Brian Foo/Continuous City

Multimedia artist Brian Foo's latest project explores how urban forms shapes our lives.

Would New York in a different shape still be as busy, vibrant, chaotic? Would it still be New York?

That's the question at the heart of "Continuous City," a multimedia project by Brian Foo — part chapter book, part website, part art project — in which two ordinary New Yorkers wake up to a new iteration of the city each morning.

Inspired in part by Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, in which Marco Polo tells Mongol emperor Kublai Khan tales of absurd agglomerations, "Continuous City" toys with fantastic variations in urban design, such as: What if New York were a giant checkerboard? Or a circle? In one scenario, our heroes find that New York's buildings are all stacked on top of each other, and they must adjust their lives accordingly.

"I look at New York as a third character messing with their relationship," says Foo. "They're at the mercy whenever they wake up to whatever the next iteration of New York would be."

To illustrate these metamorphoses, Foo made watercolor drawings of over 200 buildings. You can "paint" your own city with them on his site. In the end, "Continuous City" will include a book, posters, prints, shirts, and a more developed web application that allows users to craft their own permutations of New York and potentially add their own buildings as well.

Foo posted "Continuous Cities" as a Kickstarter project at the beginning of June, where it, like his previous project, "Cities of You,"  quickly obliterated its funding goals.

Insets, from top to bottom: The Flatiron Building, the MetLife Building, the New Museum. Courtesy Brian Foo.

About the Author

Henry Grabar

Henry Grabar is a freelance writer and a former fellow at CityLab. He lives in New York.   

Most Popular

  1. Postcards showing the Woodner when it used to be a luxury apartment-hotel in the '50s and '60s, from the collection of John DeFerrari
    Equity

    The Neighborhood Inside a Building

    D.C.’s massive Woodner apartment building has lived many lives—from fancy hotel to one of the last bastions of affordable housing in a gentrifying neighborhood. Now, it’s on the brink of another change.

  2. Design

    The Military Declares War on Sprawl

    The Pentagon thinks better designed, more walkable bases can help curb obesity and improve troops’ fitness.

  3. Members of a tenants' organization in East Harlem gather outside the office of landlord developer Dawnay, Day Group, as lawyers attempt to serve the company with court papers on behalf of tenants, during a press conference in New York. The tenant's group, Movement for Justice in El Barrio, filed suit against Dawnay, Day Group, the London-based investment corporation "for harassing tenants by falsely and illegally charging fees in attempts to push immigrant families from their homes and gentrify the neighborhood," said Chaumtoli Huq, an attorney for the tenants.
    Equity

    Toward Being a Better Gentrifier

    There’s a right way and a wrong way to be a neighbor during a time of rapid community change.

  4. Equity

    The Hoarding of the American Dream

    A new book examines how the upper-middle class has enriched itself and harmed economic mobility.

  5. Equity

    The Poverty Just Over the Hills From Silicon Valley

    The South Coast, a 30-mile drive from Palo Alto, is facing an affordable-housing shortage that is jeopardizing its agricultural heritage.