to be rid of the foreign crows and the Lion, who wants an open free trade.

 

Like the Powerful of Emerald City, Sapphire City controls its resident through the false sense of promises and visual lies. Upon entering Sapphire City to find the Great Conservative. Dorothy and the rest realized the resident are all elderly without a single child in sight. The City its self-exuded wealth and happiness found through nostalgia. Following the blue brick road along the street, the four stumbled upon the Town Hall, as smoke plowing out of the chimneys and long lines of elderly dressed in black, a Messy Blonde Hair Blue figures appears in the distance dressed all in blue. The group waits in line as the figure slow make his way towards them, Chatting to all the elderly in front one by one as if he was campaigning. “Take back Britain” he yells as he advances towards them. ” How ?” Screams Dorothy, “Taking back Britain will make your dreams come true, the UK will be wealthier and better off, but for this to happen to must go North and find the Socialist and bring back his Rose” Daunted but determined, they set off again.

 

As soon as they arrive in the North the group is chased by a bunch of left wing monkeys sporting red t-shirts, scooping low and high the monkeys frantically chase the group. The monkeys snatch Dorothy, taking her to the socialist’s hideout. Meanwhile, Toto has escaped and run for help. Dressed as young professionals, the Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow sneak in, to free Dorothy. They’re discovered before they can escape, however, and the socialist and his comrades corner them. Dorothy argues with the socialist. The logic causes the socialist to disintegrate . The guards are happy to let Dorothy have the socialist’s rose, and Dorothy and her friends return to the Sapphire City.

Returning to Sapphire, and seeking out the Great Conservative, Dorothy and the rest of the group hand over the Socialist’s rose, shocked the bleached blonde Conservative gasped the rose with a worrying face. ” we have done as you wished, now please do as you have promised” Dorothy says impatiently. ” Oh dear” replied the conservative ” I’m afraid, won’t be able to do what you wish, as it cannot happen, we neither have the funds or the power to grant such promises.” ” But how is your City so rich and powerful ? Can you not do the same for us?” asked Dorothy. The Great Conservative slow moves towards the window of the room, with a picturesque garden. placing his hand on the glass the conservative pushes towards the middle of the frame tearing the image of the garden revealing an industrial landscape filled with youth labors slaving away. “you see we use your promise and the fakeness of the city to control the people. we play to your desires but never fulfilling them, the facade are fake and ever moment of the resident’s life is controlled, everything they believe and see. This is where our power comes from, therefore we cannot deliver on our promises.” “But why the elderly?” asked Dorothy. ” You see the elderly have the most power as they are the richest in the country and with a strong sense of nostalgia, as long as they are happy we are in control!” as he turned towards them ” You have a options live the lie presented and live well but without control, or a life of hardship to support the lie but knowing the truth and what little control is left.” Dorothy pauses and then replies “I wish to go home, I wish for nostalgia.” Walking off into the distance along the Blue Road.

Honorable Mention

THE DEAREST

By Janice Kim & Carol Shih

What stirred him awake was the tail end of a sweet dream—the kind that left him feeling warm under the covers in 4 a.m. dark. If he kept his eyes closed and his body as still as possible, he could still imagine the softness of his mother’s palm rubbed against his, the two of them wandering the aisles of the конфеты (candy) store, like he did as a 10-year-old child. Long before he began fearing the floor.

 

When it became clear that he could no longer ignore the cold nor the lumpy clots of his mattress, Ivan Ivanovich opened one eye, then the other. At the count of three, he gingerly lifted himself out of bed, stepping barefoot with his left foot onto the nearest stilt. Should he or a single item of his drop from that 52-meter height—say, a coin—it would have bounced against a maze of wooden poles and ladders until silent gravity beckoned it home to a depth that Ivan couldn’t, wouldn’t even fathom.

 

Good. So far, so good. Ivan rubbed his eyes even more awake and followed the stilt path, even though every effort made his knees buckle. хорошо (alright), he thought. It is only the beginning of today, and today is the day, he told himself, that he would write the letter. It hurts like hell to go forward, but this exertion was far better than touching the ground, which he had not seen in years. The only answer was to keep moving.

 

Four wooden poles from his bed was a coat hanger that held his bowler hat, coat, white button-down shirt, and slacks. He balanced one foot on a ledge and the other on a pole to slip each article on, one by one, sweating and shaking in his undershirt from the trial of this circus act. His thighs were sore. The bathroom was two more stilts away, and Ivan reached it with a sigh, relieving his anxieties into the toilet, the smells of the candy store long-forgotten. He pulled his slacks up and approached his vanity, where a dusty reflection repeated the same vision every morning: hooked nose, paunchy sad eyes, and transparent blue veins that crawled the length of his forehead. At 72, he had a shocking amount of hair left, and his widow’s peak still had the same crisp edge of his twenties. Ivan shaved the last two strands of gray on his chin, splashed an icy palm-full of water onto his face, and shifted his feet over to the rungs of the ladder. Then he began his descent into the abyss that was his kitchen, 14 meters down.

 

It was 8 o’clock already.

 

In the amount of time it would take for Ivan to walk the length of his kitchen labyrinth—to make a pot of coffee and sit at the dining table to eat a piece of slightly-buttered toast with his coffee, black—a regular person living in St. Petersburg with wooden floors or carpet could have finished laundry, read the entire newspaper, walked the length of Nevsky Prospect, and perhaps found himself a woman to marry along the way. Instead, by the time the clock’s hands met and held each other at 12, Ivan had swallowed his last bite of toast and began the journey down to his study.

 

At his desk, he sat holding a black pen with his left hand. On a lined piece of paper, as thin as his own skin, he wrote his favorite salutation. “My dearest,” he began, taking a deep breath, followed by a pause.

How hard could it be to write three little words? Ivan chewed the top of his pen, then gracefully transitioned to chewing the nail of his right thumb. It’s time, he told himself, it’s time. It’s been there long enough. These feelings. Where else could his feelings go, except remain within these bare, concrete walls? It was time to tell his dearest.

 

In a scrawl that resembled twigs, he wrote: я люблю тебя. I love you.

 

“I have no other desire or purpose,” he quickly continued, “except to convey that I love you and I’ve loved you for a long time.”

 

Sweat formed at his brow, between the widow’s peak and his clear brown eyes. He signed the letter with his name, folded the paper in thirds, and slid it inside a white envelope. On the envelope, he wrote his address, but no other address. Just a name, the dearest one to him: Alyosha.

 

With a flourish, Ivan capped his pen, wiped his brow, licked the envelope, and sealed it with a peck. Perhaps Alyosha already knew and this would come as no surprise. Perhaps he didn’t know, and he’d knock on his door, demanding to see him immediately. Perhaps Alyosha would read the letter and never come back again. Well, what if he did come back, and he never spoke to Ivan again? Which was worse? Maybe, maybe Alyosha would read the letter, read it again, and then hug it close to his chest. Perhaps… perhaps.

 

Ivan mulled all these things over, like he’d done for the last decade, over and over again, as he cranked his mailbox up to waist-level. The pulleys and levers and grinding finally gave way to a mailbox that came up, empty, waiting to be fed. Ivan dropped the letter inside, cranked the mailbox down to forest-level, and lit a cigarette. The smoke wafted through the air, winding its way like a very long piece of ribbon around the poles and stilts and things that came between him and his bed—so high, high above his head. With his left hand still holding the cigarette loosely between his index and middle finger, he began the long ascent back to his bedroom for another sweet night in the candy store. Outside, a mailman in uniform ambled through leaves and trees toward the concrete house. In a few minutes, he would approach a steel mailbox with a single letter inside, and he’d take notice that the name on the envelope matched the seven letters glinting off his name tag. He’d place the letter inside his canvas bag, close it, and walk back through the leaves and trees he came.

Honorable Mention

AISHA’S ASYLUM

By Chong Yan Chuah, Nathan Su & Bethany Edgoose

Father says; “this is the story of Princess Aisha”. We’re crouched in the basement, hands over our ears. “She is very brave in the face of danger”. There are loud noises overhead and the lights go out. “Aisha’s castle is besieged by dragons and she must escape.” “They set the sky on fire”, I whisper, finding his hand in the dark. Father says, “Get your bag, its nearly time”.  It’s already on my back, the straps dig into my shoulders.

 

Princess Aisha speaks an enchantment, to make her bag as light as a feather.

 

A shout from outside. “Come on – your uncle’s here”.

 

As they step into the sun, Princess Aisha looks behind at her kingdom. The charred remains of the royal chambers crumble into pools of toxic mercury, seeping up through cracks in the earth”.

 

“It looks like the sewers have burst” says Uncle, “we’d better get to higher ground”. “How far to the border?” Father asks. “Eight hours if we can find someone to drive us”.

 

We’d been walking for days.

 

Princess Aisha could feel the enchantments wearing off. Her back ached and her feet were weary. For safety, she travels in disguise. In tattered robes she moves through the crowds without being recognised. A mass of peasants are gathering at the foot of the most enormous wall that the Princess has ever seen.  A sheer obsidian cliff, extending in both directions as far as the eye can see, reaches up into the clouds. Little openings reveal blindingly unnatural light on the other side. She can hear loud shouting and smell smoke.

 

A hand on my shoulder makes me flinch.  “Take this”, Father says. “What is it?” I ask. “It’s a magical key that will let Princess Aisha cross”. “Where did you get those? Are they real?” Uncle whispers. “I have a friend at the Embassy. She said they would be enough to get us through”.

 

Princess Aisha approaches the wall. A beast guards the crossing point; scaled and spiked, with strong claws instead of hands. It takes the key and looks at it for a long time. It glares at her, and for a moment, the Princess is afraid that her disguise is failing. To soothe the beast, she begins to mutter a calming spell.

 

“Be quiet!” says Father. He grips me so hard on the shoulder that it hurts.

 

Finally, the beast lets the Princess pass. Beyond the wall, crowds of people are waiting and arguing. Children sell bags of peanuts and fried plantain and families curl like caterpillars together on the ground. Women, tall as giraffes, pile packages on their heads, so high that the Princess is sure they could bump against the moon. Briskly, the King escorts her to a waiting chariot and her guard takes the reins of four winged horses.

 

“We’ll get fuel away from the border” Uncle decides. “We’ll have trouble if too many people see we’ve found a car”.

 

As the moon creeps back behind the Earth, the four winged horses carry Princess Aisha away from the Obsidian cliff and the scrappy settlement that has taken root in its shadow. The land before the Princess glows in dusty pre-dawn light. It is a cracked and rutted plain. This land is cursed, confounding any traveller who dares cross it and dooming them to walk in circles for eternity, never reaching their destination.

 

“When we get to the fuel station, lie down under the seats and put this over your head”, Father says softly.

 

Princess Aisha rests under a soft cloak as the shadows of ghouls drift around their chariot. Without warning, a ghoul rushes towards them, brandishing a flaming sword.

 

Glass breaks and I hear Uncle cry out. He’s outside. “Just drive!” he yells “I’ll find you there!”

 

The King whips the horses into a gallop and Princess Aisha presses her face on her knees and summons all the magic she knows to make the ghouls disappear. It is only as the sun is once again retreating below the horizon that the Princess emerges from under her cloak. The King holds the reins. They are alone.

I can smell the sea. I grip Father’s hand as we walk towards the water. “Whatever happens, I’ll be with you”, he says. I see Father weeping as he walks.

 

A man appears as they approach the beach. Pirates, Princess Aisha thinks. For safe passage, the pirate demands a ransom, and the King hands over all the royal jewels and coin. Three boats are moored off shore. The Princess sees streams of people splashing their way across, with babies and bundles in their arms, or cases balancing on their heads.

 

“My daughter stays with me” Father tells the man – but he only laughs, and hoists me into the air like another bundle to be packed, placing me down on the smallest boat. I scream for Father and hear his voice, but too far away. The air is thick with fumes, and there are too many people to even sit down. Babies are crying and I smell vomit; I’m taking sharp breaths and trying not to cry as someone plays a prayer from a radio in their pocket.

 

It’s a prayer for the Princess, as she ventures across untamed seas. It’s said that Mermen rule these parts. To confuse travellers, they weave devilish spells that make the sun burn like fire and time stand still. The pirates and their passengers – packed together like barnacles on a rock – grow tired with thirst and Princess Aisha starts to dream of drinking the water that surrounds them. She leans her face towards the water and as her nose touches the surface she feels watery hands grab her shoulders and pull her below. Sinking, the Princess looks up and sees the ghostly silhouettes of all those who have perished trying to cross the Mermen’s enchanted seas.

Strong hands drag the Princess onto a foreign shore. A throng of warriors in sapphire helmets crowd around, but no one recognises her.

 

“What’s your name little girl?” a man with a clipboard asks. “Is you family with you – where are you from?”

 

The Princess can’t speak. The seas have stolen her voice, but in her head the Princess shouts for the King, and her guard, and the castle she left behind after the dragons burnt it down. The warriors take her to a forest of lost travellers, where tents and people merge together in a crowded mass that stretches to eternity. Witches steal her blood and challenge her with riddles that she can’t understand.  Everyday, she searches for the King, wandering through the crowds and hiding from werewolves and vampires who stalk the forest wearing masks over their faces. At night, the Princess silently counts the stars.

 

One day, the Princess hears that the forest is being burned. Everyone has to leave. She walks back to the beach to look across the enchanted sea. Maybe the King waits for her beneath the waves and will call out as he dances in the water. The stars appear and soon the vampires and the werewolves will arrive. Princess Aisha turns away from the water and walks though the forest. She comes to a clearing, where a coach awaits and people are lining up to get on. A warrior is at the front of the line, handing out magic charms. “What’s your name little girl”? he asks. For a moment, Princess Aisha’s throat remains frozen – then the spell breaks.

 

“Aisha”, I say, “I’m 11 years old and I travelled here with my father but now I can’t find him”. The man with the marker looks down at me. He writes my name on a sticker and puts it on my chest. “We will help you look for your father”, he says.

 

As the coach pulls away from the forest of lost travellers, I whisper to myself. “This is the story of Princess Aisha. She escaped from beasts and Mermen and with the help of the warriors, she will journey to find the King. The story will be long, but I am very brave in the face of danger and it will have a happy ending”. I hope with all my heart that this is true.