Once Upon a Time: A Curious Collection of Tales from the Twenty-First Century

Harriet Hudson

Harriet Main Image2

This thesis is an architectural speculation that delights in the retelling of the humble fairy tale to reimagine the simultaneously enchanted and twisted modern world in which we live. Seeking the company of this fantastical realm of storytelling, it pursues the fairy tale by interrogating the intricacies of twenty-first-century culture and magnifying the (often) grim nuances of modern life.

Through the lens of semiotics, we unravel how, to this day, fairy tales permeate the perception and inhabitation of twenty-first-century life, and how they can, therefore, be architecturally discussed and critiqued. Stories such as these reveal an imminent shift in discourse, suggesting an architectural allegory as a relevant mode of investigation.

Using the project as a looking glass for reflection, this thesis employs the amusement park as a vehicle to question historical fairy tale tropes and morals. Imbued with persistent signs and symbols prevalent throughout history, these fairy tale stories appear less fantastical the more closely they are examined. By creating this twenty-first-century fairy tale playground within the city, the project vehicle becomes a poignant and honest commentary on the state of life in the modern world. The resulting connections begin to articulate new poetic relationships born of their own time.

For all its indelible otherworldliness, the fairy tale arrives here laden with history. Encoded with the repeating plots of tales across the centuries, it forms a mutually transformative relationship with that of both fictions and events of the past: one of backwards glances, wild anachronisms, revisionary updates and imaginary futures. This project presents a new line of flight into fairy tale architecture of the twenty-first-century.


“The more one knows fairy tales the less fantastical they appear; they can be vehicles of the grimmest realism, expressing hope against all the odds with gritted teeth.”1 

1. Marina Warner. From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy-Tales and their Tellers. 1994. p.52

Harriet Bridge
The Amusement Park as seen from the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
Harriet App
The Smartphone Sidekick App: The ultimate companion to navigate both the amusement park and the dizzying modern world.
Harriet Greenhouse
Harriet Greenhouse Interior
The Greenhouse-Effect Ferris Wheel: A pedal-powered Ferris Wheel that takes its riders through a confrontational experience with the true effects of climate change.
Harriet Slide
The Social Media Slip n' Slide: Take a turn on the slide, but be warned, the dazzling picture painted on the outside hides a dark and bitter interior truth. Likewise, once you are on the ride, its endless nature makes it very difficult to get off.
Harriet Slide Interior
Harriet Coaster
Harriet Coaster2
The Consumerism Roller Coaster: A wild ride into the beast of consumer culture. Hang on tight as you race the tracks and try to keep up with the incessant spending and collection of goods in the modern world.
Harriet Carousel
The Democracy Carousel: This wild ride plays out the political fantasies of the twenty-first century. Choose a character if you dare, and try to outsmart the endless maze of politics and media.
Harriet Carousel Characters