Flexible living in the city – the world in a hundred years

Illustration by Susanne Gold, Text by Arseniy Pavlenko

The colour of my iris changed gently from a dark brown to a soft orange. I blinked cautiously, then finally opened my eyes and straightened up. The sandstone room grew progressively brighter, but stopped at a point that was easy on my sleepy self. There was no discernible source of light. Each of the walls looked as if it were lit by a table lamp on the opposite side that’s nowhere to be found.

The stone floor beneath the soles of my feet felt pleasantly rough and heated. The rest of my body followed my steps and while I cut open a lemon at the counter opposite my bed and squeezed it into a glass of water, I looked around the room; Beige, windowless, doorless.

My little cave

 How should I furnish it today, I pondered as I placed my lemon-squeezed water on one of the mysteriously lit walls. With my thumb, I stroked a horizontal line about thirty centimetres long at eye level. Each time I did so, I felt like Rafiki christening Simba. After a short, respectful delay, the stone wall opened in a way that seemed like a compromise between mechanical and organic.

The opening stopped at the ends of the indicated line on the X-axis and simply took the same dimensions for the Y-axis. A small square window, with rounded corners and edges appeared. The sun fell into my room and the light imitated the freshly born window on the floor. I stepped to the wall that bordered the previous one on the right and drew a line again, but this time horizontally. The same short pause passed. Then the wall opened again; the hole this time slightly larger and wider than myself, yet with rounded edges as well. A warm wind touched me, blowing into my room. I stepped forward and without looking down, I made a movement with my foot as if I were pushing a damp flannel back and forth to clean the floor.

My clever cave understood this too. A balcony about two metres wide formed all around the outer walls.

I then entered my new terrace, sat down at its edge and let my legs dangle. It was a clear, summery day. Gazing at my neighbours: the flats in the estate were spread out in criss-cross fashion. They were about 20 to 50 metres away from the next flat in every conceivable direction. They were connected by several thin stone pillars that resembled dry branches but were fortunately much more stable.

The apartment complex resembled a monumental, neuronal network.

The children said it looked like a big climbing frame. I saw the changes my neighbours decided to make to their flat. Clotheslines stretched like spider webs, awnings slid forward and entire flats expanded or shrank. The pillars connecting the flats came loose to pick up residents at their front door and set them down gingerly on the ground. People standing below were carried up in the same way.

Everything was in constant motion.

Supposedly, it’s said that close to one and a half thousand people in total live in my network of flats. I never counted them and only knew individual neighbours by name. On a superficial level, I got along well with everyone.

Almost all the residents of the settlement wore comfortable clothes. Timeless cuts made of high-quality fabrics.

Neutral tones such as grey, brown, beige or black were primarily preferred.  The stone structures glittered slightly upon the sun’s rays falling directly on them. This slight glitter is the only thing left of the bulky photovoltaic systems of last year. The whole complex was powered solely by solar energy, which could be absorbed and stored throughout the entire surface. The solar energy also fed the algorithm that was responsible for the security and stability of the network. It calculated the changes, the changing centres of gravity and the distances in real time. It then balanced these with countermeasures if necessary.

The use of photovoltaics was well complemented by the fact that the weather could now be manipulated.

In the settlements, people usually collectively opted for 24 degrees Celsius with lots of sun. Today, we even enjoyed a warm temperature of 26 degrees C. On the other hand, in the forests and fields surrounding the housing complexes, a lot of precipitation was ensured. Despite the many flats, their arrangement meant that there was enough visibility of the forest areas around them. I especially liked when you could see, hear as well as smell the grey wall of rain in the distance while enjoying the sun.

Below the apartment complex was the equivalent of a city centre.

Here, in a huge area paved with cobblestones, there were all kinds of offerings; Cafés, restaurants, markets, shops, schools, museums. Instead of advertisements, which had coloured the city in the past, a wide variety of plant species now took over this task. They grew on roofs, climbed down facades and sometimes even broke through the cobblestones.

Although the network of flats surrounded the city centre like a dome, the plants got enough light due to the large distances between the flats.

For their sake, we also made it rain inside the estate for a few hours a week. I took a big gulp of the water, laid down on my back and let my feet dangle down. I felt like an egg that someone had cracked on an asphalt to boil – as if that someone had overestimated the temperature and instead, egg whites and yellows were flowing calmly apart. In a few minutes, I will go back in and see what tasks were due for today. I didn’t know them yet, but I was looking forward to each one.

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