an Archi(tech)tural Fairytale
This fairytale explores the possibility of a living and breathing architecture. Sky Dome 35 is a refugee home with domes that function like human skin. Intricate mosaics are formed by a network of filters and tubes, filled with gases and liquids, allowing the skin to curate the interior environment in response to inhabitant needs. In a time where the earth's environment and political conditions are completely unstable, the domes serve as a reliable constant.
fig. 1 atomic explosion
We will always be remembered as the generation that ‘made the jump.’ I don’t remember much about the day that we left, but one thing I’ll never forget is the last glance I took at my lawn before driving away. The memory is so vivid that I would need every shade of green to paint a single blade of grass.
The marvelous thing about the human psyche is that it incessantly hopes for a positive outcome no matter how horrid the situation. The Earth had been hurting and scarring in every way possible. Drinking-water reserves were taking the shape of opaque pools. Passing comments about the weather were no longer considered small talk. Political unrest was increasing to the point where inter-country travel was assumed too grave a risk. Despite the desolation, no one expected the war to actually happen, and worse, no one thought we’d be forced to leave home.
Thousands of kilometers of land became completely uninhabitable in a matter of seconds. The explosions had immediately wiped out half of the country, another quarter died within days from being in too close proximity to the toxic radii. The chaos of those early days still haunts us in our moments of stillness.
During the explosions, most of the sky domes were safe, since the majority of them were parked above oceans. These government-funded experiments were meant to improve air quality by playing with microclimates. The domes would eventually act as sanctuaries from overpopulated and polluted land. There were a few thousand people already inhabiting the domes during the blasts, and those of us on land knew that our only option was to follow suit.
The easiest part about the transition was that the sky domes weren't completely foreign to us before the nuclear wipeouts. Scientists and journalists referred to them with techie jargon that could never be committed to memory; we, modest folk, simply called them what they looked like. Some stations also teamed up with architects and designers to aesthetically and spatially enhance the built space. Naturally, this meant that some of the domes were starting to become luxury getaways for rich folks who could afford the indulgence of clean and controlled air.
The difficult thing about the move was that I did not, with even an ounce of my body, want to leave the comfort of my home. The familiarity of my life and the warmth of my bed was all too precious to let go.
My mother has an arsenal of proverbs she uses as a means of aptly expressing herself. “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” She was ready to leave everything we had in order to be safe again. She knew we would have to be reborn. She was probably the most willful of all of us, taking each stride with the strength that dominates her heart. So many families had decided not to leave, but few of them survived to tell their stories. Having been within 1000km of the explosion eye meant suffering the fatal effects of radiation poisoning.
We are designated to Sky Dome 35. The opulent refugee is perhaps the strangest paradox I’ve ever embodied. SD35 looks nothing short of a palace. It is a gathering of five towers, each topped by a dome with its own function. The domes look like intricate mosaics from afar, but are a network of chambers and tubes regulating the internal atmosphere in the compartments below. The mosaics are a filter-conversion system that optimize air quality. The thinkers behind the domes aimed for a built structure that lived with aesthetic charm.
We refer to the structure as ‘our dome,’ phonetically synonymous with ‘our home.’ Our dome is as daunting as it is beautiful. Decorative elements appear to simply please the eye have even more fascinating function. The stained windows are compartments of glass filled with interchanging liquids, transmitting different frequencies and colours of light. Depending on the room, these light rays mix with liquids and gases generated by the domes. The mixtures then curate the desired condition. There is even a room with hydrotherapy pools where vitamins and minerals get secreted into the air.
In the earlier days, we spent as little time as possible outside of Our Dome. Apart from poor air quality, the radiation risks were too high. Thankfully, our greenhouse occupied the whole 4th floor of the central tower. It was divided into two mini ecosystems of plants and a few dozen insect species. Things grew at such a rapid rate in here, mostly thanks to the constant spraying of potions and chemicals. Over time, Our Dome caught on to our displeasure at the process. and began halting all sticky and gooey functions while we were in the room.
After all this time, the dome is still a character of mystery to us. It’s anthropomorphology makes us feel like we are living inside a giant family pet. It is an epiphyte that moves and understands us as its occupants but also as an extension of it. It's chemical metabolism exchanges and renews the air that we breathe. Its machinery and chemical exchanges are programmed to take care of us. It observes us, collects data, and responds accordingly. I had been picking so many pomegranates over the first few weeks of being here that the greenhouse grew 3 new pomegranate trees in a matter of days.
While waiting endlessly for positive news on land conditions, we have slowly become habituated to this new mode of living. I think I’ve taken after my mom with my own depository of adages. “If you want to see the future, look at what the rich folk are doing.” Who first owned cars and cell phones? Rich folk. Who got to experience the domes first? Rich folk. New advents start off as luxuries, but even average Preeti Gills like us grow dependent on them with time. We have evolved with the domes and the domes have evolved with us.
I was in the winter chamber when a snowflake caught my attention. It twirled and floated its way into my hand. I watched it melt, as all snowflakes do. Each and every little piece of fluff was joining a tiny pool in the middle of my palm. I smiled and wiped it off. The chamber gently murmured as the room got colder.