03. This Stacks Vertically

A series of five illustrated panels and text narrating the story of a dystopian earth with no space. As a result, each layer is mankind's attempt at reclaiming humanity after lifetimes of industrialization and building.

The story follows a young child's adventure on the Hoist as he traverses the different tiers of the world from the bottom to the top and uncovers an unearthly secret about society's latest attempt at rebuilding civilization.

This Stacks Vertically was entered in the Fairy Tale 2017  competition.
This idea began as a joke in studio on a scrap piece of trace paper while we were trying to kill time. It was a sketch of the Freedom Tower in New York and a ground line going through it. "What happens when the city runs out of space? The world?" When there is no where left to build, the only space left is up. From there, This Stacks Vertically became our homage to paper project studios and speculations of the future - from Superstudio's Continuous Monument to Rem Koolhaas's Delirious New York.


The child clings onto the broken street lamp as the ground shivers beneath the weight of the excavation. He walks through his home – the City Left Behind, where the air is heavy from the smoke of the dig site and the wreckage is plenty from the fallen buildings of another time. He climbs over the old signs and the rubble and finds a seat along the cracked sidewalk. Faintly, through the industrial fog, he sees the line of people. They do the same thing every day. There is yelling as they climb down the ladder and into the Hole. There is yelling as they climb up the ladder out of the hole. Then, they stand. They all stand the same way. They all carry the same red bag. He weaves under the pieces of building and closer to the Site for a better look at the line of people standing on the platform for the Hoist. It arrives. The doors slide open. They file in. The doors close. The rest continue to wait. Where are they going? He creeps behind the machinery past the Hole and slips onto the line, hidden by the red bags and the commotion of excavation. They don’t see me.

[Thank you for riding the Hoist. As a reminder before we begin our journey, it is of the utmost importance you depart at your proper floor and return to your rightful floor as well.]



[Passengers are to remain inside the Hoist at this time. This floor is for service workers only. Remember where you come from.]

The Hoist takes off abruptly and he is pressed against its walls and the people, unable to move and barely able to breathe. The stench of sweat and the Site travels with them in the Hoist, hanging onto the red bags and the clothing of the workers. The Hoist screeches to a stop. The doors barely slide open and everyone shuffles closer together. Peeking past the legs of the workers and their red bags, he hears laughter. The laughter and shouting of children. The Ceiling is closer here. He slips through and exits the Hoist before its doors slide shut behind him. There is no light except the little emanating from the building shaped cut outs of the floor below. On all fours, he inches closer to one of the openings. That’s where I was, the Hole, the Dig Site, the other people still waiting. A figure rushes by him, followed by the sound of laughter. Climbing up a stepped wall, he watches them swinging around on rusted spires, chasing each other between crumbling building tops. I didn’t believe them when they told me – the Place Between. This is the place he had only heard from rumors: the land above, the tried utopia, the failed experiment. The others notice the outsider, and they point. He runs back to wait by the Hoist.


[Please be reminded there is nothing on this floor. Remember where you come from.]

Unconvinced of the advertised nothing, he steps off. The Hoist platform barely illuminates the path before him. Where is this? Massive columns, going on into the distance for as long as he can see and as high as he can make out, surround him. It is quiet, cold, and overwhelmingly dark. He slides his hand along the cool edge of one of the columns. There is something beneath the surface. There are no windows and there are no doors, but there is definitely something. Voices. Breaths. Footsteps. Here and then gone like ghosts. He stops, frightened by the specters he has imagined. A quiet chime of the Hoist’s return breaks his trance. He runs back.


[Please remember to return once you have finished your job. Remember where you come from.]

The Hoist completely empties at the next stop. He is pushed off alongside the rush of the crowd and into the open. The smell is different from home – there is no scent of metal and dust. He is startled by something small and chirping flying past his head. It goes higher and higher until it disappears into the white objects in the Ceiling. There is no Ceiling here. The workers, still carrying their red bags, slowly migrate their way up the steep path where the ground is held back by a metal mesh. The ground is softer here. Every now and then on their way up, his group greets another line of workers walking in the opposite direction. They all carry empty red bags. They all have a glow. They all smile. Why doesn’t the Hoist go any higher?


The top has more space than the boy had ever imagined. He wanders off the path and touches the green hairs emerging from the ground. Waxy, sharp at the edges. However, above all, is the light. It feels familiar. It is bright, it is warm, and it is from above. The warm glow covers all the surfaces of the layer – landing on the tall brown sticks coming from the ground and on the strangely balanced buildings clustered together. Who are they? There are people in the distance who did not travel with them, watching the workers carry their red bags. He runs closer to the end of the line, curious where the journey had finally taken him. At the end, the workers stop briefly to remove their bag and to empty its contents. Once done, they begin to walk back – evidently happier to have removed their load off their shoulders. They are dumping soil – but why? Why would they go through all this trouble to bring up the Earth? He kicks around the dirt beneath his feet. It’s soil. He walks closer to the group of enclosures and examines the sticks implanted in the ground surrounding them. It goes deeper. He looks at the green hairs. These do, too. They are all growing from the soil – but we have soil, too. He sits down and runs his fingers through the soil and the grass beneath the shade of the tree. None of these things grow at home though. We have more dirt than they do here.The sunlight peeks through the leaves of the tree. The warm light – it’s the difference. Everything needs the warm light.