Linda Poon is an assistant editor at CityLab covering science and urban technology, including smart cities and climate change. She previously covered global health and development for NPR’s Goats and Soda blog.
With “Character Building,” designer Michael Lester adds emotion and personality to steel and concrete structures from around the globe.
“The Proximus Towers are siblings and like most, never grew out of play fighting,” reads artist Michael Lester’s caption to the animation above. If the twin skyscrapers in Belgium, which are connected by a skybridge, had minds and personalities of their own, they would probably be poking at each other.
Over the past year, the U.K.-based designer and illustrator has been sketching dozens of famous and odd landmarks from around the world to figure out how to breathe life into them. The result: a series of 20 playful animations called “Character Building,” complete with tongue-in-cheek descriptions of the structures. “I tried to find an interesting fact or something about the community or building itself, and then think of a fun way of showing that with the stories,” Lester says.
Dubai’s sail-shaped Burj Al Arab hotel is featured wearing goggles and swimming in a pool of water. “The Burj Al Arab dipped into the Arabian Gulf in 1999 and hasn’t left the water since,” Lester’s caption reads.
And for the One Central Park Tower in Australia, Lester focused on its environmental-friendly design. His caption reads, “One Central Park’s East Tower keeps its smaller sibling’s hair healthy.”
The project was inspired by an old assignment Lester did in college. He turned London’s Tate Modern art gallery into a character for a design competition sponsored by the mobile company HTC—and won. “I just kept coming back to it, thinking about how amazing it would be to do a set of these famous buildings, and it developed from that,” he says. “It went from just sticking some eyes and hands on different buildings to thinking about what these buildings could be thinking, what kind of communities they're in, how they feel about where they are.”
“Maybe some of them aren't happy, and some are irritated,” he adds, calling the Ryugyong Hotel in North Korea, which remains uncompleted, “the world’s most patient building.”