Corona Virus – Inspired by Italo Calvino’s famous book INVISIBLE CITIES Camille Benoit and Mariana Gella recreated in paper imagined fictitious cities inviting “to travel and dream.” The London-based duo digitally developed and then crafted concept-cities that can be read as meditations on culture, time, memory, death or the general nature of human experience.
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“Feeling trapped in lockdown, we needed to find a new way to travel. Our take on this has been to explore the concept of space by meditating on concepts such as opulence, lightness, the negative space, and fragility among others.” Explained Camille and Mariana to Archipanic.
The result has been these four fictional cities that look both fragile and powerful at the same time, and that allow the viewer to travel to imaginary environments. “We only used tools and materials that we already had at home. Being that limited, we really had to push our creativity a step further.”
The designer initially sketched the cities on paper before developing the front elevations on Illustrator to get a general idea of how the architecture would look. Using a 3D software (rhinoceros), they played around with the volumes until we found the right proportions for each city. Once the cities were ready, the artists created the right atmosphere for the photoshoot by using smoke from electronic cigarettes.
“In today’s world, nature is taking back its rights. This is what we wanted to illustrate for the city CALISTA, influenced by Edward James’ las Pozas where vegetation has a fundamental role and gives new meaning to the architecture. It was important for us to convey our ideals through this project. Dreaming of a greener world, we populated this city with vegetation that is taking back its rights.”
“The spectator can therefore imagine a life in harmony between people and nature or an abandoned city. The interpretation belongs to the spectator.” For the AZRA invisible city, the main concept is weightlessness. From this, the idea of a floating city came. “It is around a main axis that the city unfolds, horizontally or vertically, but always in such a way as to allow the composition to breathe. Mixing industrial structures and machinery that can be compared to a Jules Verne ship.”
In the city of SAORI, the patterns create a mysterious facade “that allows the viewer to sneak through it, and observe its interior like a voyeur. The goal was to create a certain perplexity in the viewer by making him/her feel observed.”
The invisible city of IKA is about the negative space and a game of light and shadow, present in Japanese architecture. “There are some tea house reminiscences as well as some references to Tokyo’s nightlife. By using a single colour, the viewer plays an active role in determining what type of ritual is taking place in its interior.”
In relation to this project born under lockdown, “the end of confinement is something we are really looking forward to“. What have you learned from the pandemic lockdown? “As the confinement is slowly lifted we are rediscovering the nature of London. I think we had taken the beauty of nature for granted and this pandemic allowed us to rediscover it through the simple joys of cycling in fresh air and sitting on grass. We hope that this awareness will be the same for everyone!”
All photos by Camille Benoit and Mariana Gella.