BA Unit 8: La Citta Invisibili. Jen Wan & Eric Wong

The Castle of the Pyrenees, Rene Magritte, 1959

2022 marks the 50th anniversary of Italo Calvino’s seminal novel Invisible Cities (1972). To celebrate this, Unit 8 will seek inspiration from the writings of Calvino.

Calvino describes thin cities, cities and the sky, continous cities and hidden cities among many more. Yet he also questions cities of desire, death and memory. The book consists of a series of fictitous urban descriptions of 55 cities recounted by explorer, Marco Polo to Emperor, Kublai Kahn – of which unknowingly to Kahn, were all descriptions of Polo’s hometown. Calvino in fact never travelled anywhere and spent his life dreaming away his Venice and is arguably remembered as the travel writer of his time, demonstrating the power of imagination and speculation. What if Invisible Cities was not a written description of Polo’s hometown, but an architectural recount of…?

This year, each student will borrow, learn from and re-imagine one of Calvino’s Invisible Cities as a springboard to develop unique architectural explorations and storytelling. They will explore, map and extrapolate the wonders found in Calvino’s descriptions and re-imagine and propose their very own ‘citta invisibile’ whether this is through the scale of a building or an urban masterplan. Through rigorous research and spatial speculations, each student will develop their own brief, narrative and world in order to deliver a cohesive architectural vision.

A. The ‘Post card’: Each student will spatially extrapolate one of Calvino’s stories in to an explorative model/ drawing/fragment/device – an invitational postcard in to the next project.

B. A ‘Citta Invisibile’: Each student will establish a unique brief and critical thinking from the initial project to develop a building proposal.

The work will aim to embody wonder, intrigue and delight, whilst being equally as brave, speculative and ambitious as the stories used to inspire each individual’s proposals.