Positioned between a literary journal and a design magazine, SOILED narrates a playfully sincere and seriously humorous exploration of oft-overlooked dimensions of our built environment. We believe that by intensifying the fictive and storytelling potential in architecture, we might engage a broader public in architectural ideas from discourse to action.
“There is no part of our lives when we’re not fantasizing, but we prefer to relegate fantasy to children, as though it were some tomfoolery only fit for the immature minds of the young. Children do live in fantasy and reality; they move back and forth very easily in a way we no longer remember how to do.” —Maurice Sendak
Onceuponascrapers will be a collection of illustrated architectural children’s stories akin to “picture books” that narrate contemporary ideas about architecture and the built environment. We believe that the possibilities for architectural writing for all ages might be amplified by challenging the conventions and tone of voice of “grown-up” behavior.
The protagonists of many children’s books are nonhuman characters, including animals, objects, and even buildings that enact animate agency and active voice. Young children do not question the ostensible absurdity or frivolity that most adults ascribe to such “more-than-human” ways of understanding subjectivity. In this way, the very makeup of children’s literary content prompts a heightened awareness of architecture’s magical condition—that is, the perceptual misalignments between the real and the imaginary and the vital agency of built matter. For this reason, the format of children’s stories is preordained to communicate expanded ideas about architecture.
When it comes to the intersection of architecture and children’s literature, we’re inspired by books like Crockett Johnson’s Harold and Purple Crayon, Antoinette Portis’s Not a Box, and Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House for example. Stories like The Little Houseanthropomorphize buildings to render the emotion and agency of architectural matter more palpable and relatable. Stories such as Harold and the Purple Crayon are not explicitly about architecture or narrated from an architectural point of view, but rather demonstrate how the act of drawing enables the production of space and our worldly participation in it. Stories like Not a Boxelevate the representation of the spatial imagination as an equal player alongside the representation of “reality”.
We invite you to riff on all of these literary tropes and narrative possibilities or invent your own! How might your interest in and understanding of architecture prompt you to craft a children’s story in a way that no other authorial worldview could? How might you craft a story to be read aloud to children, potentially inviting the adult reader to improvise ad lib embellishments or other performative enhancements? How can picture books enable us to envision, engage, and entertain new and pleasurable worlds?