Virtual Design Festival

Los Angeles "is now a live-action dystopia playing out in real time" says Liam Young

With Tinseltown under lockdown due to coronavirus, a new genre of "virus fiction" or "ViFi" could emerge, says speculative architect and director Liam Young in the first of a series of video messages from creatives around the world recorded as part of our Virtual Design Festival.

"So welcome to the American apocalypse," Young says in the video message, which was recorded in his studio in Downtown Los Angeles.

"There are lines outside the gun shops"

"There are lines outside the gun shops after they've just reopened having been deemed essential businesses; there are bootleg mask sellers on the street corners and the entire film industry here in LA has been put indefinitely on pause."

So it means a town of predominantly freelance creatives can no longer pay the rent or buy groceries," he adds. "So LA, so often the setting for so many sci-fi films, is now a live-action dystopian film playing out in real-time.

Young, who leads the Master of Science in Fiction and Entertainment course at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in Los Angeles, was a keynote speaker at the Dezeen Day conference in October last year.

In his Dezeen Day lecture, Young explained why architects and filmmakers should "must all actively shape and define" the future to "help us understand our own world in new ways".

"There is no return to normal"

The coronavirus pandemic means that sketching out possible futures is more important than ever, Young says, predicting that the virus will force creatives to lay plans for a better world.

"But for a town of so many worldbuilders and storytellers, I'm sure the scripts for a new genre of virus fictions – or ViFi – or already in the works," Young says. "And perhaps that is the real opportunity of this present moment: to imagine the potential fictions and futures and to prototype the new worlds that we all want to be a part of when the viral cloud lifts."

"So in many ways, we must recognize that there is no return to normal because our default setting is what created these conditions for collapse in the first place," he concludes. "So thank you, and I'll see you all after the end of the world."

Send us a video message

In the run-up to the launch of Virtual Design Festival on Wednesday, Dezeen invited architects, designers, artists and industry figures to record video messages from lockdown. We also put out an open call for submissions from readers – read the brief here.

We plan to publish one clip every day during the festival, plus a montage featuring over 30 of the messages we've already received with be published on Wednesday to launch VDF.

Virtual Design Festival

Virtual Design Festival runs from 15 April to 20 June. For more information, or to be added to the mailing list, contact us at [email protected].