Dezeen Magazine

Fantasy world based on Alice in Wonderland wins architectural fairytale contest

Fantasy world based on Alice in Wonderland wins architectural fairytale contest

Fairytale story Alice in Wonderland becomes the backdrop for a dystopian world filled with fantastical structures in this competition-winning project by writer Kevin Wang and artist Nicholas O'Leary.

Wang and O'Leary, who studied together in New Zealand but are now based in England and Norway, won the competition run by New York organisation Blank Space to develop a modern fairytale set within a fantasy architectural environment.

Fantasy world based on Alice in Wonderland wins architectural fairytale contest

Penned as the final chapter to Lewis Carroll's famous story, Chapter Thirteen imagines "a bucolic yet futuristic world" where a grown-up Alice is battling to escape a wonderland that has become confining and frightening.

"The images were not intended to present an 'ideal' world, but one that is somewhere between dark and light, somewhere open for interpretation, a world between natural landscape and constructed cityscape," Wang and O'Leary told Dezeen. "The architecture was integrated as architecture should be integrated - as an auditorium for life."

Fantasy world based on Alice in Wonderland wins architectural fairytale contest

"We tried to draw from nature to create the architecture of each image," added O'Leary. "These floating balls were modelled on the structure of beehives, while other forms were inspired by mushrooms and fungi."

The images were designed as a vertical journey through space, and gradually change colour from a yellowish green to a rich red. "We imagined a linearity from morning through to evening," said O'Leary.

Fantasy world based on Alice in Wonderland wins architectural fairytale contest

The project was chosen ahead of 300 other entries, judged by a panel that included architect Will Alsop, interior designer Nigel Coates and University of Minnesota professor Jack Zipes.

"The need and will to communicate universal messages resonates with every entry to the competition," said Alsop. "Each entry is infused with topics and themes both inspired by the participants' extremely diverse cultural backgrounds and from commonly shared thoughts and preoccupations about architecture’s role in today's world."

Scroll down to read the story text:

Chapter Thirteen

Tonight, I will end this life.

This is not the world I grew up in. A chess piece pinned on a two hundred square foot white box. Bounded. Absolute. Unrelenting walls inexorable after the hours I stare. Whispering a language without articulation, its only response the occasional pounding from the other side. A glimpse of life beyond these walls in the briefest of moments returns stoic as the door slams shut. Severed from desire, yearning of what is beyond reach. A barrier exists unseen and unnoticed. Few inches of air that separate its surface to me. I clean, I polish, I scrutinize over these encapsulating shells. They surround my life, yet recede into the background. There is no reason for contact. There is no reason to exist.

Fantasy world based on Alice in Wonderland wins architectural fairytale contest

I am tired of these blank walls confining me. These lines are static. They are unforgiving. My English Ivy at the corner never made her reach to the window, she would not last the winter. Her shriveled yellow leaves scattered on the floor mixed in with strands of my fallen hair, barely a foot away from salvation. Her remains will slowly decay along with the carcasses of the rats that rule this city; the shadows that inhabit a world between ours.

Inside. Outside. They are no longer any different. Over-sized openings show me another interior enclosing my own prison. The world out there. Another cage with more restrictions. More rules. More limits. More of the cold steel, and hard concrete walls. Endless, and anonymous. They grow taller every year; perhaps reaching for fresher air, perhaps searching for a spot further away from the rest. I see open windows beyond my own, they show me adjacent bodies remaining completely unaware of the next, longing for signs of life. I am no different from them. No more free. No more wiser. Each compartment dressed for escape. Paintings, photographs, elaborate sculptures, all reminders of places far from here. I was once an eagle, the Queen of my world. Now a battery chicken, a body without organs. Feeding this city.

Don’t follow me. The unyielding pavement pounds against the bottom of my soles, vibrating the city up my spine. Don’t follow me. The cold pierces through my skin and pricks at my bones. Don’t follow me. The smell is nauseating, it lingers and reappears in my sleep. Don’t follow me. The stench of rot and fading life penetrates the city, disguised by chemicals of ocean fresh, lavender blossoms, white linen. I am pursued by those I cannot see. Constant noise wherever I go. Sharp sirens and low horns. Bangs of the steam pipes. Creaks of the floorboards. Stilettos against marble lobbies, and rattling of trains. A living corpse, this is the machine. This is the city.

I am disengaged with all that surrounds me. The footpath leads me to places I do not wish to go. This alienating city is bitter. Day after day I wake, I walk, I stand, and I sit. I am incarcerated within the flesh that has betrayed me. It takes me to spaces swarming with other lifeless forms, smashed inside a moving sardine can, transfixed to the sickly warm glow of the screen in their fat sticky fingers. Longing for connections in a virtual world. There is a thin film of slime on every surface. The metal bars smeared with fingerprints leave suggestions of previous life. Life, that is promised behind the posters. Life, that exists elsewhere. Vacant glances down to the ground, out of the darkened portholes partly obscured by the humid interior steaming up against the glass. Moist and stale. Suffocating. Occasional glimpses of flickering lights, and scribbles on surfaces defiant of the city. Still, there is no escape.

Where can I go? The city rejects me. Pounding lights and deafening sound, mixed in with smells of alcohol, smoke, and sweat, find me no refuse. Flocks of a new religion, looking for machines of freedom. Dripping bodies grinding against the next faceless form provide no more connection than my lifeless walls. It numbs whatever was left at the end of the day. Accepted obscenity in a neat box, with a cherry on top.

Fantasy world based on Alice in Wonderland wins architectural fairytale contest

My body aches, movements prescribed. The city is the architect of my body, the puppeteer with invisible strings. It tells me where to walk, where to stand, and where to sit. I am judged wherever I go. Eyes from behind the curtains, above the newspapers and dirty magazines. They see me, they judge me, and they haunt my every move. See what good little girls and boys are made of. We stand in colored lines, moving one step at a time motioned by flashing numbers overhead. The factory floor of the human farm. Order inscribed into our psyche is not without constant reminders. Signs and lights burn into my eyes wherever I look. They say,
No Standing Anytime.
No Climbing.
No Sitting.
Keep Off, Private.
Every inch of this city screams at me.

No more attachments with this city, nothing would remain. I will not be missed, a headline soon forgotten. They called me crazy when I was younger. Last time I fell there was more. A world that moved me. A world with life. A wonderland created for the girl I was then. Now stuck in this moment that I’ve been told as truth, constructed with glittering gold. No more wandering blind. I have to get back.

I will fall. I will succumb to the city. Return to the blank slate, and we will be bound together in flesh and mind.

Alice L. Dodgson