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1 problem 2 precedents 3 design development 4 construction 5 justification

A strange intersection is beginning to emerge: a longing for the fiber of the agrarian past and the push towards the virtual future.

it began with an investigation into

but this didn’t come until much later

progress society architecture cultural anthropology escapism psychology place experience context time nostalgia defamiliarization the space between “no place�

The misconceptions of childhood fairy tales and the sickeningly sweet manipulations of Disney on the young mind was the focus my original problem. I feel that this lie, spoon fed through film, clothing, toys and snuggly stuffed animals allows for dreams to be shattered upon entering adolescence and extremely so in adulthood. While I will never discontinue my personal interest in watching these twisted tales, so far from the intentions of the Brothers Grimm, I can’t help but see how they effect the desire for utopia. An idea that at a particular point within the trials and tribulations of life one magical occurrence will set everything right. But what is a fantastic utopia to one person may not be for another. Surly we can’t all want a castle in the sky and a prince charming. Or do we?

This correlation between utopia and fairy tale, dystopia and reality, is a duality I became transfixed on.

It became clear I was to create my own world.

When I began to turn my thoughts towards what my utopia or dystopia was, I began to consider all of the influences Traverse City, my small hometown on the coast of Lake Michigan, had on these thoughts. A main consideration began to emerge. TC is extremely focused on local. While several towns and cities across the nation are just jumping on the locavore bandwagon, TC has been there as long as I can remember. Through my first triad of dystopian novels, Huxley’s Brave New World, Orwell’s 1984 and Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, I have realized that these worlds too, were based on the trends of the time. While it is true that the locavore/green-building/smart community trend is focused in a different direction than Brave New World‘s assembly line, and 1984′’s world war, the underlying goal is the same - take what the world is focused on right now and project that into the future. What will the trends of now produce later and what is my version of this? I became very interested in the mix of urban living, green living, technology and the ability to create cultivation within the urban environment. I also began to focus on the structures provided by nature – trees.


MY DYSTOPIA Focus on agriculture and local food -Cherry Festival

Poverty/ debt

Small/family owned business


Bike/pedestrian friendly- walkable size and multiple green-ways.

Itchy things- bugs

Fresh + clean water and ability to travel by water

Extreme cold


Big business

Foodie city- food and wine grown/produced/consumed locally

Assembly lines

Historic preservation- buildings and cars


Local Festivals

Demolition of history

Sustainable mindset


Safe- neighbors look out for neighbors

Large signs (billboards)

Community involvement



No water- landlocked

Minimal economic class distinction

Government that promotes laziness and greed

No highways

Deforestation/ extinction


Animal cruelty


Box-shaped building- and cheep building materials

Constant breeze

Constant work or laziness – must be a balance of work and play



Vacation mindset – never too formal nor lazy


Pride in your home/city

Lack of pride

Lady bugs/fireflies


Prompting healthy living



Things that small bad

Energy- wind/hydro/solar- human

Not being able to love freely

Animal friendly Good smells A soft blanket


Each of these novels provided an example of a predicted future with dystopian results, human reaction to progress and/or examples of recounting a character’s experience. With each read I dissected the: Cause/ Catastrophe Resulting World Order Propaganda Religion History and Language Relationships and Sex Class Divisions Environment Consequences for independent-thinkers

read previous to creating characters

Read my blog review

read after creating characters


The films provided both character and plot inspiration as well as influential cinematography. La Jetee is perhaps the most influential in regards to mood, quality and presenting a story through stills and narration.

Read my blog review

Read my blog review Read my blog review

Read my blog review

One of the most influential lines came from Michael Pollen’s Botany of Desire. It is mentioned that if it were not for humanity’s influence and cultivation of the apple, the species would not have survived. It is only due to the scientific creativity and desire of humanity, that the apple is sweet.


Very early in the design process I looked to nature’s shelter, sustenance and oxygen provider as a main component for my futuristic world. The tree has also historically been a representation of knowledge. The Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden, the apple falling from the tree, giving Newton gravitational enlightenment.

I also delved into the world’s dark past (and present) and its need for power and control over others. This brought me to Foucault and his theories shared in Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison written in 1975. Here he shares the transformation from a system of torture, to punishment and finally to discipline and the prison system which sprouted it’s own form of architecture in the penoptacon, and the literal ability to “watch all”. Jeremy Bentham’s circular design allowed for the constant observation of the prisoners and for them to never be truly sure when they were being observed. A central watchman on a tower within a central atrium was surrounded by prison cells. This design caused internalization of disciplinary individuality and the prisoners were less likely to break the rules.

Read my blog review

I find the concentric organization of both penoptacon and garden city aound the governmental authority

In contrast, I have also researched the Garden City movement founded by Sir Ebenezer Howard. The Garden City, Howard’s idealized city, is planned on a concentric pattern with open spaces, public parks and six radial boulevards extending from the center. The Garden City would be self-sufficient and when it reached full population, another Garden City would be developed nearby. Howard envisioned a cluster of several garden cities as satellites of a central city linked by road and rail. However, many cities based on Howard’s Garden City do not actually have a concentric organization (Letchworth, Welwyn Garden City, the Woodbourne community in Boston and several others in the US) but they do focus on a central location of a park or government facility.

an eerie coincidence...

Main themes and questions arose after reading each book and watching each film. I took note that each dystopian fiction had different historical layers with varied forms of power enforcements. In addition, there was always a push beyond typical propaganda techniques—into torture. In addition there was always some kind of catastrophe which caused the creation of the new world dynamic and a new militant action for enforcing the world order. I also needed to consider, for my world, if the inhabitants are aware of an “outside”;

Once you are part

of the new world order is there a different way of life

that can be escaped to?

Is this new world the inhabitants’

utopia or dystopia?

1. the polar ice caps melt completely due to our continued use of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas (oh and we throw in some methane once the permafrost melts, a lot of it).

2. all of the fish imported from Asia cause a food borne illness.

my first goal was to decide on a catastrophe Read more on my blog

3. civil war breaks out in the US.

4. the earth realizes it has very few fossil fuels left and what is left is illegal for use in most countries. Global war breaks out over the remaining reserves all while catastrophe 1. is happening.

With catastrophe in mind I took a closer look at what has influenced my desires for creating utopia. While my list of what I would include or exclude from the world tells a portion of this, I choose to look at my world and the 6 acres I grew up on. Originally a gradual slope of fragrant apple trees, a mix of Paula Reds, Golden Delicious, Northern Spys and McIntosh, and now half horse pasture and Pinot Blanc vines, it was my imaginary fairy world in the trees (as long as they hadn’t sprayed pesticides recently). For information on these varieties check out the well designed site Now it is surprising to think of all of the references to apples in history, religion, design, and slang even. For the full list I compiled please see my blog. It was this honing in on my town Traverse City (which in French means Crossing) and its history as a logging town, my yard and all of its lovely apples, but also the horrible pesticides needed to grow them, that the creation of The Crossing began.


With a focus on combining Architecture, Design and Production, the project became a glimpse into the American future while drawing from the agrarian past. This is a future where most humans have opted to be implanted with Nanobots, allowing them to conduct all business, travel, education and shopping etc., virtually without ever leaving their homes. The agrarian aspects are my utopia, the dependence on and isolation propagated by technology is my dystopia. The Crossing, a small town in which the story occurs, has recently become a Nanorealm. This new city movement is one in which property owners live in Vergers (centralized condominium high-rises) but are allotted 20-acre parcels of land on which to farm their own food as well as produce sustenance for export. The four characters live and work in the Nanorealm of The Crossing and each have a different view of their transformed world.

I conducted auditions of University of Tenessee Theatre students and found some excellent personalities to help me with the character development.

Eso : Played by Leo LaCamera :: Male :: Vintner/ Farmer Based on: Esopus Spitzenburg apple. Origin: Before 1790, New York. Thomas Jefferson’s favorite, this small, crisp, red apple has a unique flavor most apples cannot match. Good Keeper. Quiet, but poetic, contemplative resourceful nature based on Thomas Jefferson. He also has a strong advocacy to liberate those members of his family still working in Renaissance on the Rapide (high-speed hover train)- feels that they would have a better life if they could move to The Crossing and become Farmers with him. He always caries a tablet with him, often writing poetry about the vineyard. Eso is an extremely well dressed Farmer who takes great pride in his appearance as he feels he has truly moved up from the graft position he came from. He works on the vineyard property owned by the Sinap family and tends to and produces the grapes and wine. He also helps Pipp gather the sustenance each day. Eso came from an extremely poor family from a city called Renaissance and sees this opportunity as a true blessing. He thought he may not be redistributed near his family who primarily work as Rapide Farmers (parts manufacturers). Many in his neighborhood had been redistributed to the south to work in other Rapide plants or become orange, pecan, cotton and peach Farmers. Both Eso and Pipp live in Pipp’s old house on the property.

ESO IS The cambium the growing part of the tree; located between the wood and the bark– the new growth, unseen and still protected.

Pipp : Played by yours truly :: Female :: Lead Farmer Based on: Ribston Pippin apple. Origin: 1701, United Kingdom. Most famous variety from the English country of Yorkshire. Juicy apple with a strong aromatic flavor. Emblem of Yorkshire is a white rose; the apple tree is part of the rose family. Determination, bravery and ingenuity based on famed aviator Amy Johnson from Yorkshire. Amy was a member of Air Transport Auxiliary in WWII where she died during a ferry flight. There was a mystery for many years surrounding her death, she was shot down by friendly forces after giving the incorrect identification code twice and they didn’t realize it was Amy until the following day. Pipp works for the Sinap family, primarily caring for the residence, monitoring the family while they are connected and preparing sustenance. She travels to and from the property to gather food, visiting the locally owned stores in town to gather what cannot be acquired on the property. The Sinaps’ own a vineyard property and the husband, Ram, is an exporter. Pipp came from a middle class family, but her parents committed suicide with the news of The Crossing becoming a Nanorealm and their property scheduled for redistribution. She was able to stay with the property under the new employment but remembers growing up on the farm when it was only 6 acres of apples. She saw those trees removed and a vineyard planted in its place. She despises the use of Nanos as it requires such a sedentary life without true human interaction or realization of the mystery and beauty in nature.

PIPP IS THE ROOTSTOCK the part of the tree that becomes the root system – the silent, unseen provider for the stock and scions.

Kandil : Played by Kelsey Broyles :: Female :: Nanowife Based on: Kandil Sinap apple. Origin: Early 1800s, Russia. A most unusual apple with its tall oblong shape and round base. It is sweeter, but also has a nice acidity. Many of her previous endeavors as a development lawyer and her strong personality driven to planning are based on Russian politician Valentina Matviyenko. She is extremely classy and materialistic. Kandil is one of the many wives who no longer work. She spends most days playing virtual tennis, going “shopping� and on virtual vacations. She was at one point a development lawyer and was integral in converting The Crossing to a Nanorealm side-by-side with Mayor Tolman. Many middle-graft families despise her for taking their land to distribute to others, while low-graft families see her as a savior and provider. Now that the redistribution has occurred and the Vergers (residence towers) have been completed, her position is no longer needed and she feels very lost. She programs the family sustenance, the only somewhat meaningful task she has control over.

KANDIL IS THE SCION a small piece from last years stock which is inserted into the stock- it typically has 3-4 buds. She had growth and strength on her own- but is now forever attached to the ideals and regulations of the government.

Tolman : Played by Tyler Padgett :: Male :: Mayor of The Crossing Based on: Tolman Sweet apple. Origin: 1822, United States. Late summer apples known best as a baking and cider apple. The unique aspect of this apple is the “suture line” that develops along its side. Cider apples were condemned in 1800s because they promoted drunkenness. His courageous attitude and his willingness to cope with issues that cause controversy and are against the popular views of the time are based on the American psychologist Edward Tolman. Tolman was famous for his studies on behavioral psychology. He introduced Purposive Behaviorism, a branch of psychology that claimed that all actions of behavior are goal-oriented. Tolman is a large statured man with a thin scar across his face. He is a veteran of the Draining Wars (final world oil wars) so he feels personally the benefits of Nanorealms and the world’s new dependence on solar-magnetic power. He sees the use of Nanobots as the human reaction to end global controversy but to also increase a select population’s global education while leaving the lower-grafts naively happy in their occupation. TOLMAN IS THE STOCK the main growth of the tree- the one in which the scions are inserted into. The regulatory, strong government, the one all others must be attached to.

TELLING THE STORY The question became how to express these character stories visually. Originally I had planned on having all actors present in the gallery to recount their stories to visitors while in the presence of a well lit white tree. The tree would both represent the character’s lives as well as the Vergers citizens of the Nanorealm live in. The fear however, was that this would be too similar to a museum visit.

or it could become the combination of a diary and a pop-up book 1. tell a personal story 2. made from paper (wood, tree etc‌) 3. allows the story to come to life and to give the reader a greater sense of place.

Brian Dettmer

Su Blackwell

Peter Callesen

or collage to portray fragments of character lives

Andersen M Studio

But would a diary in the future be made of paper? Likely not. I needed to move beyond the physical, made aspects I was drawn to and push past my fear of the digital, after all, my characters lives were a combination of the hands-on physical and the extreme digital. I began to find this middle ground when I began to film using a 16mm Bolex. This camera provides a specific relationship to time in that one must wind it— like a clock. In addition the camera makes a specific sound. In The Crossing, the world is quiet, run off of solar, wind and water power, there would no longer be a constant hum of fossil fuel burning machinery. This is yet another reason the Bolex was perfect, it requires no batteries or electricity, just hand power. A decision to combine 16mm film, sound and video recordings of the characters and collaged digital images was made in order to create a digital diary. But the spacial elements had a ways to go. Several iterations of the tree concept were first explored, basing each character “tree” on their position in the graft.

The womb is a reoccurring concept within the project representing the pods Verger residents live in. A home providing nourishment, knowledge and energy. When the single tree concept was still being considered I played with the idea of creating the Verger pods. The fabric later translated into what I would use for the tree rings, and later Kandil’s rings. A white lycra with elastic and enveloping properties.

the rings of a tree tell the tale of growth; the good and the bad seasons.

While the rings of the tree represented well the story of the characters, projection onto these objects became a serious problem. An exploration into each character’s personality and position within society became the basis for individual projection sets. tolman: strong: determined: intimidating: the gateway: big brother: rising: ominous

pipp: grounded: natural element in an unnatural environment: provider: from the living orchard

kandil: high society: clear cut: developer: looking down on the farm class: unstable: tilting

eso: the growth ring: lofty farmer: spiritual leader: rising: convincing: triptych

The final result

A space which takes you on a journey through The Crossing, introducing you to the characters in their environments. One travels through the gallery, first meeting Mayor Tolman, raving of societal perfections, followed by the Lead Farmer Pipp and Virtwife Kandil, both seeking an escape from the Nanorealm and its confines, the apex of the gallery is the story of Eso, yet another character embracing his new station in society, pushing it further, and asking others to follow him.

visit vimeo for the gallery opening invitation

Tolman’s Story


pipp’s Story


kandil’s Story


eso’s Story


For me, what made this entire project click was the constant dialogue between personal fears and dreams, past and present trends, past and present media, physical and digital spacial definition, what is real and what is fantasy. The major trend in design currently is designing for good. So what does designing for bad look like? Designing as a warning? Designing not the propaganda that will convince, but designing an actual outcome?


Set and projection, 16mm and video, dystopian worlds and agrarian utopias, they all have been done before. So why The Crossing? How does this push design further?

The Crossing is my dystopia– what is yours?

For more information contact: Meghan e terry

The Crossing process  

Process book for project in lieu of thesis. University of Tennessee, Master of Fine Arts in Transmedia Design. Exhibit: April 12, 2013:: Gal...