Blank Space has announced the winners of the seventh annual ‘Fairy Tales’ competition. With submissions from over 65 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 Alison Brooks, Marc Tsurumaki, Dwayne Oyler, Jenny Wu, Gail Carson Levine, and Arthur Mamou-Mani, among many other distinguished judges.



“As our actual lives have become increasingly surreal,” says Jury Member Marc Tsurumaki, Principal at LTL Architects, “these stories’ engagement of both the inherent darkness and optimism of the Fairy Tale became particularly resonant.”



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.

1st Prize


By Tamás Fischer and Carlotta Cominetti of VIRGINLEMON

I had decided to leave alone for the summer holidays that year, it would have been the last journey of my old orange Pripyat, a Soviet-style three-door car, produced until 1972 at the Kommunor plant, today in Ukraine.


It was not a family inheritance but rather a typical nostalgic caprice, something that frequently happens to people in their thirties, a smart investment that after ten years would have yielded up to four hundred percent of profits, much more than any bank deposit or pension fund. I always think about my future.


A month later, my town was exactly as I had left it. At 9pm on September 14th, the sun was setting on the horizon and I checked, as scheduled, the last point of my summer program: “remember to take the East road with the sun behind you”. It could be dangerous, my glasses weren’t polarized.


Thinking about my journey, it was a special one, maybe even a little nostalgic, but beautiful and international. I had pushed myself (in fact I literally pushed my car) to reach the ocean. Wonderful! Colourful! Powerful! I was camping in the wild, right behind the official surf camp where people were young and beautiful, blond, tonic, smiling and tanned. Never had the chance to approach them.


Every night around midnight I zipped the tent. Silence. From time to time just the breaths of a couple making love in the dark, on the sand.


In November the temperatures were still 10 degrees above the seasonal averages. I started thinking differently about those nights, with a sense of regret. Sometimes almost with anger.


Like many others, I was spending my days wondering why I’d come back to the city.


People were lazy and sweaty. At work, production fell by 45 percent and every provision was postponed to a date to be defined.


On December 8th the state of national emergency had been declared.


Christmas was the longest day ever recorded. Since Natural Christmas trees and light decorations had been banned, my mother just put a beautiful red tablecloth on the table. I drank two or three liters of vodka and lemon sorbet, I tasted just a bite of turkey. I spent almost an hour at the window picturing the building in front of mine : #Sergio Leone #Civil War #Christmas In The Far West #Clint #A Fistful of Dollars #family time #no filter #like for like, then I fell asleep, exhausted, before sunset.

On hotter days my headache exploded, I stayed lying on my back for hours looking at the ceiling. There were no other smells but those of moist and ionized air. There was no noise other than the fans, uncoordinated and persistent. Sometimes I thought about the south of France and cicadas. Everything became slow, temporary and postponed. Maintenance works ceased.


On cooler days I took advantage of the more human decibels to read the last chapters of all those books I had never finished.


February gave us a break, the wait was replaced by organisation and mobilisation. slowly, and with unexpected, grace people returned communication.


Phones started ringing again. The press went back to work. Everyone went back to work but me. I didn’t return to the office even when my case on biodegradable chips was reopened.


Then on March 20th, a bolt from the blue. Wind and fresh air. As soon as the temperature had returned to the seasonal average, suddenly the buzz stopped. I thought about the cicadas again. It was Spring. It caught us unprepared. The immediate damage was considerable, flooding, loss of electricity, structural failures.


They called it “the year without a winter”.


I wondered if there had ever been a year without a summer. I found out it was in 1816. Clouds from a huge volcano plunged the world into endless winter. Crops failed, famine and disease spread – and great poets and composers of the day responded with works of gloomy genius. Fragmental volcanic materials in the atmosphere led to spectacular, mesmerizing sunsets, colors never seen before appeared in the sky, and painters like William Turner were unconsciously influenced in the choice of tints and shades. The terrible lack of oats to feed animals and especially horses inspired Karl Drais, a German inventor, to research a new way of transportation : the velocipede ( the first bicycle).


That missing summer, Mary Shelley, Lord Byron and Jhon Polidori, met each other in Switzerland, beside lake Geneva where, confined indoors by the bad weather, they passed their time playing games and writing scary stories by the fireside. Their contributions were to create the uncontrollable monster of Frankenstein; or the modern Prometheus, and The Vampire, precursor of Dracula.


It took me almost two weeks to pack all my books and stuff. I left the city on a sunny windy day. Once back to colours and silence I traded my Pripyat for a surfboard.

2nd Prize


By Aleksandr Čebotariov and Laura Kuršvietytė

“The cities have lost their smells,” says a resident of Amazon-3. “We are living in a constant bubble of smog where it doesn’t matter anymore what you drink or eat, whether it stinks or not. It’s like everything has drown into this grey nothingness. Practically we don’t need to use our senses anymore…”



(blink) (blink) (blink)

“Clean home – clear mind.


(blink) (blink) (blink)



“More and more people claim to be indifferent to society, to their country‘s well-being or economic state. The recent study revealed that people have lost their belief in capitalistic system. It has proven to be unhumane, destructive and possesive. It has taken all of the planet‘s resources and, knowing the capitalistic values, it can be stated that it is not capable of giving them back. “The world is in stagnation,” the study states, but there might be a hope for change. The chance of the new possible system is not excluded.”


(swipes to another website)


“The new species of fungi has been found. It has proved to be giving shelter to homeless people in the suburbs of Amazon-5.


Mycologists claim that the risen temperatures are the major factor due to which this new species emerged. Climate crisis has appeared to be not critical at all to the new fungi, on the contrary – it, the fungi – the so called Mycelius Salvator has been flourishing in warm and humid climatic conditions.


The co-existence between the fungi and people has been noticed. It seems that the former landfill in the periphery of Amazon-5 has been transforming itself into the thriving gardens and fields, most likely to this mysterious fungi-people symbiosis that has emerged just recently. “People are feeding Mycelius Salvator with an organic waste, and by that it grows into these fantastic structures that actually provide home for them, leaving compost to fertilize the grounds… It‘s all about exchanging. It seems like a perfect ecological cycle to me,” mycologist explains.”


(locks the phone)


A sudden glimpse of a strangely shaped wood-like object he might have seen in his trashbin today pops out in his mind.



He meets an old friend. He is confused and curious at the same time. Apparently, his mind has been busy all this time, as the thing he saw in his trashbin a few weeks ago has been reminding about itself by constantly reappearing in his thoughts. It seemed similar to the one he has read about – the Mycelius Salvator. What a strange name, he thinks.


“And what about that fungi you mentioned me last week, Gregor?” he asks his friend.


“Oh, it‘s already up until my ceiling! We live great together, I couldn‘t imagine myself without it now.

You know, like how could we, people, live without,” thinks for a few seconds, “…without tree leaves shimmering in the wind or,” breaths heavily, “…or birds singing? Though, sadly, it seems that we have adapted ourselves to live without that… It feels like the fungi kind of brings these forgotten feelings to me. It‘s just so calm and atmospheric living with Mycelium,” he finishes his thought and keeps silent for a minute. “Though, it‘s still difficult for people to get used to it. It‘s alienized. I remember when I was visiting my grandmother – it was before I entrusted in Mycelium. I was afraid at first. It was growing everywhere, even the floor was covered by a thick layer of fungi… It felt like I was walking on something that is alive. I think it‘s equivalent to how people have been demonizing swamps for centuries. Like, somehow that part of nature is too deep, too unknown, too dark for us,” takes a breath. “Anyway, so I felt like it was alive. And I was afraid of it. Strange, isn‘t it? Are we afraid of our dogs…?”




“My grandmother sat there in a complete peace. Like in a sanctuary or something. I couldn‘t understand it with my mind, though I know I felt it. I don‘t know how much time I‘ve spent there. But I woke up, like from a good dream. And I immediately knew what to do,” Gregor summarizes.


Symbiosis like…a fungi and a tree? he remembers some old sheets of the biology book, depicting carefully drawn botanical drawings of a mushroom and a tree connected by thousands of silk threads underground. He used to immerse himself in them and stare at the miraculous creation of nature, as it was the only way to see it.



Thursday 25th August, 2068

I took a walk down the swamp alley today. It seems to be the hotspot for scientists. It‘s crazy what they‘re doing with all those crazy tubes and wires – the electricity is extracted directly from the swamp!


15th October, 2068

I was so proud I‘ve made this chair on my own. I‘m sitting on it right now. Comfy. I imagine, it could have felt like that sitting on a chunk of moss somewhere in the forest.

Though, it gets a little bit funny when I look outside – people are actually carving their houses from Mycelium. And I‘m bragging about my chair…


Monday 18th July, 2069

I had a strange feeling today. Felt like I was reborn for a second, as it seemed like all of my sensual abilities intensified tripe or quadriple. Though, it was just much more silent.

I remember when I was a child, my city would organize car-free Sundays twice a year. Then, you would walk in the street and you‘d hear people muttering behind the corner. You would hear some family having lunch in the 5th floor, dishes rattling, dog barking. Someone in her high-heels walking somewhere behind the building block.

It‘s more or less like that now everyday.


6th August, 2069

What is better than to wake up with the smell of a bread being baked somewhere in the street?

Or better than the smell of the humid ground after the rain?

The smell of fungi itself. Warm hands.

I‘m just recording all the smells I felt throughout the week.

After all, it‘s mesmerizing – people can smell again…

3rd Prize


By Albert Orozco and Edward Rivero

3:33 am


Ma, Ma, Mama!

Where are you mom?


Juanito woke up from a nightmare on the cold ground floor covered in sweat. His thin space blanket laid a few inches from his grasp and his dilapidated sleeping pad had slipped underneath his feet. Auntie Margarita, who slept next to him, woke up to his screams and began to caress his shoulder.


“shh…shh…shh, everything is going to be okay,” Auntie Margarita whispered.


“I saw La Llorona, the wailing woman, in my dream Auntie” cried Juanito. She was wearing a white dress, trailing me through the Rio Grande in our old city of Juárez, screaming “oh my children, where are my children.” She caught up to me, grabbed me, and then I woke up. Ay! Auntie, I am so scared!”


“My dear boy, there is nothing to be afraid of,” Auntie Margarita assured him. “You know that the story of La Llorona is nothing but a tale adults tell their children to keep them out of the streets at night. I am here with you. Do not be afraid.”


Margarita gazed out into the dark space of the detention center, lost in thought, and focused on the countless children sleeping next to her. As the moonlight danced around the holes of the wired fences that caged them in, Margarita thought about La Llorona’s pain; the pain of losing her children and wandering for an eternity in search for them.


“Auntie?” Juanito asked perplexed by Margarita’s daydreaming. “Isn’t La Llorona an evil witch that kidnaps children?”


“No Juanito. Women are always villainized in these myths created by men. Let me tell you a different story of La Llorona. Remember the maquiladoras, the factories in Juárez, where your mom used to work before we journeyed to the United States? Well, your mother and other maquiladora workers are gathering to come up with a plan to rescue you and all their children. They call themselves “Lloronas of Juárez.” They are a collective of mothers who have been separated from their children by the border patrol. When their bosses go home, they gather in these factories to work on projects that call for the abolition of detention centers and that reimagine the infrastructure along the border.”


Juanito confused, “But aren’t maquiladoras just places to make clothes?”


Yes, but they are more than that now. At night, the Lloronas of Juárez transform the maquiladoras into an after-dark studio. They create art and models that seek to heal the land and restore the natural flows of life. Remember when your mother used to say “water is life?”


Water is life

The waves of the ocean

A sonic potion that calms souls

Flows of river currents so powerful

Carve paths through stones


La Llorona emerges from the lake

Tears drip like rain drops

Her wails thunder throughout the darkness

We feel La Llorona’s pain


Margarita continues “we are all connected by the cycle of water. In fact, you and I, and everyone around us is made up of mostly water. Without water there is no life. Throughout history, empires have built structures to control water systems and carved the land to establish their borders.


The Rio Grande, which once ran majestically across what we call the borderlands, now sputters polluted waste water on the Juárez side of the border.

Dams and canals have dismembered the natural flow of the river and Man has named it a border between the U.S. and Mexico. Juanito, this sacred river which provided life and nourishment for thousands of years is now used to divide people from their families.”


“But what does this have to do with my mother and the Lloronas of Juárez?” Juanito wonders.

“Well, as I was saying, the mothers congregate to develop plans that seek to restore the damage done to the Rio Grande and the environment around it since the creation of the U.S./Mexico border. They demand justice for the land, the river, and for migrants like us. I heard from the other women in the detention centers that they have come up with an alternative vision for the borderlands. The lines that divide will be woven into the cities’ landscape to bring water back to the people. The various tiers that it creates from the center of the river to the other edge will host layers of parks, agriculture, plant reserves, and animal habitats where different life-forms can merge upon a central point: reimagining the current intersection where the border wall, el Rio Grande, and the river border collide. Over the centuries, the borderlands have been dismembered into many pieces by nations created by men. The women believe it is time to restore the land by dismantling the border that scars the earth and restoring the natural order of life. They are meeting with immigrant rights community organizations and there is even a congresswoman from New York that met with some of the women to talk about their vision. The goal is to rejuvenate the landscape along the Rio Grande and reclaim the borderlands as a place of reunification. They plan to create places of mutual exchange alongside the river where families can gather for celebrations and for special ceremonies like Day of the Dead. Rather than serving as a border, the Rio Grande will once again come to life and become a place of unity.


“Juanito, do you remember the pollution and trash all along the Rio Grande?”


“Oh yes auntie I remember. And that awful smell” says Juanito while pinching his nose.


Yes Juanito. The smell of pollution and death lingers all along the rivers’ banks. Buried underneath the soil of the Rio Grande are the memories of all those that lost their lives to the might of the river. We must respect the river and honor all the souls that are now a part of it. The Lloronas of Juárez imagine a landscape along the Rio Grande full of life and flowers. They dream of a reunited river just as they dream of reunited families.


“Juanito, Juanito, Juan.” Margarita whispered to him as she quietly shook him.


Juanito had fallen into a deep slumber. Margarita relieved tugged him close to her and held him in her arms. As she positioned herself to sleep, she smiled and stared at the corner of the cell. For a second, she began to believe her own story. In the three months of being in the detention centers, she heard stories of families on the outside plotting to help them escape from these concentration camps. Day after day, she held onto the hope that her sister Maria was doing all she could to get them out. As she held Juanito closer, she could only wonder where her own children were. Were they okay? Margarita wondered if she would ever see her children again. The two were only five and six years old. They did not know her phone number or have an address to locate her. Worst of all, ICE was not preoccupied with keeping families together and had not given her any means of contacting them. In spite of this, Margarita knew she had to remain hopeful and strong for her nephew Juanito. As she closed her eyes, she held Juanito even tighter and wept:


“Oh my children, where are my children?”


The wailing women

Plant marigolds for fallen souls

The Rio Grande now reconnects

Families separated by border patrols


What happens when mothers’ pain

Interweaves with grassroots work?

A dream blossoms

From collective hope


Honorable Mention



By Anton Markus Pasing of Remote Controlled Studio



“It´s always a pain to leave the house and all pigs are black in the dark and full of stars.“



USO-03 Diary

I. Contact


For a few bottles of akevit we sometimes had to close our tight but weatherproof observation station and left to meet with Nuka, a slightly feeble-minded but cunning smuggler. His face was crossed by a large crow-shaped scar and his breath smelled of garlic and fish. He believed in subterranean gods and his footsteps seemed like the pounding of a machine.


Because we brought him fresh stockfish and mushrooms, which we bred ourselves, the price per bottle was bearable.


We could not meet at the station, since as few people as possible should know of the meeting. I hate to leave the house, not only because of Uksakka and all the others Gods who dulled my mind at night.


I am a scientist, but not immune to the power of the gods. That sounds odd, but not as strange as the reason that brought us here.



II. No signal


There was another identical station, somewhere on the Dutch coast,


I cannot reveal more. We were in close contact, for as long as we were able to speak. How do I mean that? Well, for several months we had heard nothing from USO-03B. No signal, no noise, nothing. Jan van Munster was silent.


We belonged to the group of “vidents”, that is to those who could show to have made an abnormal sighting of the The Essence Of Utopia, as we called it. But we could not only describe this, but we already had a visit, which had used part of our facility. A strange fungus-like organism, better, an unknown bio-formation, continued to grow through the central Systems of our small research station. Angels and fairies came regularly, uninvited, to visit and told us about supernatural gods and giants. We listened spellbound and sometimes the stars went out while they were talking.



III. Plum land


Our ability to assess reality as before had not only diminished, but also became increasingly unimportant.


For example, I gradually realized how Heardred, my colleague, inserted more and more incomprehensible linguistic tatters in his Finnish mother tongue. At the beginning I attributed this to alcohol consumption, but as it became more more freequent and we seldom had enough ‚schnapps‘ in our research-station, I rejected that assumption.


One day, as I watched Heardred deal with the biological anomaly, another suspicion dawned on me. I spoke to him abou that, an he stammered, yes, try it. An interesting taste, and the meal relaxes me.

He did not stop and one day we could not fully understand each other by spoken word. Of course he still spoke, but it was incomprehensible to me. I tried our voice computer and it turned out that he spoke in something like Old Syrian. I remained inwardly consistently uninvolved.



IV. Homeostasis


I am Irish and found a new home after Brexit in Lapland and became aware of the Utopias organization, contacted them, and moved to this station after two years.


How did I get attentive? On a short trip from Ireland to Amsterdam. After moving into a small hotel and consuming a supposed “light joint” in a coffee shop, I got completely lost.


In the morning, around 5 o’clock, it was foggy, I was in a dead end street. Still completely confused, I saw Jesus Christ hovering at about three meters height at the end of the street. He pointed to a strange little animal on the ground and said: This is the new beginning.


Then I fainted and woke up, I can not remember how I got there, to my hotel. I immediately started to pack the bags. At home, I started researching immediately on wether others had similar experiences.



V. Glatisant


One night I heard Heardred talking in a dream and turned on my translator.


He spoke of animals or similar-looking animals, maybe a dog.


The computer could not put it exactly, but calculated an 88% agreement with the term Glatisant. The next morning, I looked it up. The Glatisant is also referred to as a quest animal or a barking animal. It is a bizarre-looking creature of the mythical world. Wondrous and terrifying at the same time. By the way, my name is Jim. When I talked to Heardred, he could not remember.


Well, on those dark nights, how could the dreams be bright?



VI. Blue berries


The morning shave was due. With a sharp blade, I carefully peeled my body free. Every five days, a large amount of a kind of green moss with red buds formed on my skin and threatened to immobilize me if I did not cut it.


The following night I dreamed of the Fomorii, a malformed and violent being of my country’s mythology. I hid in a dream behind a stone wall where I unexpectedly saw Herdred, as he crouched too, so as not to be seen. From his ears grew blue berries. Speechless we were silent. Together. Only one thought shot absurdly through my head, again and again. Where the hell should we get here a pot of hot coffee?


Waking up again, I immediately began to cook coffee and begin my actual task: Incubating.



December 28, 2036_10.02 o’clock.

Honorable Mention

Rothiemurchus 2098

By Marie Walker-Smith

In the stillness of the forest, it was the petrichor that woke him. The man stirred against the log against which he was leaning, the sun already creeping above the mountains. Dim and unfocused, he reflexively inhaled the sweet, foreign smell of pine, dew and rotting leaves before realising that his mask was loose, and the air he was breathing was unfiltered, unprocessed and potentially toxic. Cursing, he quickly readjusted and tightened the straps, swallowing metallic, tasteless oxygen once more.


That smell, he thought, that’s another thing to add to the list. Different.


He’d been in the forest for over a day now, having skirted perimeter barriers the previous morning, and recollections of what he’d seen over the past day came back to him.


Adaptable creatures as humans may be (especially in the past century or so), they paled in comparison to what existed here. And even so, in his lifespan alone, humanity had gone from perpetrators, then victims to manipulators of atmospheric climates. Though, he supposed, forests had gone from plentiful, then dwindling, to one. It made sense that the last one was more resilient, in its own way; it’s not as if it had a choice.


He’d been making his way further in for about an hour before he saw one. He’d heard that there were machines helping to look after the Cairngorm forests, everyone knew that despite not having seen one in decades, but he hadn’t prepared for the fact that these things weren’t like any machines that he had seen or heard about before.


These… things moved like animals, for the most part; he’d seen enough captive specimens in zoos, online videos. Their cold, blank stare was something else entirely though, and he wasn’t sure that it was a good combination. He shivered at the recollection; he’d stopped to catch his breath, when a movement at the periphery of his vision caused him to freeze. What he’d initially thought was a nightmarishly starved fox was actually a skeletal machine, prowling on all fours, and it spotted him before he could take shelter.


It drew closer on its spindly twig legs, its LED eyes glowing scarlet with menace, and he shrank away; just as he thought it would raise its haunches and attack, it blinked, flashing a warm amber and proceeding to trot past, its tail of ferns and branches swishing behind. Bizarre, he’d thought, watching it as it disappeared up the slope, and dared to be hopeful, maybe it knows why I’m here.


He’d carried on, occasionally stopping to rest, record a sighting or to take in a view, and had to exercise discipline as everything was so new and beautiful to him, noticing more of these zoomorphic machines further within the woodlands. When he was little, he’d seen documentaries on the Initiative forests, one of which was here, in Scotland. Now, in 2098, the world had vertical oxygen farms and air manufacturing plants to supplement air quality as vast expanses of woodland were razed to the ground, and as a result a large proportion of the population, like him, suffered from respiratory disease as untreated microparticulate pollutants invaded their bodies. The global human population neared 15 billion, with an average lifespan of 62 due to endemic pollution-induced illness, and though he was younger than that, he had over the past decade felt himself succumbing to the usual persistent coughs and breathlessness.


Those documentaries he’d seen mentioned how these protected sites around the world, of which there were a dozen, were carefully selected by the United Nations for biodiversity and long-term estimated efficacy. They each held seed banks and genetic sequences for all known plant species, and were able to deploy re-wilding and expansion measures, acting as an epicentre for repopulating the world with flora. The Rothiemurchus project was the last of the dozen still transmitting data to an access point at Strathclyde Institute of Technology, near Glasgow, with the only other port being in the centre of the forest itself. He knew that, before his time was up, he needed to ensure that the rewilding protocol was initiated.


And so he found himself traipsing through the woodlands, spotting deer-ish machinery and bark faces twitching at him, with no discernible emotion other than curiosity or indifference. He’d also seen actual animals too, like foxes, birds, squirrels, and it never ceased to amaze him that they were still here. It was like discovering frozen specimens in what used to be the permafrost, seeing them intact, but it wasn’t really; these were alive, thriving.

He’d heard a hum growing steadily louder before looking up and seeing a cloud of what looked like birds- no, large insects above him. Their buzz grew to a roar as they passed overhead, and he saw their metallic wings catch the sunlight before they disappeared behind the layers of trees. He coughed, hard, for the next minute or so, and thought maybe he’d call it a day.


And so when he woke, he was astounded to find that breathing in that sweet, raw air didn’t kill him in his sleep; if anything, it felt like it did him more good than the filtered air that most habitation blocks had piped through them. Maybe this is the last burst of energy he’ll get. When he heard a rustle behind him, he turned to see the fox machine from the previous day, with its glowing amber eyes, toadstool-encrusted ribs and twitching leafy ears; it seems like he made a friend.


He rose, clearing his throat, to the new day, pushing on towards the loch in the middle of the forest. He felt the ground slope down, carrying him towards his destination. He felt weak.


At last, when the sun glowed high above him through the clouds, he saw it; the Ark glowed across the water. He had to double-check his navigation, since the building was unlike any structure he’d known. It was ridged and lumpy, almost a cave had risen out of the soil and bedrock over the course of centuries, with veils of myceloid material interlaced into the shell. As he drew closer, he noticed that more machines were moving in the same direction, including his fern-covered fox companion from earlier. He could hear his blood pounding in his ears as he lurched from step to step, eyes focused on his destination, his mind clear and determined as he followed the tide.


Stumbling now, into the mouth of the Ark, its cavernous interior looming large before him, and he could see the ridged inner walls, encrusted with fungal hyphae; he spotted a ramp and lumbered toward it. Drained once again, he stopped and examined his surroundings, spotting remnants of a once-humanistic architecture, fragments of doors, computers, floors.


Below, the original seed vaults remained; great glass and metal pods, many layers thick, each holding thousands of seed and cutting specimens. They sat within the loch’s water, their temperature regulated, only rising out of the water for maintenance… but they weren’t. One was exposed, with thousands of these insect-like machines hovering in the cold mist around it, industriously extracting samples from the vault and disappearing in the mist with their charges. A few minutes of this, and the dome was re-sealed, descending back into its watery containment.


What are they doing?, he wondered, but the answer came to him as he asked it, They’re propagating. The forest is expanding.


It’s ready.


Blinking his fatigue away one last time, he forced himself up, walking a few more minutes before stumbling, rising, and falling once more. His legs shook beneath him, but he steeled himself. Just a bit more.


Finally, after what felt like an age, he reached the top. A rocky plinth covered what was left of the original computer holding the Rothiemurchus AI system. Sensing his arrival, a drive opened in the plinth. Breathing hard, he extracted the small device from his pocket and dropped it in, before sinking to his knees. The device contained the code necessary to take down all protocols that restricted the forest to its current boundaries; with it, the forest AI could now initiate the re-wilding protocol beyond its perimeter.


I’ve done it, he thought, as he sat down heavily, leaning against the plinth, and he listened as whirring and murmurs echoed around him, closing his heavy eyes, It’s free.

Honorable Mention


By Ioanna Sotiriou & Maria Tsilogianni of Studio MIWI

user765 says:


The couch glitched today.

Or, maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure.


Anyway, that damn thing is useless. The textures had started failing since last Wednesday and now it is stuck in default mode. I’ve checked the main system of the house but everything seems to be working fine –my bed’s sleeping tracking mode runs great, the desk shifts from marble to wood like the first day I bought it and the noise control filter of my walls is even blocking that 11pm washing machine my lovely neighbor puts on every single freaking night. Point being – main system does not need debugging, the apartment is fairly new (built in 2063), network is stable and I can’t do a third reboot in just a week because I’ll def get evicted.



>quoting user765

user765 says:


Update: Just noticed tiny glitches on the walls’s textures too, currently freaking out. And the highlight glossiness seems a bit off, kinda blotchy. Hope they don’t fail anytime soon. This is so annoying –feels like my sight is getting blurry, kinda being dizzy. I’m setting everything back to default. Hopefully not for too long –this neutral greyish blueish thing all around me is super boring. And this never changing mountain landscape…freaking lame. And The Company does absolutely nothing about it – like I have another choice or something! What a waste of well earned credits.


I’m taking the matter into my own hands but it is impossible to open this thing up. I can’t even find a single screw to unscrew. A coworker mentioned the other day something about this site so I’m coming here for help. I am pretty fluent in C# and Xica43.2 and used to make physical models back in Junior High, lol. I am ready to jump on this new tinkering train, pretty stoked about making something from scratch and really don’t care about the fines from the big guys; screw them –I just want a couch that does not glitch every single day.



>quoting user765

User00221 says:


tldr; let me guess – it’s the MiddleX couch, isn’t it? This glitch has brought so much attention to our community. I swear we may need to turn it into “invite only”.


I get it though, I joined a year ago because of the huge data breach of the Karel Espresso Machine; a man can only stand a certain level of The Company’s spam in their home Wall PANORAMA® system playing 24/7, you know what I mean?


Making that damn coffee machine from scratch though was not easy. So be prepared to not have a decent couch for the next couple of months (the couch will be way easier to make –only takes some wild imagination– the IRL materials though will take you some time for sure). But people around here made entire walls from scratch (initially glitching because of air traffic, lol), so anything is possible I guess.


Anyway, since I get that you are a nooby, cute beginner, I’ve attached the code for a very simple couch. For IRL materials you’ll need to post to other threads to see if someone wants to trade in your area or dm me to see if I know anyone close to you. Plus, tools –I assume you have none; that’s a bit tricky, you’ll need to figure this one on your own. I’d find the let’s say ~less legal~ IRL market close to your place and pay a visit to one of the South bars. You can even try the sideway exits of the Purple Lane. If lucky enough, you can find pretty decent scrap gems over there. Just be mindful of the local tinkerers and the technogypsies. They are up for a tough bargain. Remember to never mention anything too clearly and always go for alternative names –best advice I was given e v e r, saved my ass a couple of times right there.


PS: Don’t worry about any fines. Everything we do is untraceable and datafree, no one will keep an eye on your couch –just make sure you don’t raise suspicions while you are gathering tools and IRL materials. Run the code once you are done and make sure you get “April is a cruel month” at the end –this will validate that nothing has changed within the house’s central system and the recipe is still running incognito. We also have a script for bugging the central Wall PANORAMA® code while you are tinkering around –totally blocking surveillance and recording, but just for a while. Look it up.


Last thing but very important. We have an archive of objects from the past. Find those to be good hint references, just to trigger one’s imagination. We try to do our best with collecting and documenting whatever found from the past. You will notice lots of random stuff that we have no clue what their function used to be.


See below instances of the couch script, just to get an idea. You will find the basic recipe script attached. Collect the most random, craziest IRL materials and improvise for whatever else you feel like building. You can always find more specific scripts on our site. But my advice is to experiment -one can only be surprised by what comes up in the process.



using System.IO;

using System.Collections;

namespace ChairProjectRecipy


class ProgramRecipy


static void TinkerMe(string[ ] args)


int[] arr = new int[5] { 83, 12, 3, 34, 60 };

int i;

for (i = 0; i < 5; i++)

//go to your nearest control box of your Wall PANORAMA® installation. At the connection between the box and the led, there is a small hole. Place your phone’s safety pin and gently push – it unlocks the replacement battery box. The box has four Type A screws, right below the main speaker (thumbs up MakerBoy43 for the tip). Use these screws for securing the cushion in position.



Console.WriteLine(“A Game of Chess”);


private void serialPort1_DataReceived(object sender, System.IO.Ports.SerialDataReceivedEventArgs e)


TestText = serialPort1.ReadExisting();

string[] nameArray = TestText.Split (‘*’);

foreach (string name in nameArray)


dot = nameArray[0];

Rx1 = nameArray[1];

Ry1 = nameArray[2];



//To pick the entire box out, you need to gently push the box to the left. You’ll inevitably ruin some of the surrounding pixels. Screw them all we say. Pull the box out, break the connections and dismantle it (good IRL material for welding and future soldering, keep batteries. For the couch, you’ll just need the springs. There is a box every 40sqf of Wall PANORAMA®. Collect the springs, weld them together (kudos to @Lia14).


Console.WriteLine(“The Fire Sermon”);





//break the top left corner of your 3D Food Printer with a fork and dismantle one catridge_it will still work fine worry not_both companies use the same factory. You’ll find 6 screws Type B, work fine.


Console.WriteLine(“Screw You Alexa”);



//glue is tricky_run the “Grandma’s Delicious Pie®” recipe in your 3D Food Printer and on the 8’ open the lid and stick a fork below the cartridge to stop the process. Ignore the red light_your Alexa Eternal® may start yelling at you and go straight into “Danger” mode so make sure you have activated the Noise Control Mode of your Wall Panorama® to not get evicted. Leave the printed mix to cool down. Add some coke for extra durability.



Console.WriteLine(“April Is The Cruelest Month”);


private void timer1_Tick(object sender, EventArgs e)


label3.Text = dot;

posY.Text = Ry1;

posX.Text = Rx1;








>quoting user00221

User765 says:


00221 zillion thanks. The materials I managed to gather are so weirdly off but so surprisingly useful. Had to face some challenges with the technogypsies but so far so good. And your bugging tips are insane! I am already deep into scriptotinkering. So far I’ve built stuff like tables with legs, lighting machines, planting hubs, even this thing for exercising my booties. They are all over my place, becoming super obsessed with their potentials. And ohhh, this extruded buttons…absolutely loving the feeling of pressing those. I made something like a keyboard for an old-school laptop. I needed that one for scripting without interventions from the house’s Wall Panorama® system –was facing some difficulties with properly bugging the central system. Found the solution to be building my own pc, controlling the inner components and brain of my system –super tough synthesizing those chips from scrap metals but proudly succeeded! Physical modeling skills back from Junior High days have proven useful after all.


Damn, having control over things around me is such a feeling!


P.S. currently working on some cool recipe for tracing and blocking deepfake textures of Alexa33. Will hit you up soon!

Honorable Mention


By Therese Leick and Wilhelm Scheruebl of TAB collective

I close my eyes and imagine I’m walking through a thick forest. Sunlight flashes through the treetops and the rustling of the leaves sounds like a string concert. Memories of our family vacations back then come to my mind. The big trees I stood under, the chirping birds I listened to, the wind that blew through the leaves, the moss and the damp fog. It’s been so long since I felt grass under my feet. I remember when my little brother excitedly shouted “I’m done” after engraving his name on a thick tree trunk. My parents sat on the picnic blanket and enjoyed the food we had brought with us. I wonder if the engraving was still here.


I am still leaning back in my chair and slowly breathing in the air. I enjoy every breath of clear, fresh air that flows through my lungs … Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.


Usually it is a sharp pain in my chest that painfully pulls me out of my memories. Today, however, it is my colleague who enters my office and asks me worriedly if everything is fine with me. I place the inhaler next to me and answer that it doesn’t have to worry and is only lost in memories. After I tell him about my family adventures in nature, he tells me that he never had the opportunity to experience a real forest because he is too young. I can see the sadness on his face.


However, he remains serious and turns back to the real reason he came to my office. The latest report of the last tests we ran is now ready. Everything is in line with our expectations. If everything goes according to our calculated schedule, our invention will soon appear in the world.


After he has placed the documents on my desk, I thank him and add: “If everything goes well, you can soon feel the grass under your feet.” He leaves the room with a hopeful expression and a small smile on his lips. Before that, he told me quietly that this was his motivation to work with me here. Then he closes the door. I go back to my desk and focus on the report with all the drawings, plans and bureaucratic forms. It is difficult to concentrate on work again after one of these emotionally charged reviews of nature and silence.


Today there is a constant hustle in the city. I am surrounded by stressed people and noise all around the clock. Most of the vegetation has disappeared. For this reason, the heat is unbearable during the day. In the city, the skyscrapers cast at least some shadows. Researchers and technologists have been trying to imitate vegetation for years. However, none of these technologies have yet been able to get close to reality.

My team and I have also devoted a long time to developing a method to reintroduce vegetation in cities. The plants are initially protected in closed tanks but give people the opportunity to breathe a daily dose of clean air. it took us a long time because the soil was unusable, and the sun had become dangerously strong. But we are now shortly before phase 1. The first pots will be set up in the urban spaces. Where there were telephone booths a few years ago, tank-like structures are then placed.


For a certain amount of social credit, people have the opportunity to buy fresh air and breathe in. Of course, we can use our wages differently. For a luxurious meal in an excellent restaurant or we could expand our small apartment with new furniture. But basically, we have no choice anyway. The toxic air endangers our health considerably.


A step forward for some people, but not for the entire population who has to fight for their lives every day. Our long-term vision is to raise enough clean air and strong trees in these pots, to then plant them outdoors and hopefully later be able to reforest entire landscapes. we use the remaining seeds from plants that are stored and reproduced in seed banks. That was the easiest part of the process. After that we had to deal with the difficulty of creating an environment in which the trees can grow and develop. They must be able to get used to the apocalyptic environment such as heat, polluted air and dry soil before they can be released into the “wilderness”.


According to today’s successful result of the test report, we can finally officially present our development to the world.


The first pots will then be set up in cities this week. Consequently, there will be smaller versions for everyone at home. We as a society must work together to finally take the right direction after politics at the beginning of the 21 st century failed to make the right decisions that could have helped prevent disasters in the early days of climate change. Now it’s up to us. I hope that my team and I are not the only ones who are trying to actively counteract this disaster. We have to use the knowledge and skills we have acquired to develop new measures together.


The only way to break out of global misery is to show people that they can actually change something.


I am just one person among many – With one thought among many.

Honorable Mention


By Stefano Stecchelli, Carlo Occhipinti, Ilaria Caraffi, Francesco Bacci, and Carlo Canepa of  To Nowhere Studio

Is this the same place?


Another place, another time; both unspecified but close enough to seem plausible. 


Beep, beep, beep…87 per cent.


The device is charged again and ready to be worn, thanks to the nano-battery powered by electricity-conducting battery. Every time he recharges it, he thinks how unbelievable it is that human kind had been able to find solutions to almost every need, and than basically started inventing new necessities to find places to new inventions. Again, and again.


The poster on the wall is probably the only paper made thing in the room. People say that he’s following the paper hype, the trend of his time: green, trees, and so the paper. But this cartel is still the key to understand the present, with its huge and colorful title “The UN Climate Change Conference COP 42, Genoa – Italy”.


“42: the answer to everything”, he smiles. It was at this event that finally the world leaders decide that if they want to save the future, cities need to radically change. He couldn’t already understand how it was the urban life at that time. “Come and see the true city experience” he reads sometimes on his advertising section of his smartphone. These messages are sponsored by new travel agencies that promise to bring you to the past, where no solutions exist.


The aesthetic of the cities is now only conceived as the result of performative issues, to the point that all the architects’ work only respond to an univocal hypertechnological-green style. Green is everywhere. But the city is not recognised: everything is contemporary, temporary and identical.


As a possible solution, an advanced augmented reality technology provides the citizens the view of places. Through a contact lenses-like device called PRF, people are able to choose between different scenarios, as if a desirable scenography is digitally applied to bare buildings. Highly performative buildings are than not asked to respond to any representative, stylistic, compositive criteria since they are essentially unseen. They are masses supporting digital and ever-changing images rather than complex architectures. Rational performativity overcame any other aesthetic value which claimed dignity, attention and historical speculation in the past. But even if topography, plans and volumes remain the same, by changing the aesthetics of architectural facades do places remain the same?


After wearing his PRF, he tells his home assistant to text his friend to meet down at the bridge.

Also the internal design of the house is modified by PRF viewers. You can buy them with friendly payment terms in installments. Mastercard, Visa, American Express: they accept all the existing credit cards, and their customer support is always available: 24/7.


“I’m here already”, he texts arriving at the bridge, while realising he may have made the wrong choice. It was pretty windy that day so it might have been better to go to a bar on Leaf Avenue, the one he can’t remember the name. PRF’s chronology maybe will help him later.


For months he has swiped the architectural characteristics of his PRF filter. He could easily swipe from a pre-set filters to others, but it could be very confusing if you don’t know exactly where you are going. Especially if you don’t remember where is the “the bar  in Leaf Avenue”.


He can’t see any portico there and now he remembers that sometimes, even in a zero emissions city, shit happens when you are trying to meet someone. “Oh come on! Is this really happening again? Are we not even able to choose the same scenario?”.


It happened before. But this time it’s particularly frustrating. “Fuck that, I told you It would have been fine anyway”, he writes to his friend. “Sure?? Is this really the same place?”.


And then it comes the Bug. Yes, the “Bug”, with a capital B. People hate it, but it could probably be the last way on earth to see what’s behind their eyes. Sometimes PRF viewers go off and you have nothing to choose anymore. It’s like to have “bare reality versus scenography”, as his friend is saying somewhere near him. “Still prefer the second: at least we add some romanticism…”


The Bugs usually last few seconds, but they are always followed by the probably most famous ADV Billboard in the city: “Performance and identity. Advanced technology and history. Rationalism and romanticism. Sustainable efficiency and poetic living. Don’t choose between poles when you can have both of them. Experience the new living in the city with the PRF viewers: you will not want to do without them”.


Someone says that the Bug is nothing but a conspiracy, a plot organised by PRF viewers producers in order to convince people that they couldn’t live in the city without their products; without the solution.


Others say that you don’t have to go far away with your imagination, when you can see whatever you want. Wherever you want.

Honorable Mention

7121 LONZO

By Eric and Eva de Broche des Combes

I just can’t wrap my head around this case, it’s been close on 10 years and we still haven’t made any headway. Taylor is definitely suffering from some extreme deep-rooted depression dating back to his youth, but due to his optimistic nature I have had to revise my position numerous times now on potential prognoses, I don’t even want to think about the impact it will have on the medical boards index of existing mental illness.


To recall the first afternoon we did a session at the house, he looked substantially more at ease there than at the Clinique. We did quite a few sessions there since then, at least 2 a week. I remember the place being clean and well looked after, the furniture were original throwbacks from the 1970’s. A few odd occurrences came up on some of the other occasions when I was there, I can’t quite explain it but I feel like there is something unearthly about this place.


A strong sensation of curiosity overwhelming me, I took a drive past Taylor’s house one night. I would be lying if I said that it did not make me feel uneasy afterwards. There, in the second story window – what I remember to have been the kids room from my previous visits – he was sitting, in the dead of the night, gazing ahead as if that mountain rising up behind his house would perform some divine gesture. It gave me the same sensation I felt the other day after we had just closed a session in the house, I had walked over to the sliding door to look out onto the patio. What I saw were hundreds of baseballs laying around on the ground in the backyard, an eery site, I get goose flesh just thinking about it.


His intensity makes me shudder. He rolls that strange dice constantly, I have the feeling it calms him down, distracts him from the emotional talks we have. I asked Shirley to find out what these dice were, but she came back to me with a half-baked explanation that it used to be a prop from a popular form of gaming before the year 2000. This just reaffirms my notion that he is lost, no, present on a different plane, or maybe that is not even the right description… Taylor has ceased to adhere to the social norms and standards familiar to most, by locking himself away in that house without any form of technology aside from an old television, analogue telephone, and some odd home-made satellite device. He is waiting for something he refuses to talk about. Both his older brother and younger sister have attempted to break into his psychosis for decades, and now that it has grown into an exigent circumstance they are standing at an arms length, fearing that their attempts might only push him further into his abyss.


The session I had with both siblings was interesting but peculiar, they mentioned that something particularly significant happened to them in the year 1982, they said it was an undisclosable matter pertaining to illegal immigration, and that the authorities had forbidden any talk on the subject matter since.

They could not go into any details, only to say that Mr Taylor had been the most touched by it, whereas the two others had been more rationally sane in dealing with the event. I suspect that this was the catalyst. What could have been so monumentous? Sometimes when he slips into a vacant state he mumbles that he wants to go home, and although I believe that he comprehends where he is, he seems to long for some past encounter. To enter a feeling he once had. In his words “It is the salvation, the way to right the wrongs, before it’s too late.” I have concluded that he must be talking about his own past mistakes? Or could it be something on a larger scale, mankind perhaps? Seems unlikely! Whatever it is, I am certain it has to do with what happened back in ’82.


Another disturbing habit Taylor seems to have is collecting pot plants with dead flowers. He has lined his shelves and counters with them, when I asked him about it he told me that they would be the sign that he’s returned. “Who is ‘he’?” was my question. Taylor didn’t answer. Generally our discussion is over after moments like these, his eyes go blank and it’s like I am not there in the room with him. On other occasions he speaks about collecting species, that he has to be ready for the arrival, but as far as I can gather from the background check Shirley did, he has never worked for any Botanical or Fauna et Flora organisations. Perhaps it’s a hobby he used to share with someone, ‘he’ perhaps. Records show that he has had no close friends for at least the last twenty years, he is on the maximum prescribed dosage of Haloperidol since 2005, and doctors before me had tried all there was on the market on him without any results.


What’s bizarre is the lack of tendency to want to commit suicide. Is the hope of this supposed return somehow keeping him alive? This brings me back to the start of my dilemma, how am I supposed to diagnose this and treat it before he slips further into his state. He has clearly worsened since our first rendez-vous, and if it were not for this cryptic communication and clear lack of interest in technology, I would almost be tempted to pin the entire episode on the tumultuous cyclonic frenzy an average human has to endure when they enter the world of social media and the liberating world of internet. We have had quite a number of cases since the onset of 2010, all related to modern tech, smart phones mostly, computers, but there is the common thread in all of them.


Mr Taylor is clearly an exception.

Honorable Mention


By Jiawei Liang and Wei Wu

“As the city is renewed each day, it preserves all of it self in its only definitive form: yesterday’s sweepings piled up on the sweepings of the day before yesterday and of all its days and years and decades.”

 – Invisible Cities


During the previous decades, Gomorrah became known as a destination for electronic scrap from newly industrialized countries. Billions of tons of e-waste were illegally exported to this border town. After processing, the electronic materials would circulate into the global industry chain. A fascinating illusion of modern society is that garbage is invisible in daily life. The Gomorrah becomes the ghostly presence, the most rigorous and conservative secret of our time.


The tremendous amount of scrap and the following pollution contribute to the harsh living conditions. Whereas, the inhabitants here affiliate to the ground as they are migrants from rural areas, thus suffering from the toxic air and unknown hazardous hurt of their food, land, nerve system, and even brain. Only after the tragic photos of Gomorrah were exposed, harsh criticism from the nationwide community has surfaced, saying that the government and the tech companies should take responsibility. The Environmental Protection Agency had to take measures. Before long, a tower called “the E-waste Disposer” has been launched, which can be used for processing, recycling, purification, and research purpose. After five year’s construction, the Disposer is recently revealed to the public.


Mr.Moore, the director of the Environmental Protection Agency, walked in the E-waste Disposer with excitement. It was the general opening day for this eye-catching project.


Gomorrah would have a fabulous shift comparing to five years ago!” Mr. Moore signed. “In the old days, it was just a desperate slum with countless electronic scrap, hidden in the dark. However, the Disposer lights up the torch for the first time.”


“What a striking comment!” said the project manager. “When tons of the e-waste is sent to the Disposer, the Disposer would firstly run a garbage classification and separated them according to size, shape, and usage. The e-waste would be transported to the factories for further recycling work. This creates a lot of work opportunities for local inhabitants.


Some of the e-waste would be sent to the recycle pool. When they are done with metal recycling, those scraps will become the material for architectural construction. What’s more, the toxic recycling pool, which might be the main reason of pollution, can be purified using a newly developed technique. Therefore, the chemically polluted pool water could be used in irrigation.

On top of the E-waste Disposer, we have a lab that primarily focuses on researches on e-waste pollution and protection. Also, the researchers are interested in related topics, for example, ‘how to automatically optimize the temperature when burning the e-waste’. All the useless waste materials would drop off to the bottom room – the largest burning room ever in history, and became dust and steam in the end.”


“The E-waste Disposer is the gorgeous miracles that I have ever seen.” Mr. Moore shouted with excitement when he went closer to the lit room and the high-speed spinning e-waste classification room.


“It’s time for the open ceremony.” The project manager whispered.


“Yes, Good morning everyone, welcome to the E-waste Disposer. I am very delight to announce that the E-waste Disposer is officially launched today. From now on, we have a new machine that helps us to protect our homeland – Gomorrah!”


Mr. Moore opens a bottle of champagne and announces the celebration They think that the future of blessedness and pollution-free will come. Where E-waste will gain the right and legitimacy to flow freely around the world, and where it will spread around the world, Technological advances have paradoxically and optimistically defused this uneasy modern disaster.


Late at night, the project manager walked back to the control room to inspect the machine, He is still not satisfied although everything is in order, He shouted angrily at the staff: ” Speed Up! There will be no progress without exceeding common sense!”


The high speed running of the machines were too heavy to handle, and the temperature grew so high that it could not be controlled. The heat melted the protective layer of the wires, causing an explosion in the reaction zone, The blast ripped off several floors and destroyed the top-floor chemistry lab, whose products triggered a second explosion that flames raging. The residents of Gomorrah awoke to sleep, watching the blaze from a distance in horror, despair and helpless.


After an unknown amount of time, the flames faded and the Gomorrah caught back into darkness. The reality does not seem to have changed. Gomorrah remains the destination of modern society’s waste anxiety, a global infrastructure network that creates and presents two fault interspace distribution, and e-waste remains a Ghostly Presence. For recyclers, e-waste is both life-threatening and vital. They are both involved in ecological violence and victims at the same time. The E-waste tower became a sweet dream, and it didn’t act as an angel when sulfur and fire came.

Honorable Mention


By Lindsay Harkema

A story of urban metamorphosis, from empty voids to energy volumes 


It’s another extremely hot day in the city of the Post-Climate Change era. Members of the public are readily seeking the relief of cooler air, lush greenery, a charging station for their smartphone or personal temperature moderating device. Another storm surge has knocked out power and contaminated the city’s water supply, and a population of citizens-turned-utility-refugees are seeking clean water, a powered electrical outlet, an alternative source of energy—practically and psychologically. Fortunately, in this era of climate volatility the built environment has been adapted to meet these needs. Buildings are no longer only structures of financial capital but generative, altruistic entities, wrapped in Active Ornaments which support energy democracy and collective well-being. Delicate yet responsive armatures perch like butterflies on their facades, blooming like flowers to absorb sunlight, harness wind energy, extract carbon emissions—expanding, contracting, breathing. Acting as external organs outside their building skins, these chrysalis-like infrastructures feed energy and sustenance back to the city, and equitable beauty to its social imaginary. The built environment is finally a nurturer of its public.


It was not always this way.


For a long time, buildings were made to be static objects. Their sealed private interiors were totally disconnected from and disengaged with the exterior public realm. An expression of self-declared autonomy, the skyscraper became a symbol of capitalist power, the value of which was only accessible to the wealthy few and agnostic of the collective many. As increasingly prominent figures of city skylines, these buildings were the overt embodiment of the global financial system that had afforded them, which increasingly allowed only the wealthy to get wealthier and offered little to the greater population. For a long time, these skylines were the dormant backdrop of the increasingly generic city—merely a frozen image, despite its perpetual development. Same, but different, but the same.


Agents of this bland sameness were often introduced at the level of urban planning, and not without good intention. In 1961, the New York City Planning Dept. introduced a development incentive that would grant additional building height and volume—exceeding the allowable envelope determined by zoning laws—in exchange for the provision of a public plaza on the property. The goal was to encourage development while preserving open and accessible space at the street level, a gesture towards maintaining a vibrant public realm despite the influx of private capital. This incentive marked the birth of the Privately Owned Public Space which rapidly became a ubiquitous urban typology.


Privately Owned Public Spaces, POPS, took their inspiration from Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building which in 1958 was unconventional for its physical setback from the street that created an open plaza between the property line and the building entrance. Heralded as bold and visionary, the setback and the pure vertical extrusion of the building’s form created an urban void as a space of exception, neither public street nor private building.


The void as public space was not new. For centuries cities around the world have been composed around open spaces—agoras, fora, bazaars, alun-aluns—that became centers of urban life and vibrant hubs of economic, social, and political exchange. Modernist urban planning adopted the void as a compositional element to be surrounded by object-buildings, proclaiming it a civic stage for public activity as urban performance. By the end of the twentieth century, any reciprocity between the private building volumes and public void had ceased to exist. In New York City, the POPS program had introduced hundreds of public spaces amounting to little more than an omnipresent network of bland corporate plazas. While some were peripheral and forgotten, others were imposing and heavily surveilled, neither of which fostered supportive environments for emergent public life.


At their best, POPS operated as independent urban rooms offering an escape from their surroundings and in rare cases a venue for activism and collective political expression. Zuccotti Park, a now infamous POPS, became the epicenter of the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement during which hundreds of protesters continuously occupied the plaza in Lower Manhattan’s financial district for months in demonstration against economic inequality embodied by nearby Wall Street.

Despite the peaceful nature of this event, it resulted in heightened restrictions and control of these spaces, spurring new amendments to POPS regulations, allowing their private owners to establish nighttime closures and stricter rules for public use and behavior in order to prohibit such public assemblies in the future.


At their worst, POPS were simply empty voids. Developers who had taken early advantage of the incentive had been able to do so with little oversight of the form or function of the plaza. Over time, a series of zoning resolutions and amendments to POPS design standards, intended to improve their overall quality, inadvertently contributed to their assimilation and caused each one to be indistinguishable from the next. In its first 60 years, the POPS program produced hundreds of insignificant and forgettably familiar corporate plazas characterized by prescribed quantities of benches, fenced off green areas, expansive hard surfaces, and posted rules of conduct. Far from the liberated civic stage, POPS restricted public behavior to a list of do’s and don’ts.


The absurdity of POPS was perhaps no better embodied than by the vacant, marble-clad plazas adjacent to pencil-thin, ultra-luxury towers comprised of perpetually empty residential units owned by absent foreign elites. Or by the blockaded entrance and roped off interior lobbies of towers owned by mediocre developers who became politicians. As a medium for public life, the urban void had failed to perform. The blurring of public and private interests had resulted in a widespread deficiency of the built environment, in which private consumption perpetually stifled public agency and empowerment.


In the meantime other informal publics had emerged by necessity, driven by extreme yet increasingly common environmental phenomena. Public cooling centers were opened throughout the city to provide air-conditioned relief to the population in need during frequent heat waves and extended periods of dangerously high temperatures. Heating centers to do the same in extreme cold spells. Green roofs, solar panels and other energy harnessing resources were assembled into microgrids, able to operate independently and as supplements to the city’s power grid. When storm surges caused widespread power outages, resilient and energy productive buildings became communal charging stations, public destinations by demand for energy refugees displaced however temporarily from their utility-deprived homes.


It became clear that most valuable public amenity was not the urban void, but its resourceful volume. This realization spurred a reconsideration of the void-for-volume exchange that had for decades allowed empty urban space to be exchanged for added privately-owned building FAR. While the implementation of POPS had directly increased the material value of a building, it had offered no quantifiable benefit or resource to the broader public. That exceptional volume—up to one fifth of the total building in each POPS instance—became the site of a revolutionary new private-public spatial hybrid, the Active Ornament.


Active Ornaments were introduced by the Planning Office for Energy Democracy in the 2020s as mandatory retrofits to parent buildings of Privately Owned Public Spaces. It was required that an exterior armature be applied to a minimum building surface area of the volume which had been granted in exchange for the POPS. This armature would collect and generate energy provided directly to the public in the form of accessible heating, cooling, electrical, water, and green resources. As literal agents of empowerment, AOs not only provided energy refuges to the public, but they became mediums of a performative and aesthetic transformation of the city, a shift from building consumption to resource generation. Formerly static, closed buildings became adaptive living machines supportive of both private and public interests.


As a progression from the earlier POPS model which saw the building and public realm as autonomous entities, AOs now provide a continuous exchange between the two. As public space, their value is not gained from merely being open but from actively being full. As meaningful elements of the public imaginary overlaid onto its built environment, Active Ornaments are a dynamic expression of and plentiful mechanism for the collective needs, shared interests, and common values of a city constantly in flux.

Honorable Mention


By Suada Dema

No one could possibly explain the rage. I had heard my grandma mentioning a curse since the time I did not know what that meant. The Earth, suddenly enraged in what was supposed to be a great national celebration day. That did sound like a curse now that I think of it.


The ground had shuddered like it had wanted to get rid of a disturbing shell that had been bothering its skin for centuries in a row. They say it lasted a few seconds which is quite strange as others swear it continued for much longer claiming its still going on to this minute. But I am sure time had nothing to do with it. Time had actually stopped in the city surrounded by mountains , so that we could listen to the Earth trembling . In today’s newspapers it was written that even though the Earth’s call had barely reached the borders of our country , everyone else had listened and the deafening silence that followed had encapsulated the whole peninsula.



I feel the most human when I am afraid. I am small and vulnerable. This leaves everything beyond me meaningless.



We are part of the earth now. My family is not with me. It‘s like in one of my lucid dreams. I am here with people I don’t recognize, but they don’t even seem to notice my presence. I decided not to talk. Our dwelling is well below the surface. This whole city was created yesterday, shortly after the call, probably within a few minutes, I cannot exactly remember. Our overpopulated houses resemble carelessly shaped subterranean caves and there is not a single trace of sunlight. People seem to have come prepared though. They place their stuff wherever they can and they try to expand their caves more using all kinds of heavy tools. Sometimes big concrete bricks fall out of nowhere in the middle of the cave and that is considered a warning to not continue any further. The caves have narrow passages between them and people started referring to them as “the streets”. Our new city has no significant entrance or exit. In particular locations, they created amorphic openings from which patches of skylight become visible from the depth.



Where does the city start or end? What is a city after all ?

I secretly wanted to be lost in the big Elsewhere.



Some people have a familiar look. They seem to know me though I am sure I have never seen them before. I wondered whether they felt the absence of the sun as much as I did. Or the absence of the sea.


I recall a distant day before the creation of the City of Ruins when I was holding my mother’s hand somewhere near the shore. Now I have a hard time remembering all the details but I can still feel the sun’s reflection in the troubled water hurting my eyes. Maybe without the sea the city would be no longer. No one can really see or hear the water right now but it must still be here. After all, there is no realer city than one in people’s memories.



The flashbacks usually leave me feeling an unquenchable thirst.



I heard the others say there is another city being built up above , completely detached from the Earth’s surface. The buildings are extremely light and they float while slightly rotating in mid air. At first sight they may have seemed like floating embryos. Today I met a girl who said she would soon get into one of those and leave towards the big unknown Elsewhere. No one really admitted it, but the people had started to believe in the ancient curse and had a hard time hiding this urge to escape it.


She depicted the house as an almost spherical object entangled in an intricate exoskeleton that seemed to maintain the structure intact. The material under it is pale white and it becomes transparent or translucent in particular parts of the day.

It appears to be as thin as fabric but it is highly durable against any possible environmental hazards and stores solar energy making the houses safe to float in the atmosphere. They would be empowered like hot air balloons she said. How great is it ! Living in a hot air balloon!


The new country apparently has no defined territory or name and what is more surprising , no one seems to give it any importance. One can meet people who seem to speak very distinct languages but somehow everyone manages to understand one another.


To me it was quite odd how this new city had emerged out of the ruins leading its way to the skies like in a silent exodus, unthreatened by the Earth’s rage.


I suddenly thought of the creation of Babel tower and its aftermath.



I wake up from an uneasy dream with a feeling of being underwater. I scream. I cannot hear myself.



The other day people were saying  there were thousands of these tiny houses rising up every day from the trembling earth , floating between the clouds like lanterns. The delicate capsules would gradually extend towards each other to create hanging passages eventually adding up to a complex fabric maintained unscathed by the tension forces between them meanwhile some others were joined indistinguishably with what seemed as welded exoskeletons . There appeared to be completely transparent ones for small ivy like plants growing inside them and extending to interlock with the exoskeletons. They would sometimes come together and form a flying green belt. I also remember someone saying there were full bodies of water floating along . They were ambiguously shaped volumes that allowed a great amount of light penetrate them. Unknown species would suddenly appear inside them.


This celestial utopia had stretched horizontally like a shiny cloud with both time and space interwoven. What was even more confusing  about this was that despite the detailed descriptions everyone seemed able to  give ,they had never really seen the city with their own eyes, let alone lived in it.



Last night I dreamt the City of Ruins was completely abandoned. Rays of white light reach the depth I can’t see where they come from.



I noticed I had unconsciously scratched some stuff on a piece of paper I found. It was a mesh of differently shaped bubbles and had an uncanny resemblance with what that girl had depicted so enthusiastically. The absence of light had made me hallucinate. I don’t know how much longer I could endure.



I was almost sure that beyond all the rumours and  the claimed intricacies there was nothing but a deceptive dream that had haunted the whole City of Ruins during the same night.


The entire floating utopia was made of careless illusions encouraged by the collective fear or merely by their own unattainability.



Days passed and people had started not to talk about the floating city anymore. Someone had tried to make his way to the surface to observe them but without any results. They concluded that it is now too high above for us to see. I have not drawn anything in a while but I am not sure now whether the city in my memory is the one on the Earth’s surface  or the one in the sky.



In memoriam of the victims of the earthquake that struck Albania on the morning of 26th November.

Honorable Mention

“H.A.N.D, I DO”

By Diego Grisaleña Albéniz and James Mitchell

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Honorable Mention


By Amit Avni

She stood in the center of the bustling square, slowly lifting from her eyes the thin glass shimmering with soft lights. The street in front of her was washed away of any color. She stood where she walked a thousand times before, yet she did not recognize where she was.


The graphic layers that were an integral part of the street were swept away when Neri took off her AR glasses. Shock took her. For a moment she couldn’t convince herself to breath, her brain refused to perform the basic instinct, like in the first breaths of a scuba dive. Without the glasses the street looked gloomy and monotonous. People walk past her, as though glancing through her. Those who did notice her veered from their path to avoid her.


Very few people walk around without glasses in fear of the ‘Blind Spot Syndrome’. The human brain, constantly flooded with graphic information piled upon the physical world, reacts anxiously without them. A couple of hours without the AR glasses, and the human body is engulfed with severe symptoms of withdrawal that drive many to depression, paranoia and insanity. Those who walk around without glasses live on the fringes of society, unable to integrate socially or financially. They are called the ‘Invisible People’, both because they live with no connection to cultural urban life, and because they are hardly visible through the glasses.


The crowds sweeping the square after invisible programs looked grotesque without the digital decoration filters they usually fashioned. The once familiar city streets seemed dark and threatening. Fear started to grow inside her. Resisting the urge to re-wear her glasses, she began to search for the sign she saw a few days ago. It happened on her routine walk to work. She was walking her regular path when she had a Glitch. The world around her turned into tiny pixels. A few seconds later the sharp image had returned, and everything was back to normal. Since it had never happened before, Neri rebooted her AR glasses. At first she closed her eyes as instructed, but for some reason she opened them a second too soon. That was when she saw the green mark. It was there just for a flash, before being engulfed by colour and light, but it has not left her mind since. Her curiosity is what led her to this moment, standing naked eyed in the street. She had to look for more signs.


After a while her eyes adjusted and she finally saw it -a deep green mark next to a drainage channel. She knew, though she had never seen them do it, that it was made by the invisible people. The sign was hardly seen with the AR glasses, but without them it was clear and visible. After spotting a second mark further down the street, she knew she would have no problem tracing the track. She began to walk.


Neri was walking for over an hour when she found the last sign. It was marked on a doorway that led down a dark stairwell. she was tired and restless, and she felt a throbbing pain in her temples. She had to stop. Sitting down on the first step, Neri buried her head between her shaking knees. Anxiety began to take hold of her; She felt hollow, confused, invisible. flashes of lights and pixels danced in her head. She drew the nerve to stand up and start down the stairs. There were many of them, an endless decline. Neri declined in almost complete darkness, passing dozens of doors, some were shut, others cracked opened into pitch black or revealed deserted cleaning cabinets. Only a few dim light bulbs, dangled over her during her infinite descent. Neri’s knees were just about to give out when she finally saw another green sign, radiating on an old doorpost. She put herself in front of the doorway, a thin dusty line of light twinkling at her feet. Afraid of what would be revealed behind it, she pushed the door open. Light blasted her face. She stumbled back and nearly fell over. When she regained her footing and looked back through the door the sight took her breath away.


It wasn’t a room she was facing, but a huge, magnificent park, bound by tall green walls. A dirt road stretched like a thin brown stripe through tall green grass all the way to the center of the park, where rested a large blue Lake. Wild animals, which Neri had only seen in books before, were grazing on the grassy plain. High above the sky was clear and the entire park was flooded with bright light. Neri took a step forward. Her nose tickled with scents she did not recognise and she could feel the soil clods under her feet. enchanted by the view, she started down the road, forgetting about the headache and distress she had felt.

With a closer look, she realised that the walls of the park were no walls at all. The entire park was surrounded by abandoned, ivy covered buildings. These were the fossil remnants of the old city which the concrete foundations of the new city were casted upon, burying them forever.


The sudden sound of human voices broke her trance. Neri saw figures by the lake shore, the Invisible People. Frightened, she turned back toward the door. It was too late, she was spotted.


“Hey!” someone called after her. “You’ve come this far, Why not stay for a moment”.


Neri hesitated, “we won’t hurt you- that’s for sure.”


The voice sounded friendly, and Neri had never been to such a beautiful place before. She decided it was safe to stay. The figures seemed excited to see Neri approaching. She was greeted by one of the Invisible people. He was laying down on the grass, smelling a flower in his hand. Feeling more comfortable, Neri sat down by them. She realised quickly that they anything but Invisible. For the first time she saw humans for what they could be: beautiful, physical creatures, with true Ideals and intentions. They were the ones who planted the Glitch that led her to find the sign. Their goal, one explained, was to sabotage the augmented reality of city life.


“You see, the AR took over the world.” he said,  “The human natural senses are overwhelmed, our brain is shocked, thus having difficulty functioning. Our senses’ role is to protect us, but we alienate them. Society is no longer able to distinguish friends from enemies.” He held out the flower in his hand and handed it to Neri. “Smell this flower. Feel the grass under your body. Hear the buzz of the insects. Our senses allow us to experience the world in a beautiful way. The world consists of different layers.” He continued decisively, “We must find a way to integrate them back!”.


Neri didn’t know what to say. She leaned in and took a deep breath to smell the flower. She felt a tickle at the tip of her nose, her eyes started to water and goosebumps ran down her arms and legs. Her whole body contracted, and with a sudden release all her senses became sharpened. Neri did not know what had just happened. She was calmed by the laughter around her.


“Welcome to the real world,” She was told, “you just sneezed.”


Her head spun with all the smells of the park and a symphony of sounds whirled in her ears. Neri smiled.


As the evening shadows began to fall, Her body was filled with energy and her heart started beating fast. Flashes of light began to blur her vision. She suddenly got up and started running back towards the door. No one protested her leaving, they all understood. She ran to the door and didn’t stop until she was back on the city street.


It was late at night when she put the glasses back on. She felt relieved when the animations showed up. With the smell of the flower still in her nose, she activated the navigation app back home.




Neri was back in bed when she thought it might have been nice if instead of holograms of nature planted in the city, there would be holograms of urban programs in nature. It was probably a stupid idea, she told herself as she fell into a dreamless sleep.