The Hypercube Journey

I am really thrilled and excited to share a story from a favourite writer, writing group friend, and fellow Dragon on our Moving Dragon Writes blog, Richard Kefford. Richard is a tremendous writer in many genres, but there is a quirkiness and originality in his stories and poems (and euphonic writing) which I really enjoy and admire.

So here is…

The Hypercube Journey

He noticed the advert while flicking through the Birmingham Mail. There was to be an architectural  and building exhibition at the National Exhibition Centre in six months time. He sent off for full details thinking this might be just what he needed to get his architectural practice out of the doldrums of designing self build homes, designing and specifying sun rooms for already oversized family homes, doing sub contract work at cost and drawings for the little box house builders, squeezing more and more people into less and less space.

The exhibition was to be in two sections – one for architects and one for builders. These were called, respectively and somewhat predictably, ‘Architex’ and ‘Buildex’. He saw himself as a creative designer, specialising in living spacesas it said on his promotional literature so he sent off for the relevant exhibitor forms. He didn’t somehow think of himself as a brick on brick builder.

When he got the forms back, he got to work on what he did best. Thinking of and designing a stand that would showcase his abilities. The only problem was the cost. The size of stand that he wanted / needed would more likely put him out of business before he could start designing for the many new clients that he hoped to attract.

He had to think of another way, one that could be achieved at a much lower cost. So it was back to the figurative drawing board – AutoCAD – Revit 2D and 3D, in this case. He had been using AutoCAD since his time at Sussex Uni so it made sense to carry on with it. It was familiar, he knew its capabilities and shortcuts and, more important, he knew its limitations.

He did what he usually did at the start of a project – doodling while he waited for inspiration to strike.

He drew a front door – always useful to have some sort of portal to your world. Then he started thinking and playing with the 2D/3D possibilities of the software. Why were there only two dimension schemes in use. We now know the others are all around us – some scientists say that there are at least eleven. Where are they? They are here, we just cannot see them. Try this exercise. You can draw in two dimensions and represent three. One is a dot, two is a line, three is an object but what is four? OK so think of a cube. That’s an object so it must be 3D. Go down one and you have a square. It’s made of lines so it must be 2D. Go back up to the cube and add one dimension – you get a tesseract. This is made from eight cubes but the magic of it is that it only takes up the 3D volume of one cube. It can also be drawn on the AutoCAD in 2D. A tesseract has eight times as much internal space as external volume as the 4th dimension does not exist in our physical universe even though the CAD software could draw a 2D/3D wireframe representation of one. He was then conceited enough to think that, if the CAD system could draw it, he could design and build it.

He invited his mate Phil down to the pub for a drink that evening and put the problem to him. He is not one of those people who designs things on the back of an envelope, he just sat there with a dreamy look on his face for about half an hour while he kept him supplied with pints of the local real ale. After a long period of silence he said, ‘to achieve the best volume in 3D it would have to be an unfolded tesseract.’

‘How do you mean,’ he asked.

‘Well, if you drop a dimension and then ask the same question, you can cover the greatest surface are by unfolding a cube. If you do that, you get six squares. If you unfold a tesseract you get eight cubes.’


They batted it to and fro for another hour and then came to a decision. He would order a square space in the exhibition hall. This would only be the standard size of one unit, which is 4 metres square. He would then design and build a cube on it which would have sides each of 4 metres. This cube would be built from wood with one door so that no passer-by could see what was in it. Inside the cube he would build an unfolded tesseract to give him an extra seven cubes that could only be seen from the inside of the base cube. This would give him plenty of space to showcase his designs and still leave space for a conference room and a kitchen.


The first day of the exhibition setting up week came and all the materials necessary to build the stand started arriving at the exhibition hall. There were a few startled faces when people saw how many materials were taken into through the front door of the cube. ‘It must be getting very crowded in there,’ was the general reaction. He ignored them and urged his building contractor to continue with the work as quickly as possible – there was a lot of work involved in fitting out the eight cubes.


It was time for the exhibition to open. He stood just outside his cube inviting people in through the door to see his showcased work. It was difficult at first because potential customers assumed that he couldn’t show them much in the space available but the ones that he persuaded       in were very impressed by the scope of the work and how much space ‘appeared to have created from nowhere.’ By the second day, the news had spread by word of mouth so the number of visitors to the stand increased rapidly and he was rushed off his feet explaining what could be achieved and then taking and scheduling orders. His stand became the place to be.

The exhibition was to last for five days then the weekend would be taken up by taking down the stands, ready for the packaging exhibition, Packex, the following week.

Each day was busier than the day before so, by Friday midday it was getting manic with even the eight cubes in the hypercube getting crowded. The climax came at 1337. The entry counter showed that there were more people in the stand than ever before.

There was suddenly a very loud ‘Snap’. Nearby exhibitors were worried that something dangerous had happened to his stand but no, it was still there and looked entirely undamaged.

It was very different inside. The severe weight loading caused by so many people had caused the tesseract to fold back into itself. Of all the forms it could have ‘chosen’ it had formed itself into the most material and energy-efficient form so people were in some very strange shaped spaces.

Luckily, he was quite close to the front door when it happened. The exhibition hall fire and rescue team arrived very quickly and stood there, amazed, while many more people than seemed possible slowly walked, unharmed apart from minor shock, out of the front door.

No news of this reached the papers as the exhibition hall owners didn’t want any negative publicity. He was too busy designing buildings for his new customers and none of them were willing to talk about it – who would believe them? It will take nearly four years to do all the work that flowed from that exhibition and he is now making plans to exhibit at the next one – luckily they are only held every four years – just like the world cup and the Olympics.

He is now busy getting the design ready for his new exhibition stand. He has been talking to Phil about the possibility of designing and building a dimensional hypercube in five dimensions…

© Richard Kefford 2017

You can find Richard’s writing here:

… and more from him, and me, here:

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