When VR-ML-N was built, it was conceived as a company town. Technically it was just a neighborhood within New Alexandria. Functionally, it was a suburb, as there was practically nothing between the city center and this new creation on the outskirts.

I was meant to be a place of luxury, as well as efficiency. Although it was quite removed from the city hub, people were calling it the “new downtown”. Everyone wanted to move there. They were quite willing to pay high prices for small apartments even though the area hadn’t filled in yet. But it was starting to.

It was somewhere between a company town and a government housing project. THESIS did not build the town; it was a combination of some of the top construction companies, guided by a famous architect known as Lloyd, subsidized by the Republic.

Lloyd, whose real identity remains unknown, holds the distinction of being possibly the world’s only anonymous architect.

He (or she) had no connection with THESIS, at least as far as anyone knows. But many have drawn the connection between Lloyd’s design sense and that of Crane and Clemens. At the very least, they seemed to be kindred spirits. There are a few noteworthy things about Lloyd. We call Lloyd “he” since it’s a male name, but for all we know Lloyd could have been a woman, or a group of people. A few conspiracy-theorist types have speculated that Lloyd could even be some sort of primitive AI, but this is unlikely since Lloyd’s first work appeared before THESIS even existed.

Lloyd first appeared on internet forums in 2027. An architect student named Dominique Carter made a post on archinect.com, a forum for professional architects.

Hey guys, im new here, i dunno if this is the right place but im looking for inspiration. Our final project is to design a large building made of modern materials but structurally inspired by a past era of architecture. Does anyone here know of any newer buildings that combine previous eras?

Or if you want, you could just tell me some of your favorite old buildings. Anything would help from you pro’s out there, thanks!

Several people responded with thoughtful answers about different design paradigms from different eras, or asking for further details about the assignment. A week later, a post was made by a user going by “Lloyd”

Just a quick idea I made, feel free to use it as a starting point for your project!

Attached was a download link to a large CAD file, which contained a 3D model of a building. This in itself was commonplace on the forum among among collaboration-oriented architects. What was odd was the contents of the file. It contained a detailed design for a cathedral-like building that combined gothic architecture with rococo. Forum regulars declared that it was one of the most interesting building designs they’d seen. Several people asked variations of “where did you get this?” there was no reply. The user promptly deleted his account.

The building was so interesting that everyone in the architecture community searched for its origin, but could find none. It appeared to be an original design.

Some people even proposed the idea of building the structure, but no one was willing to invest in constructing the work of an anonymous architect. The Republic Architectural Museum contains a miniature model of the building, however.

This odd “gift” was the talk of architects and the internet in general for a few months, but like most strange internet occurrences, it was forgotten soon enough, until it happened again.

Other user accounts, all with usernames containing Lloyd such as “Lloyd2344” and “LloydAgain” began posting other original architecture work. They became increasingly grandiose and strange, culminating in his final work, known as “Minotaur.” He gave a link to a file called byeguys.cad.

From its exterior it appeared as a cathedral-like building, similar to his first work. The community quickly recognized it as an authentic Lloyd creation, and commented on the significance of the work. At first people said they couldn’t open the file, and complained that it might be some sort of trojan. But one developer came to the realization that there was nothing unusual about the file except that it was impossibly large — not just the file, but the building it described. It has been described as “Planetary” in size.

The outside was structured like a giant cathedral, and on the inside were near infinite variations of strange buildings. Many are said to be inspired by the work of artist M.C. Escher. They contained things that made no sense, like upside-down staircases, square hallways with no doors. While it was described as “nonsensical” that wasn’t entirely the case. The structure did make sense in that it showed superb spatial reasoning as well as architectural expertise. It was something that could be physically built, and it would be structural sound. Perhaps purposeless would be a better word. The head of one construction company calculated “for fun” how much it would cost to build such a structure.

“first, you would need a flat, empty plot of land roughly the size of Africa. Then you’d need a budget larger than the GDP of the American province. Then you’d need literally millions of skilled builders. And if you built it, it wouldn’t have much of a purpose. It’s structurally very interesting but doesn’t have basic necessities like kitchens or bathrooms. As an architectural concept it is beyond impressive. But both in terms of feasibility and usefulness, it is utterly, no doubt intentionally, absurd.”

Interest in the absurd file did not wane, however. The denizens of the internet scoured the strange details of the CAD file, searching for hidden meaning. Perhaps there was some message tucked away in its endless nonsensical hallways. For the most part, people could only find what they called design easter eggs. The fibbonaci sequence governed all the ratios within one of the sub-buildings, for example.

After a week, one architect made a post entitled “This part of the cathedral should actually be built.” The architect pointed out that there was a building inside the cathedral that was about a ten mile by ten mile square foot print — still quite huge for a building, but not impossible. The architect observed that this was a quite efficient, sensible plan for a small multi-level city. Self-contained city buildings had been part of the public discussion, but no serious attempts had been made. Part of the problem was logistics of building something so large, another part was getting enough money behind such a project.

But there was something quite compelling about this area.

Sector VR Subsection ML Zone N

Lloyd’s cult following, which at that point had now extended beyond cult and well into the popular eye, managed to gain public interest.

It so happened that the Republic City Planning Commission was looking to build such a city. The problems of overpopulation and urban sprawl were becoming more urgent. There were many proposed ways to mitigate this but two large-scale ones gained traction fast.

  1. colonizing mars. This would solve the problem of there not being enough space. It also had useful resources like iron, and it was theorized that eventually all future martian buildings could be built on mars using materials found on mars.
  2. the idea that earth’s capacity was actually quite large, and it wasn’t so much that there were too many people, as that the structure of cities were too wasteful — wasting space through sprawl and inefficient planning, creating too much garbage etc. Carefully planned cities would go a long way toward increasing the practical capacity of earth.

Of the two, improving our building methods on earth seemed like a more sensible way to spend billions of dollars. In particular, the Chinese constituents of the Republic had been clamoring for such a project ever since the failed, then resumed, then repeatedly failed project Sky City One.

Despite great skepticism at first, the Republic decided that Lloyd’s design of this particular sub-building was an ideal one for the city. Still, it was an expensive project, and the Republic was disinclined to build something designed by an anonymous architect. Furthermore, while the city was indeed an efficient, modern design, it was not without quirks. Multi-level city streets connected by oversized spiral staircases?

But an eccentric billionare came along and offered to add billions to the project, only if they left in the peculiarities of Lloyd’s design. To everyone’s surprise, they accepted. Construction on VR-ML-N began.

The moment they began soliciting business and residents to plan to move there, the newly formed company THESIS agreed to move in. Despite the oddness of the company, they were able to establish early market dominance as a provider of appliances and robotic devices.

Vermilion was born: a strange collaboration between a strange, anonymous architect, a well known but equally strange inventor, and the public funding and oversight of the Republic.