Stories and buildings both orient our lives, but in different ways. In stories we are othered. That is, stories of others—real or imagined, in books or on a screen—help us to see from another perspective, to empathize, to imagine other ways to cope with disasters and trauma, and to expand our capacity to be human. Architecture, intentional or not, frames our lives and our world, allowing us to see the world in new and even unexpected ways. We experience both buildings and stories over time. Just as books and films offer a variety of temporalities—narrative time, story time, and reading/watching time—architecture unfolds across a range of time, through our daily and annual routines and rituals, and on and on, across our lifetimes. As built artifacts, buildings weather and materials age. The meaning and experience of buildings, just like books and films, evolve. The sharing of stories and the shared experience of architecture build connections among us. Stories, like architectural form, are translated and interpreted across time and cultures and help to form, and also reveal, our identities—as individuals and cultures.
In the call, we posed a series of questions. Among them: How do the acts of storytelling and building intertwine? What possibilities emerge when we consider the building of worlds and the worlds of building? How has architecture been inspired by stories? How has it been understood through fiction, film, and other forms of storytelling? How do architects utilize storytelling techniques, existing narratives, and invented plots to imagine real possibilities and possible realities? What is the contemporary role of representation in these projective futures? Further, what is the role of storytelling in pedagogical practices?
The call was well received and elicited a wide range of responses. There were more essays on film than expected, a number of others were focused on pedagogy or on politics, while still others were much more personal and reflective in nature. Very few presented a theoretical position vis-à-vis literary theory. Much of the design content, and, certainly, the solicited content is dependent upon forms of representation, both as illustrative of a story and demonstrative of narrative techniques. With the many essays we reviewed, as well as all that has happened in the past year, new questions began to emerge; Is there any truth to fiction? Given the competing and contradictory narratives, which story does one believe? Or are they each, in their own way, all true? Whose story is it to tell? And, relatedly, whose building is it to build? Whose place is it to be built upon? How do literary traditions relate to architectural traditions, and what do they mean in a global context? As expanded territories of landscape and regional scales shift, how do we challenge narratives of place?