The work produced for assignment 2 was adequate but not exceptional. This has led me to reconsider the content in terms of interest, originality and presentation style. I have decided that blurred images would suit very well the literary work “Invisible Cities” by Italo Calvino. This is a book first recommended by Peter Fraser during a talk at the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool a couple of years ago. I have read it twice already and find it a constant source of inspiration. Fraser talks of photographing from the unconscious, a practice which I have tried to follow on occasions. It is as if Calvino wrote the book from the unconscious with remarkable success.
Calvino writes of a series of conversations between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo (13/14 century). The story goes that Marco, his father and uncle were commissioned by Khan to act as his advisers on matters of the western world. They moved from their home town of Venice and lived in Xanadu, the summer capital of Khan’s Yuan Empire for many years and later on Marco Polo was asked to travel to lands far and wide to discover unknown cities. Calvino’s book describes Marco Polo’s conversations with Kublai Khan on returning from these Cities (55 in total). The descriptions are sometimes vague and often unbelievable, leading the reader to wonder whether they all really existed. It is a series of riddles which both fascinated and frustrated Khan. One theory is that the descriptions are simply parts of Venice which Polo knew so well but it is also known (or at least believed) that he travelled widely in China and branched out into such countries as Burma, India and Tibet. So it is quite possible that many of his stories had a true foundation.
Using this inspiration, my plan is to create a photobook in modern day style, probably coloured pictures, which describes some of the cities of today which would be discovered by Marco Polo if he lived in this era.
I am trying to look at this project through the eyes of an Architect and to imagine some of the challenges he would encounter whilst trying to create a new city in this modern world. This subject is topical for the UK following the recent announcement that new garden villages are to be created to help deal with today’s population issues. So I am looking through the eyes of a British Architect.
The previous assignment was a collection of blurred images from various Flickr groups. This time I will widen my search to include such sources as Artsy and to look at the government proposals for the new garden villages. The whole project raises serious environmental issues as highlighted recently by David Attenborough in Planet Earth 2.
The 14 new garden villages will have access to £6m of government money over the next two years. These developments would include schools, health and shopping improvements.
Proposed Garden Town on the Essex Herefordshire Border
So it is true that governments in a small or in a big way are always looking to improve their estate and so it was with Kublai Khan.
From Manila to Manhattan
An article released by “Artsy” shows proposals for 2017 for ten world beating designs of buildings in various countries of the world. It is entitled “From Manila to Manhattan, These new buildings will define architecture in 2017”.
City Center Tower, Manila – Architect – Carlos Anaiz
Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg – Architect – Hertzog & de Meuron
These buildings in Hamburg, Manila, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Cape Coast, London, Berlin, Houston and Paris will have to wait another day to realise their success (or failure) but they are certainly exciting examples of 21st century architecture and would have given Marco Polo much food for thought.
Seven Utopian Experiments
Another article by Artsy shows seven utopian experiments from Le Corbusier’s Radiant city to a ghost town in China. The Chinese project was developed by artist Ai Weiwei and Architect Herzog and de Meuron. This featured 100 villas designed by architects around the world but the tremendous cost of building the city resulted in some of the country’s highest property values and so nobody lives there.
Ordos, China – Artist – Ai Weiwei, Architect – Herzog & de Meuron and others
Other architects of the seven projects include George Braun and Franz Rosenberg, Paolo Soleri and Frank Lloyd Wright.
Auroville (the city of dawn), India – Conceived by Mirra Alfassa
Most of these buildings exist today, some are a great success and some, failed and expensive experiments.
The Book Project
I have taken a selection of twelve of the photographs from the above two projects and modified them to engender a dreamlike property. The resulting pictures have been inspired by Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities” and I have matched quotations from his book to the selected pictures.
I invite the reader to imagine what these cities would be like to live in and to consider the differences. Which are real and which are fictional?
Link to new book entitled “Invisible Cities”