A good fairy tale, like good architecture, makes fantasy inhabitable. It provides a foundation for the reader to stand on, and then let’s them loose to fill in the rest with their own experiences, making a universal structure personal. But sometimes, when architects try to tell the story of their world-building to others, they rely on too exclusive of a foundation. Fairy Tales — When Architecture Tells A Story, a collection of fantastical stories written and designed by architects, tries to make that foundation more accessible.
Published by Blank Space, an online architecture platform, the Fairy Tales book began as a competition among architects (as well as other creative professions) to submit “narrative-based” designs along with an original “fairy tale” text. That’s as specific as it got. Blank Space wanted to provide an alternative to contemporary architecture competitions, which it felt was stifling imaginations of what architecture can be, or do, with too many professional constraints. After choosing the competition's winners, Blank Space published their designs (and a few other choice proposals) as this book.
Fairy Tales — When Architecture Tells A Story is an architect’s garden of storytelling, freely sampling from literary and graphical styles. The clear influence of seminal texts, both theoretical and fictional, makes for a whimsical minglings of references to works like Delirious New York and Alice in Wonderland. Our selected Screen/Print fairy tale won an honorable mention in the competition, and tells the tale of a boy and his house, trying to make it in this strange world.
Designed by Irena Gajic, Tea Belicev & Marta Gajic
Once upon a time there was a boy who lived in a world where everybody had their own house. The houses weren’t ordinary houses. No. These were houses that you could not abandon. The boy's house went with him wherever he would go. He would play with it and change its shape, color... Oh, how fun it was to have that house!
"See those sad plants and animals they don't have their own houses to play with like me."
One day a tree appeared in front of the boy's house: "Knock, knock", a sound was heard on the boy's door.
"Who could that be" the boy inquired as he went to the door. When the boy opened the door he set his eyes upon a tree that looked tired and was missing a couple of its branches.
"Please, would you be so kind as to bring me some water", said the tree. "I have been traveling for days and haven't had anything to drink." The boy invited the tree into his house, gave him a chair to sit and brought him a pitcher full of water.
"Does it hurt?", asked the boy, nodding towards the place where branches once sprouted.
Why don't you stay with me until your branches grow back? I have a lot of water. Your branches will easily grow back."A little bit, but they'll grow back though".
"Will they grow back by tomorrow?", asked the boy excitedly. The tree laughed warmly at the boys question. It had to explain that it takes a lot of time, sunshine and water for a branch to grow. That gave the boy an idea. "Why don't you stay with me until your branches grow back? I have a lot of water. Your branches will easily grow back." The tree pondered on the boy's suggestion:
"The boy is right I've been traveling for a long time and its time that I got some rest and recovered a bit." "You know what, it’s time that I rest and recuperate, the company would also do me some good. I've had so many wonderful experiences during my travels it would be nice to have somebody to share them with."
"How interesting it will be to have somebody else in the house. And not anybody else, but a tree! A tree that will share its experiences with me! I will have to change the house to better suit a tree, to give him water, sunshine...", thought the boy. Night had fallen outside and it was time to sleep. "Tomorrow I'll have to get a comfortable bed for the tree and I have to find a way to let as much sunshine into the house, and..." but the boy was tired and drifted into a sleep before he could finish his thought.
In the morning the tree was woken by the sun that bathed its bark in light. It got out of bed and as it did so the boy came into the room.
"Good morning", said the tree.
"Oh, good morning", replied the boy "I've brought you this flowerpot. We'll fill here with earth. When the rain falls I'll collect the water so that you'll never be thirsty again. Consider this room yours and do I'll my best that not a single branch of yours breaks again."
Consider this room yours and do I'll my best that not a single branch of yours breaks again."Thank you dear boy! No one has ever done so much for me", said the tree gratefully. The boy and the tree got along splendidly. The boy enjoyed taking care of the tree and adapting the house towards him, and the tree enjoyed the care he was given as well as the boys company. Sometimes, when the wind would blow, the tree would vividly recount his travels to the boy.
"Far away exists a city where people live without houses. That city is very well protected. It has two gates at the entrance that only some may pass", was one of many stories that the tree told. As time passed the tree sprouted new branches. The boy grew afraid that the tree would leave him, so one night while the tree slept the boy trapped the tree within a cylinder.
"Why have you done this?", asked the tree when he woke up.
"I don't want you to leave. Who would tell me stories if you leave?"
"You should not be angry, we had an agreement. I am grateful to you but as you know I have to move on." The boy knew that the tree was right. He removed the cylinder and let the tree sleep in peace. In the morning they said their goodbyes, as true friends, and the tree left. The boy felt very lonely in his house. He collected water, made an entire room covered in earth... Now that the tree had gone he had no reason to keep it.
"What use is such a house to me?", he asked himself and then remembered the tree's story of the city without houses and thought how they certainly don't have those kinds of problems there. "I should seek out this city. It must be better there!" He packed his things and, with his house, went to search for the city.
Along the way everything that he saw seemed familiar. The tree really knew how to make you feel as if you where there when it told its stories. One thing did turn up that the tree didn't mention in his tales. It was a wall. Enormous, long and filled with blinking eyes. The boy couldn't go around, nor jump over it. It had a gate so high up that he was unable to reach it and long narrow stairs that were impossible to climb. The boy took a few steps back, Enormous, long and filled with blinking eyes. The boy couldn't go around, nor jump over it.sat on the ground and stared at the wall. As he looked upon it he started not to care about how he would traverse it. The longer he looked at it the more mesmerized he became. Hours passed and he still stared. Suddenly the wall disappeared and a road came to sight in front of the boy. He decided to take the road and as he did he arrived at a meadow in the middle of which a large wall arose. As he approached he noticed that inside the walls there was an incredible amount of stairs which tied onto one another into an almost endless chain. The boy went around the walls, but he was unable to find where the entrance was until he found a small opening. He tried to go through it, but it was to narrow. Which ever way he tried he didn't succeed. He realized that the house was what was keeping him from going through.
"There must be another way, perhaps there is a rope i can use to climb up and over the walls", thought the boy. He looked around but there was no rope. He sat and started thinking.
"There is no way I'll enter like this. I'll have to make my house much smaller." The boy got rid of all the things that were to big to pass through the hole and shrank his house. When he went through the opening he saw a multitude of stairs laid out before him and he didn't know where to go. He looked at a sign beside him, it showed to go right, so he did. He climbed up the stairs following the signs until suddenly he found himself right back where he started.
"I must have taken a wrong turn". The boy decided to try again and once more he found himself where he started.
"Something must be wrong with these signs. Why am I even following them?" The boy resolved to go opposite of the way shown on the signs. Instead of left, he went right, instead of up, he went down, sometimes upside down, sometimes right side up, and after awhile he stumbled upon a door in the floor. He opened the door and took a peek through it and he did have something to see. All around him were people floating in the air with their heads facing down. He realized right away that this was the city about which the tree had told him. He was very excited, never had he seen anything like this. Everyone was gently floating in the air like clouds. He turned to the person nearest to him and said,
"Its really wonderful here", the person didn't even turn around to face him, he floated silently. "Hm, this one doesn't seem to be very talkative. Its really nice here. You must not have any worries", he turned to a different person. The other one also didn't react.
"The people sure are impolite towards their guests", noted the boy, but soon he realized that they didn't even talk with each other. "It really is boring here!", said the boy out loud, but even then nobody moved a muscle. "It was nice to have met you, but I think I'll leave." The boy didn't know where to go from there but it didn't matter, the only thing he knew was that wherever he went he was on the right track.
Screen/Print is an experiment in translation across media, featuring a close-up digital look at printed architectural writing. Divorcing content from the physical page, the series lends a new perspective to nuanced architectural thought.
For this issue, we featured Fairy Tale Architecture — When Architecture Tells A Story.
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Managing Editor and Podcast Co-Producer for Archinect. I write, go to the movies, walk around and listen to the radio. My interests revolve around cognitive urban theory, psycholinguistics and food.Got a pitch, or want to write for us? Contact me!