I didn’t win or even get
an honorable mention in the
2020 Architectural Fairy Tales Competition.
I know, I know. I know
I shouldn’t have written
an architectural parable
in which everyone got
what they thought they wanted
and lived happily for a while.
The Red Igloo
Once upon a time,
all Inuit people made igloos the same way. They made them out of snow because snow didn’t cost anything, it was there, they had a lot of it, and there would always be more tomorrow. They shaped the snow into blocks and laid them one by one in a spiral that became smaller and smaller until it made a dome.
They made a little entrance to keep the wind out. It always faced away from the wind. And they made a little hole in the wall to let the light in. It always faced the sun. Their igloos were as perfect as they could be.
Every now and then there was some small change such as putting a piece of plastic over the hole. It was better than a sealskin curtain as it let the light come in but kept the wind out. Apart from tiny changes like this, igloos stayed the same. Nobody could really make them that much better.
Inuit people still tell stories of a man called Nanouk. He is famous. He is part of the history of igloos. This is what happened.
One day while Nanouk was out hunting, he found a dead polar bear. He took two bowls of its blood and mixed it with enough snow to make himself a red igloo. He thought it would be easier to find his way back to if it started snowing hard.
People came to look at Nanouk’s red igloo. They were all silent as they didn’t know what to think. Eventually, a child said, “It’s red! Everything else is white. It looks DIFFERENT!”
Then one of the adults suddenly said, “It’s NEW!”
Almost immediately, another person said, “It’s MODERN!”
Another person said, “It’s BEAUTIFUL!”
People were now all saying things at the same time. “You’re a GENIUS!” “It’s so ORIGINAL!” “You’re so CREATIVE!”
One person, holding a pencil and paper, said it was, “A TRULY BOLD AND ORIGINAL ARTISTIC STATEMENT!”
One old woman said, “My grandmother used to tell me a story about a red igloo. Nanouk! You have made this story real for me. I feel RECONNECTED WITH WHO I AM!”
Another person said, “People, that snow out there isn’t all white. It’s got polar bear blood, whale blood, walrus blood and seal blood splattered everywhere. We live with white but red is WHO WE ARE! Red is HOW WE LIVE!”
While everyone was cheering this, someone at the back said, “I don’t like it.”
Another said, “Nor me. That is NOT AN IGLOO!”
The man with the pencil and paper explained, “Don’t you see? This red igloo opens up a new world of possibilities for igloos! It REDEFINES IGLOOS FOR OUR TIMES! It makes us REIMAGINE EVERYTHING AN IGLOO CAN BE!”
Nanouk went inside his igloo and sat down. He remembered how much EASIER it had been to shape the snow when it had polar bear blood mixed in. It had SAVED HIM TIME. He thought about all the time everyone else could save. They could spend more time hunting for more food, or being inside their igloos eating ice cream and sharing stories with their friends and families.
He remembered how much STRONGER the red snow had been. He hadn’t needed to use as much snow. He had been able to leave more of it where it was, looking pretty.
He remembered how polar bears stayed away from his red igloo and how much SAFER he was because of that. He thought about how much safer everyone else could be.
He remembered how the red snow made his igloo WARMER inside. He knew he didn’t have to use as much whale oil to keep it warm. He thought about all the whale oil the others would save. He thought about all the whales that would not have to be killed.
He remembered all these things but, most of all, he remembered how SIMPLE it was. All he had to do was tell everyone to mix two bowls of polar bear blood into enough snow to make an igloo. He stood up and went outside.
There was a big crowd now. They all rushed towards Nanouk. “I want a red igloo!” “I want one too!” “Please tell us how to make one!”
Everyone went quiet when Nanouk spoke. He said, “I’m sorry, I can’t teach you. You have to know how to choose the right polar bear and kill it in a certain way and at a certain time. I can’t explain how I know this, but I do. Only I can make red igloos.”
Everyone was sad but one big person suddenly shouted, “It doesn’t matter! I’ll pay you to make a red igloo for me.” Another, bigger one, said, “I will pay you more!” The man with the pencil and paper said, “Once I tell everyone else, you will be FAMOUS. You will never have to hunt again!” And he rushed off to tell everyone else.
And so, apart from the occasional seal for blood to make his igloos red, Nanouk never had to hunt again.