At the beginning of “Welcome to the 5th Façade,” a science-fiction story by architect Alan Maskin, a nameless man awakes from a cryogenic freeze. It is an unspecified date in the mid-21st century, and he’s been in “big sleep,” as his cryonic technician puts it, since suffering a massive heart attack decades before. After undergoing rehabilitation for the “reborn,” the man returns home to Seattle. He finds things drastically different. Kinetic vertical farms decorate the neo-classical brick buildings that still stand. Above them rises a new layer of the city, where farms, parks, and energy-harvesting machines form a new, high-rise urban landscape. This is the 5th Façade:
During the decades that I slept, the rooftops of Seattle had changed. The grey waterproofing membranes, HVAC equipment, elevator machine rooms, long-empty water towers, and miles of ductwork were replaced with a vast pastoral landscape. Rolling green hills, public parks and swimming pools, pastures with livestock, and vegetable farms were joined by enormous water collectors, solar arrays, and wind energy turbines. Bridges, like connective tendons, unified the separate buildings into a continuous landscape. I could wander anywhere, and I did.
Maskin is a principal at Olson Kundig, an outfit that, like most architecture firms, isn’t normally in the business of writing fictional tales. The Seattle design practice creates tangible, practical things like homes, offices, and museums. “Welcome to the 5th Façade” is an anomalous project, dreamt up by Maskin and a team of architects for the third annual Fairy Tales competition. […]