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Cubist Fantasy

Cubist Fantasy

“Science fiction and fantasy catapult you into another world that you share with the author,” says Architecture graduate student Emily Yen MArch 15. “It’s half their creation and half your imagination. You enter the narrative and become a part of something.”

Yen’s love of sci-fi inspired her to enter an international competition last summer to design a “preview museum” sponsored by the world’s first Museum of Science Fiction, a yet-to-be-built facility planned for the Washington, DC area. The idea is to drum up public interest in the museum by first building a smaller, temporary structure that will be dismantled after three years and can travel to other cities.

Yen’s proposal for a cube-shaped building she calls Schrödinger’s Box (after Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger) beat out 130 submissions from 40 countries to win first prize in the competition. “I am extremely excited and honored to have been chosen,” says Yen, “and I look forward to continuing to work with the Preview Museum Design Team.”

“The idea of a temporary preview museum is an unusual and innovative one,” says Yen’s faculty advisor, Assistant Professor of Architecture Carl Lostritto. “And Emily’s design was up against entries from around the world, many from established professional architects.”

Yen’s concept for the winning design is a semi-transparent cube with an “infinitely scalable” geometry. The trapezoidal interior will work against the cube to form a series of adaptable exhibition spaces at unexpected angles. A flexible, multipurpose auditorium on the top floor will feature a fold-down roof beneath a transparent upper layer, allowing visitors to look up into the night sky and connect with the universe. “And the giant glowing cube – lit by an LED screen facing in both directions – is designed to elicit wonder and curiosity from the outside,” she adds.

At the award ceremony in late September, Yen collected a $1,000 prize and met members of the high-profile jury that selected her proposal, including architects Jerry Vanek, Timo Lorenzen-Schmidt and Hal Davis. She’ll be working with Vanek and a team of architects in the coming year to bring her concept to life, with the hope of choosing a site and opening the preview museum’s doors by late 2015.

Simone Solondz