t. joseph surjan

t. joseph surjan

Chicago, IL, US


Design A Story competition...Runner Up

How to Design a Story:

  1. One character, many roles
  2. subject / object relationships
  3. All text is a matter of facts.

The Old Man

He dresses in grey and wears a knit cap always, even in the summer.

The pace of his walk is still quick and he passes many younger than he on his daily trek.

The Row House

The Row House has the following features:

  1. Painted Red
  2. Arched Windows
  3. Two Stories 
  4. Roof Terrace for parties.
  5. A hidden ladder in the rear is used for repairs.

The Carpenter

The Carpenter has loved woodworking since boyhood. He daily creates small almost sculptural objects for family and friends. The Carpenter is very social, because all of his closest friends as woodworkers too.


The Woodshop

The Woodshed is really a clubhouse. It’s a very small structure with many machines and saws. The only feature concealed is the secret bar wear drinks are served at the end of the day. Somedays, the Woodshop is a bar all day long.

The Widower

The Widower is not a sad person. He believes his ex-wife is happier now without him. Her other worldly joy he thinks is the one gift he truly gave her.

The Widower manicures her grave by hand once a week.

The Burial Mounds

The Burial Mounds are two small hills. They are tall enough that the children use them for sledding in the winter. The Vikings buried beneath the Burial Mounds once burned large fires on the Kvarnbacken.

The Teacher

The Teacher is young and loves his students. More importantly, the students love him in return for his kindness and methods of passing on knowledge. He wears a lab coat when teaching and all the students wish they had one as well.

The Schoolhouse

The Schoolhouse is painted blue and only has two rooms, really one and a half. The main space is for lessons and experiments. The smaller room, almost a large closet is for supplies. This closet is a cabinet-like chamber where magic comes from.

The Swimmer

The Swimmer exercises four times a week, he knows his routine well and trains himself in new techniques. His bathing suit is the Swedish flag and everyone thinks he made it himself. He swims for an hour exactly, no more, no less.

The Natatorium

The Natatorium is a curvilinear structure, with a linear pool in the center. The many oculi stream sunlight in patterns reminiscent of the constellations. The pool is 3.5 meters deep.

The Walker

The Walker strolls everyday early each morning. His path is never the same on Kvarnbacken. His mind drifts during the walks to places and people from long ago now, but live on in his memories. He very often speaks aloud to himself during the walks.

The Topiary

The Topiary is at least 5 meters in height and resembles animals from folklore. Children play in the Topiary, but never get lost because they are small enough to see under the hedges. A single dog lives within the Topiary and is as friendly as can be. Birds also nest here as well.

The Collector

The Collector rarely leaves his house. He is obsessed with the process of drying the seeds he receives. He collects one additional item as well, rain water. He uses the rainwater for his daily baths in which he continually rereads his favorite book about seed preservation.

The Collector’s House

The Collector’s House is made of may arched chambers. Each chamber is lined with built in cases each of which has a tiny door. All the tiny doors are labeled according to categories of seed types. The seeds are organized based on seasonal growth cycles. The Collector’s House is also elevated off the ground by a series of columns in case of a flood. The Kvarnbacken has never had a flood.

The Gardner

The Gardener’s hands are unusually strong because of all the daily required digging. He wears bib overalls and boots, but his sun hat is too small for his large head size. In the afternoon each day the Gardner drinks beer as a reward for his labors. 

The Greenhouse

The Greenhouse has a retractable roof, which raises and lowers very slowly. The roof is often opened when it is raining to conserve water in the spring and summer. The exterior of the Greenhouse has no real facade because it’s exterior is formed by a berm landscape the Gardner constructed. In many ways the Greenhouse is a living architecture.

The Postman

The Postman has a formal uniform, which is made of rubber and is reflective yellow in color. This weather proof uniform is his only garment of clothing and he wears it year around. The bright color of his uniform makes him highly visible during the many blizzards the Kvarnbacken sees each year. 

The Post Office

The Post Office is a simple structure with four service counter windows. The Post Office is painted the same reflective yellow as the Postman’s uniform. At the rear of the building is a loading dock for deliveries, but is also used as a smoking lounge. 

The Laundryman

The Laundryman loves folding clothes but there is an exception to this affair. He folds for hours daily, as he thinks of his hatred for the swimmer’s careless excess use of towels. The Laundryman’s weekly lunch from the baker is filled with many types of bread, but no meats.

The Laundry

The Laundry is a vast dome building, but only has one large washing machine within its volume. The washing machine can wash hundreds of towels in an hour, which occurs twice a week. The entry into the Laundry is through an arcade of arches upon which ivy grows during the summer.

The Baker

The Baker and his breads are inseparable, with the exception of the Laundryman’s lunch. This being said, the Laundryman is rather portly in proportion. The Philosopher visits him often especially when he is kneading the dough.

The Bakery

The Bakery has eight individual ovens for each specific bread being prepared. As a so called building the Bakery only has one distinctive architectural feature, that being a large single span roof. This means that all the baking takes place outdoors even in the coldest weather.

The Philosopher

The Philosopher is a mythical figure. He has never been seen, but many of the inhabitants of the Kvarnbacken speak of him often.Whoever you ask about what he looks like, all answer that he is bald. 

The Yellow House

The Yellow House is a landmark and a diagram. A landmark in that it is the oldest structure on the Kvarnbacken. It acts as a diagram in that all believe the Philosopher lives within its walls. 




House of the Morfar



The Old Man is really Morfar.

The Old Man was a Postman.

As a Postman he made deliveries.

Today his deliveries are made as the Caretaker of Kvarnbacken.

He assumes any and all roles the Kvarnbacken requires.


The Walker always notices all the Old Man’s labor.

The Topiary is the Old Man’s greatest enemy.

To sculpt the Topiary hedges is a never ending task.

Seasons past and the Topiary betrays the Old Man.


The Widower lost his wife to cancer.

He was unfaithful, but loved her still.

At the Burial Mounds, along with the other Vikings, she is honored yearly by the Walker.


The Gardner and the Collector have a special relationship.

In the Greenhouse, the Gardner supplies the Collector with seeds.

The seeds one day with become Topiary.


The Collector accumulates seeds.

The seeds are stored and dried as an annual process.

As years past, the Collector needs a larger house.


The Carpenter is always joyful.

He lost three fingers in and accident, but is not afraid of the saw.

The Kvarnbacken’s wood supply is excellent.

Many times the former Mill burnt down, but the Woodshop has stood for a century.


The Baker bakes bread.

They say that bread brings life.

The life of the Baker is very lonely and solemn.

His only friend is the Philosopher.

The Philosopher speaks to him as he bakes the bread.


The Swimmer is a morning person.

The Natatorium opens at 6am, but the he has keys to the building and arrives earlier.

He unlocks the doors, swims for an hour, then leaves for other tasks.

The Natatorium is full of light, but the Swimmer only sees the pool.


The Laundryman does all the towels for the Natatorium.

He truly hates his never-ending work for the Swimmer.

As a small reward, the Baker brings him lunch once a week.


The Teacher only tells stories.

He knows the entire history of Kvarnbacken.

The Schoolhouse is where the Kvarnbacken is considered a city unto itself.

The city the Teacher describes is also his home, but the Widower thinks he’s crazy.


The Old Man returns to the Row House at the end of each day.

The Row House is his sanctuary from the Kvarnbacken.

Before bed, Morfar speaks to the Philosopher.


The Yellow House does exist.

The Philosopher does not exist.

As the ghost of Kvarnbacken, the Philosopher’s wisdom is ever present.

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Status: Competition Entry
Location: Stockholm, SE
My Role: design scientist & writer
Additional Credits: S. Hjelte Fumanelli - project architect & digital modeling