Possibilia: Possible Worlds and the Limitless in Architecture


  • Sean Pickersgill University of South Australia




Speculative architectural projects, by definition, challenge the viewer to understand the relationship between the fictionalised world they portray and the possible states of affairs that have come into existence for the project to ‘exist’. It is the question of how a speculative project can ‘exist’ in our understanding of the world in a meaningful, non-trivial fashion that is the subject of this article. Employing some basic structural clarity from contemporary modal logic, and from studies in fictionality, it is possible to see a renewed value in the ‘worlds’ that speculative projects describe, and to understand the profound philosophical value in imagining an existence in an ‘other’ world.

Author Biography

Sean Pickersgill, University of South Australia

Dr. Sean Pickersgill teaches and conducts research at the University of South Australia. He has published extensively on the intersection between digital culture and contemporary developments in architectural design. Currently he is undertaking research projects both on enhanced Virtual Reality experiences, and a book on the philosophy of digital architecture.


Cache, Bernard. Earth moves: the furnishing of territories, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1995.

Cowherd, Robert, ‘Notes on Post-Criticality, Towards an Architecture of Reflexive Modernism’, Footprint, #4, Agency in Architecture: Reframing Criticality in Theory and Practice, Spring, 2009.

Dawson, Paul, "Ten Theses against Fictionality." Narrative 23, no. 1 (2015): 74-100.

Dick, Phillip K. The Man in the High Castle, Mariner Books, 2012.

Doležel, Lubomir. Heterocosmica: Fiction and Possible Worlds, John Hopkins, 2000.

Doležel, Lubomir, ‘Possible Worlds of Fiction and History’, New Literary History, Vol. 29, No. 4, Critics without Schools? (Autumn, 1998), pp.785-809, 1990.

Frege, Gottlob. Begriffschift (Conceptual notation and related articles), Trans by Terrell Ward Bynum, Oxford University Press, 1972.

Kripke, Saul. Naming and Necessity, Cambridge University Press, 1972.

Lewis, David. Counterfactuals, Harvard University Press, 1973.

Nielsen, Henrik Skov and James Phelan and Richard Walsh. "Ten Theses about Fictionality." Narrative 23, no. 1 (2015): 61-73.

Russell, Bertrand. Principia Mathematica, Cambridge University Press, 1903.

Scofidio, Diller and Renfro, Blur Building, Exposition Pavilion: Swiss Expo, Yverdon-les-bains, 2002, http://www.dsrny.com/projects/blur-building

Tarski, Alfred. Introduction to Logic and to the Methodology of the Deductive Sciences, Dover Publications, Mineola NY, 1946.

Woods, Lebbeus. Radical Reconstructions, Princeton, 2001.

Woods, Lebbeus, “WAR AND ARCHITECTURE: The Sarajevo window,” Lebbeus Woods (Blog); https://lebbeuswoods.wordpress.com/2011/12/02/war-and-architecture-the-sarajevo-window/