Saturday, July 20, 2013


Dystopian futures have been conjured by our most critically acclaimed storytellers and continue to be notably entrenched in contemporary popular culture. They act as parables to guide us through swiftly changing times that confront traditions and bring forth new challenges.

Cinematic and literary representations use architecture to reflect and emphasize the sociocultural challenges being examined. In Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, monolithic and oppressive buildings hover over dark streets in an impoverished future where airships tout the escape to the better life beyond the stars. In other Philip K. Dick stories envision similar scenarios, in which the earth becomes an ecumenopolis ‐ the whole world is engulfed in urbanity and suffering from an unknown crisis.

Inspired by the powerful vision of these precedents, we imagine how society would structure itself to exist in a world where the skyscraper reigns supreme. We envision a world state in which a social gradient emerges where those who live in the sky lead fundamentally different lives than those in the lowermost layers of the city. Always reaching higher and in a constant state of construction and renewal, the chasm widens between those in the canopy and the darkening realm below. Far from fantasy, we see this future as a possible outcome in increasingly dense cities as the earth’s population shifts to an increasingly urban one, where environments are stretched to their sustainable limits, and current economic and political models fail to author other realities.

To my left and to my right. Towers glistened beyond the sky.

He was handed a crisp manila envelope this morning and his usual cup of tea. Neatly tucked inside was a profile of a Spherist woman recently awarded a civic upgrade. He approached the window with the document in hand. Before him was the blue horizon and Torres breaching clouds. Horizontal gridded structures below filled with goods and services. Many Torres, like his, are permanently under construction. Higher and higher, they rise breaking the rays of the sun. Below him lies La Tierra. He darted his hazel eyes until he discovered a ray of light illuminating part of the Old City. Men, women, and children he saw. Amongst the crowd she could be any one of them he thought to himself. He gets up from his leather chair and walks through two heavy walnut double doors. Before him is a small army of executives. They talk numbers, growth, and profits. Satisfied with the results he takes a deep breath, as he turned his mind to the smiles on the faces of the shareholders when they learned profits were up.

Those who dream, dream of emerald.

The air. It's cold. Damp. Yet, she's working hard. I can see the excitement glimmering in her blue‐grey eyes. They are focused to escape this dark ground. She's from La Tierra, the Old City, a cluttered sea of neon‐streeted brick and mortar buildings dirty from time and neglect. It's juxtaposed against a network of sleek buildings that punch the skies. Those gridded emerald sparkled buildings, we call them Torres. That's Virulent grounds. Ever since the Quanta, those buildings are the only thing clean that'll ever touch the grounds of the Old City where Spherists reside. She doesn't live up there yet but like some of us she dreams for the skies. After many years; she's about to fulfill her quota. Today's a rare instance where a Spherist joins the rankings of a Virulent. One more extra shift and she receives her civic upgrade. No more living in a cramped dusty apartment. Tomorrow, she leaves La Tierra. She worked hard and now is finally awarded with advancement.