Ether (2014)
by Dawn Lim and Fiona Tan 
(All rights reserved)

This is a tale about a metropolis called Ether, the fields of Nimby and the virgin lands of Default.
In some ways it is a story about cities we heard of, travelled to or lived in. It is a story about 
mankind’s conflicting relationship with technology and how it has shaped how we negotiate 
through this brave new world. Instead of an outright proposition of new building visions, our 
tale presents an alternative pause in which we attempt to revisit the outcomes in which selfish 
fantasies are detrimental to the world.

Since the industrial revolution to the invention of lifts and most recently, additive technologies
the architecture profession and consequently our built environment has evolved tremendously. 
Technology has given us a whole new range of tools to design and create with, to share the 
magic and wonder of spaces large and small, of experiences fleeting and everlasting. Yet it has 
also fuelled the pursuit of bigger and bolder buildings that often are but empty shells standing as 
posters for an epoch of decadence.
Ether (The demented city of decadence,Home to the Ethereals and the creations of the Nimbees) 
is reflective of this desire to build and the increasing ease of doing so.


10 million terabytes away
Where exactly? One could not say...  

Here The Magic Lies
Countless wondrous things we spy!
Those human ogres, they wonder why
Envious of our endless supply

In this splendid city
With blooming rainbows and daffodils aplenty 
This is Where We Wander
This is our home - we call her Ether

A land of joy, a land of laughter
Where strivings cease and no one suffers

Any kind of building imaginable
Any shape, any size, of any colour,
Anything at all was possible 
In this splendid city we call Ether

All day we spend, in our castles of pleasure
Dreaming up new realities for tomorrow’s adventure
With doors that swivel and windows that glitter,
Slides that shiver and ladders that quiver!

Buildings that fly, towers that float
Structures that disappear or sometimes explode!

Countless building to keep us entertained
All lovingly bounded by the Mothercrane
We Ethereals hardly have to stop to ponder
We don’t even ever have to lift a finger
In this splendid city we call Ether

From our palaces of utmost splendour
A view of the people’s palace we admire 
A tall tower made of many mirrors
Reflecting in the light all we acquire

Our only worthwhile duty
Is to dress our darling city

Whoever said that less is more
Has never seen the beauty of Ether before
All of Ether’s desires at our beck and call
Grow in abundance on the plantations’ walls
In this splendid city we call Ether 

Our dreams - they are forever.
The inhabitants of Ether, the Ethereals, are empowered by the ease in which their fantasies are
realised. They are a race with no memory and it is this demented state that leads to the frivolous 
building and rebuilding around Ether - reflective of today’s society where history is razed to the 
ground in the name of progress and development.

In the middle of this great city, stands the palace of mirrors - the only ‘public’ building in Ether. 
It is reminiscent of the days of Opera Houses in our own cities, a public space in which one’s 
private wealth is flaunted and admired. Also, it mirrors the situation today where forms of 
surveillance and control encroach on traditionally public spaces that in the best case scenario 
are left just as pseudo-public spaces. After years of abusing the power to build, everything in 
Ether becomes mechanical and dreary, and eventually, diseased.


Much like the gated communities segregating entirely different worlds, or the juxtaposition of city 
centres and their suburban neighbours, the universe in which Ether is conceived is also home 
to the fields of Nimby.

Nimby’s vast expanse of plantations sustains and realises the Ethereals’
dreams of building endlessly. The Nimbees, alchemists of Nimby, are content being the skilled 
conjurers who concoct all the elements necessary for Ether’s different worlds.

Hey ho hey ho!
Off to the boards we go!
All sorts of thingamajigs we grow
For the ethereals to reap what they do not sow
Hey ho hey ho!

From the crack of dawn till the next day breaking
One might find the hard work appalling 
But make no mistake, no one’s complaining
For Alchemy, surely, it is our calling!

All around Ether we dance
Quietly we await our chance
For when the Ethereals come
Then we would exhibit our plants

Four million capsules of laughter
Two thousand decibels of children’s chatter
Five hundred magpies’ symphonies 
Seven billion soothing melodies 
Cyan, some three hundred dashes
Magenta in nine thousand splashes
Seven hundred Yellow blobs
Six million black Klobs(yes we needed a lot)
Two thousand springtime mornings
Five million summer suns a-shining!  
Six hundred autumns with squirrels in sight
Three hundred starry, starry winter nights

Two hundred earl grey infusions
Excessive chocolate indulgence
Four hundred slices of strawberry cheesecakes
And six hundred glasses ice-blended milkshakes

Three thousand sexy skins
Two hundred fantastic fins
Seven hundred wondrous wigs
All adorned on scarecrows in fields so big

Eight billion birthdays and celebrations 
Five thousand extravagant expositions
Six hundred holy heavens reached
Ten million announcements of buildings complete! 

In Nimby we grow all Ether’s heart’s desires
Turning their foolish dreams into glistening spires
And with each lightning bolt
They gravitate closer to Default.

If Ether is lacking anything at all, it is their curiosity of the unknown Default. From their palaces 
in Ether, the Ethereals see Default as specks of stars in the heavens, a place they presume 
(and rightly so but for different reasons) to be far grander and more spectacular than theirs.
In Ether’s mindless quest for more, their excessive demands from Nimby causes the fields to 
strain, triggering dreadful lightning bolts that forewarn the disaster which will continue to befall 
on Ether. Once struck by lightning, fragments of Ether’s debris plunge gradually into the virgin 
lands of Default.

As the city of Ether deteriorates, the Ethereals themselves, once carefree beings, grow 
heavier with burden and sink slowly towards Default, assuming new roles as wiser beings - the 


Who would have expected
That when we landed
We the defaulted
Were no longer excited
By the ivory towers we once created

We see our futures-past
In Ether’s crumbs and dust
These monuments they cast
Are revelations we forever trust

In these cribs we find
Our wisdom grows with time
“Ornament is crime” 
Ether displays these signs

If I were a balloon I would fly
Higher and higher into the sky
Above these castles we will rise
To where our dreams immortalise

Yet another descending
This calls for a gathering
Of exuberant cheering
In unison we sing
Of wisdom everlasting...

The shimmering heavens once assumed by the Ethereals to be an endless expanse of new 
lands to build upon is finally revealed to be a patchwork of their unnecessary desires. In the 
singing forest of Default, the fragments of Ether’s past lie as ruins on which wisdom is built.  It is 
here that the Ethereals begin their transformation into the Defaulted. They begin to realise the 
futility of their indulgence choosing instead to value the importance of doing more with less.
Home to the Nimbees and the Defaulted, the world opposite Ether.

the END

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