Henry Grabar is a staff writer for Slate’s Moneybox and a former fellow at CityLab. He lives in New York.
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.