TITLE: Cities of the Celestial Sovereigns
Client: Blank space (Fairy Tales Competition)
Project Type: Speculative, Literary
Winner, Honorable Mention (1 of 13 selected entries among international submissions from 65 countries) (2018)
Featured in ArchDaily, Featured in Bustler, Featured In Archinect (2018)
Published in UNLV MAGAZINE (VOL.25, issue 1; 2018)
When time was still young and history had not yet been engendered, the Five Celestial Sovereigns—as They would come to be known—forged a new world they called Urantia. A planet of immense beauty, sunsets were always rufescent and the sky was always pink. Water, whether shallow or deep, was always tinged with those same warm tones, and even the air shimmered with a distinct iridescence.
The Five had been attentive to provide a wide variety of topographies, each fashioning landscapes of their choosing and reflective of Their personalities:
The Fifth, both the youngest and most exuberant, fashioned the sky—providing a breathable atmosphere and clouds to filter light. The Fourth, and most ambitious, created the oceans—vast reservoirs of water that covered the majority of the planet. The Third, always the rebel, created the deserts—dry and hot to contrast the wet oceans and cool skies. The Second, and most pragmatic, created the mountains—seeking the strong and solid stability of stone to tower above both the oceans and deserts. The First, both the oldest and wisest, created the plains—a curiously ambiguous landscape that would occupy the liminal space between all other topographies. Decidedly solid like the mountains, yet sometimes dry like the deserts and sometimes wet like the oceans, the plains would even periodically reflect the heavens—blurring the horizon between the sky and the sea. Urantia was truly a sight to behold.
However, despite the animated time cycles of the geology and meteorology of Their creation, the Five Celestial Sovereigns grew bored and restless with a world that was largely static. Realizing creation should be a continuous forward movement that resists entropy, the Five collectively forged an intelligent and sentient race of beings they called humanity.
Spread across the landscapes of Urantia, humans—with the gift of self-awareness and free-will—provided a new dimension to creation. The Five were pleased. Humans were messy and chaotic, self-centered and self-less. They were unpredictable, and therefore brought dynamism to the places they touched.
The Celestials’ satisfaction, however, did not last long. Not burdened with mortality, the Five had unwittingly made Their planet beautiful but inhospitable. Or, at least, humanity did not yet have the tools to survive. The Five had also forgotten to create a source of nourishment and sustenance! Their humans, nonetheless determined to survive, slowly languished and died.
The Five, now realizing they could not successfully create what They did not understand (and not wanting to err a third time), made a pact: They would each trade Their primordial immortality for two things. The first would be a mortal physical form to enable the Five to act as guardians to the young race for one millennium. The second would be the materialization of Their divine spark into a gift of Their choosing for the collective benefit of humanity. So having reached a consensus, They once again placed humans on Urantia and began Their process of kenosis.
The First took the form of a strong but slow-moving quadrupedal being with an enormous shell it would carry on its back. This heavy feature, the First concluded, would allow it to house humans wherever it went. It would possess scaly skin to weather wet and dry conditions, while circulating cold-blood through its body to avoid over-heating the humans it would carry. As a gift, the First created a complement to fresh water rain: milky rain—a nutritious liquid that humans could ingest for sustenance or use for irrigation to bring new life to barren lands.
The Second, not desiring mobility, took root at the crown of three mountains with a form that would incrementally grow tendrils deep into the earth and high into the heavens. Its gift would be the seasons. Modulating its own annual birth and rebirth of sorts, the Second would bear fruit each year to both delineate time aligned with the cosmos and feed humans. Like the milky rain, the Second’s fruit possessed seeds that could also bring forth new life.
The Third, seeking efficiency for an arid and sandy climate, took the form of a simple yet versatile legless being that could curl or unfurl for displacement or delight. It improved on the design of the First’s scaly skin, by sheathing itself entirely in individual scales that would serve as protection but become renewed through an annual molting process governed by the Second’s seasons. As for a gift, thinking neither milky rain nor seeded plantings would be too common in the deserts, the Third decided to birth its gift in the form of thousands of different eggs that could be eaten for nourishment or raised as various species of “animals.”
The Fourth, with guardianship over the oceans, split itself into twin beings locked in a perpetual dance to navigate the surface and the deep. The Fourth also improved on the Third’s design by adding fins and a breathing system capable of handling both water and air. For its gift, the Fourth populated the oceans with thousands of new aquatic animals—activating a watery ecosystem and providing a fourth source of food for humanity.
The Fifth—having overzealously created the sky and now out of ideas—in a moment of vanity, chose the form of humanity itself at a gigantic scale to remain suspended in levitation above the earth. Energized by the ability to continually resist gravity, the Fifth took some of the Second’s seeds and the Third’s animals and the Fourth’s aquatic animals and gave them the power of flight. The sky, the Fifth determined, would not be a solitary sovereignty.
Now with physical bodies on Urantia itself, the Five Celestial Sovereigns began the task of educating humanity on all five corners of the world.
The First taught humans about cartography, literature, mathematics and sculpture. Continuously wandering the plains of Urantia, the First helped established the roaming city of Áo on Its back. Carved entirely out the shell It carries and painted with minerals and liquids found along the way, Áo was to become the most beautiful and inspired of the cities of Urantia. Exhibiting excellent planning, artistic flourish, and a smartly-dense “urban” form, Áo is organized around a central domed temple to knowledge—housing the largest and most extensive of libraries ever assembled on Urantia.
The Second taught humans about religion, mining, agriculture and physics. Having chosen to remain fixed in one place, the Second helped establish the fortified city of K’aban around Itself. K’aban’s inhabitants—possessing the deepest knowledge about death and the afterlife—modeled their city as an enormous mausoleum with impenetrable walls of stone (procured at nearby quarries) oriented to the four cardinal directions. Not wishing to disturb the ceremonial layout of their city at the “navel of creation,” farms were built just beyond the mountains.
The Third taught humans about astronomy, medicine, commerce and law. Excavating a burrow around a circular promontory, the Third helped establish the concentric city of Per-Wadjet. Exhibiting a circular organization of increasingly tall and narrow buildings for efficient air ventilation, Per-Wadjet’s remote location under a cloudless sky proved perfect to learn the secrets of the stars while also inspiring courageous adventurers to travel as merchants to the other cities for the exchange of goods and knowledge.
The Fourth taught humans about fishing, biology, music and seafaring. Living in the sea, the twin beings of the Fourth helped establish the floating ring cities of Aru and Ura. Maximized for buoyancy and fishing, Aru and Ura are made up of light and low-standing structures that border an extensive system of docks and platforms for seafaring vessels. Attuned to the sounds of the sea, the inhabitants of Aru and Ura are known for their unrivaled music.
And finally, the Fifth taught humans about metallurgy, chemistry, meteorology and electricity. Suspended in perpetual levitation, the Fifth helped establish the flying city of Thurium. At 500 city blocks, Thurium is the largest and most advanced of the five major cities of Urantia. Its inhabitants learned to harness metal and combustion, and with the strong gravitational pull of the Fifth’s sheer mass, it allowed for the city to be built perpendicular to the horizon.
Ultimately, the Five Celestial Sovereigns would fade after their millennium of mortality, but their dedicated efforts had produced the mother civilizations that, over time, would seed and populate the rest of Urantia. Their divine spark would live on.