The ever-so-sinister Brothers Grimm have delighted readers for two centuries with countless adaptations and homages. But Pascal Bronner and Thomas Hiller, of London-based FleaFollyArchitects, have managed to offer a new take on the tales — by building an entire mini-municipality inspired by the 200-year-old words of Jacob and Wilhelm.
"They are widely regarded as some of the most influential storytellers of all time, and our architecture is always driven by narrative," Bronner tells Gizmodo. "We knew there was a lot of substance, not just poetically but also culturally and socially."
First, the designers spent a few quick few days "extracting the essence" from each story, or "turning it into an urban typology," Bronner explains.
The link between plot-lines and physical structure was more metaphoric than literal, with design and function assigned according to the "nature" of the original text — meaning you won't be able to actually see Snow White or Hansel & Gretel hanging out in the finished scene.
Using timber sourced from the surrounding "enchanted" Black Forest, the project began to take shape into a cohesive, high-density whole. Once these concepts came together, the architects connected the buildings and fleshed out the infrastructure in the same way that they might with a life-sized metropolis — building out streets, transportation, and, perhaps most notably, education. Grimm City University (GCU) is a fixture they created that acts as an "antidote" to the the rest of the area.
"The notion of children being wiser, cleverer and outwitting adults is a reoccurring theme in many of the Grimm Fairytales. We probably have more to learn from them, then they need to learn from us," Bronner explained.
So the idea of the university, he adds, is that "it's run by children who teach naivety, innocence and youth to corrupt and fraudulent adults."
The institution becomes omnipresent in an accompanying collection of mini-fables written by Bronner and Hiller themselves, adding yet another layer onto this complex construction that edges into cultural critique.
"We see the tales as prophecies of human behaviour. Reading them 200 years after they were written, they still feel contemporary and relevant, highlighting our ongoing struggles with megalomania," Bronner says. "It became a sort of architectural satire, which foretells a future state run by creatures with Grimm-esque attributes of gluttony and greed taken perversely out of context. It was the perfect opportunity to look at the world."
Grimm City is on display at the Design Museum in London until November 8.