Invisible Cities Illustrated: Artist Illustrates Each and Every City in Italo Calvino’s Classic Novel

If you want to read a book about cities, you still can’t do much bet­ter than a slim, plot­less work of fic­tion by Ita­lo Calvi­no where­in the explor­er Mar­co Polo tells the emper­or Kublai Khan of what he’s seen in his trav­els across the world. Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in Ital­ian in 1972, Invis­i­ble Cities has inspired gen­er­a­tions of read­ers, hail­ing from all across the world them­selves, to think in entire­ly new ways not just about cities but about trav­el, place, per­cep­tion, real­i­ty, myth, and lit­er­a­ture itself. Though very much a work con­cerned with what’s seen only in the imag­i­na­tion, the book has also inspired artists to try their hand at ren­der­ing the 55 fic­ti­tious cities Polo describes with­in.

A few years ago we fea­tured “See­ing Calvi­no,” a joint effort by artists Matt Kish, Leighton Con­nor, Joe Kuth to illus­trate, among oth­er ele­ments of the Calvi­no canon, each and every one of Invis­i­ble Cities’ fan­tas­ti­cal, often impos­si­ble col­lec­tions of struc­tures, lives, and, ideas. More recent­ly, the Peru-based archi­tect and artist Kari­na Puente has, with her Invis­i­ble Cities Project, put her­self to work on a sim­i­lar endeav­or. Each of Puente’s intri­cate ren­der­ings takes about a week to pro­duce, and as she tells Arch­dai­ly, “they are not only drawn – I use dif­fer­ent types of paper and draw on each one before cut­ting them out with exac­to knives. All the draw­ings are com­posed of lay­ers of paper which are cut out and glued.”

At the top we have Puente’s city of Dorotea where, bear­ing in mind the rules of its infra­struc­tur­al divi­sion by gates, draw­bridges, and canals and those of the mar­riages between the trad­ing fam­i­lies that reside there, “you can then work from these facts until you learn every­thing you wish about the city in the past, present, and future.” In the mid­dle is Isaura, a city built on a deep sub­ter­ranean lake whose gods, “accord­ing to some peo­ple, live in the depths,” and to oth­ers live in the asso­ci­at­ed buck­ets, pump han­dles, wind­mill blades, pipes, and every oth­er built ele­ment of this “city that moves entire­ly upward.”

Just above you can see Zobei­de, laid out accord­ing to a series of dreams of “a woman run­ning at night through an unknown city,” pur­sued but nev­er found, altered to con­form to each dream until new arrivals “could not under­stand what drew these peo­ple to Zobei­de, this ugly city, this trap.” While at first Polo’s descrip­tions of the cities all across Khan’s empire may strike read­ers as com­plete­ly fan­tas­ti­cal, they’ll soon hear echoes of the places they live in in these metaphor­i­cal metrop­o­lis­es. And if they take a look at Puente’s illus­tra­tions as they read, they’ll see them as well.

Vis­it Puente’s Invis­i­ble Cities Project here.

via Arch­dai­ly

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Invis­i­ble Cities Illus­trat­ed: Three Artists Paint Every City in Ita­lo Calvino’s Clas­sic Nov­el

Hear Ita­lo Calvi­no Read Selec­tions From Invis­i­ble Cities, Mr. Palo­mar & Oth­er Enchant­i­ng Fic­tions

Expe­ri­ence Invis­i­ble Cities, an Inno­v­a­tive, Ita­lo Calvi­no-Inspired Opera Staged in LA’s Union Sta­tion

Watch Ani­ma­tions of Two Ita­lo Calvi­no Sto­ries: “The False Grand­moth­er” and “The Dis­tance from the Moon”

Ita­lo Calvi­no Offers 14 Rea­sons We Should Read the Clas­sics

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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