Fairy Tales Meet Architecture in Innovative Series

Feb. 8, 2021

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Kate Bernheimer
Kate Bernheimer

“Fairy tales have transfixed readers for thousands of years with the promise of a magical home,” writes University of Arizona scholar Kate Bernheimer. “How many architects, young and old, have been inspired by the hero or heroine, banished from the cottage, lost in the woods, who risks everything to find a forever-space?”

In the online series Fairy Tale Architecture, published in Places Journal, architects have produced works exploring the relationship between the domestic structures of fairy tales and the imaginative realm of architecture.

The series is curated by brother-sister team Kate and Andrew Bernheimer. Kate Bernheimer is an author and an associate professor in the Department of English in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Andrew Bernheimer is an architect and a faculty member with Parsons School of Design/The New School.

“Houses in fairy tales are never just houses; they always contain secrets and dreams,” writes Kate Bernheimer, who has been called “one of the living masters of the fairy tale” (Tin House). “This project presents a new path of inquiry, a new line of flight into architecture as a fantastic, literary realm of becoming.”

The most recent installment is “One Grain of Rice,” which is the 20th feature in the series. In this mathematical folktale, a young girl sets the rules of a methodical game in an unequal society and brings forth a glorious outcome for people who are hungry.

A book based on the series called Fairy Tale Architecture was published in 2020 by Oro Editions. “Story by story, Andrew Bernheimer and Kate Bernheimer have built the ultimate home for lovers of fiction and design,” the description reads. “Snow girls and spinning houses. Paper capes and engineered hair braids. Resin bee hives and infinite libraries. Here are futuristic structures made from traditional stories.”

The book was featured in the New York Times article “5 Books to Take a Deep Dive Into Design.”

This spring, Kate Bernheimer, along with a team of graduate student TAs, is teaching her popular General Education course “Introduction to Fairy Tales” to more than 400 students.