Ever wonder what Manhattan would look like if it hadn’t been set up in the grid design that New York City’s visionary commissioners drew up way back in 1811? Instead of the blocks and avenues that we have now become accustomed to, what if the city was configured in shapes that catered to our moods and feelings? The city would then become “a living, breathing creature,” constantly changing, always in flux: a Continuous City.
In his book, Continuous City, Brian Foo, an artist and web developer living in Manhattan, showcases a New York City that is perpetually changing and conforming itself to the state of the lives of the book’s lead characters, Allen and Pearl. As the two navigate their way through their relationship, the city also embarks on a journey of sorts, moving from shape to shape until it reaches its final point of equilibrium.
For his book, Foo has hand-painted over 200 of the city’s buildings, which includes landmarks like the Chrysler Building and the Guggenheim Museum, as well as lesser known (but no less significant) structures like the International Paper Building and the Home Insurance Plaza. Foo has also put his artwork into an interactive online application, which allows readers to create their own versions of New York City—in whatever shape and form they so desire.
Foo works on this project from the confines of his room in an apartment in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. His room itself is a veritable piece of art, covered with illustrations of creatures that live underneath the sea, each of which has been drawn by people who have visited him. Continuous City works off a similar collaborative model—each iteration of the city in the book is based off the experience or perception of a native, immigrant or tourist to New York City.
This isn’t Foo’s first book—his last project, which was also funded through Kickstarter, was called Cities of You, which depicted people (and their ideas) as fantastical, imaginary cities. Continuous City can be seen as an extension of that concept—but in this book, the people play secondary roles. “I wanted to write a story from the perspective of a place,” explains Foo. “I wanted the place to be the main character.”
Foo chose his own city of residence to become the central figure in his book, and New York City is depicted as this microcosm that collects everyone’s baggage and converts them into something new. “I’m thinking of New York as this entity that is going through transformations as people go in and out of the city,” Foo says. “I kind of look at it as if she—I call New York City she—is going through puberty. She’s not sure of what her identity is, and is trying to figure it out.”
Given every New Yorker’s love-hate relationship with their city, it’s easy to see the appeal in the Continuous City concept—Foo’s Kickstarter project has already reached its initial goal, but there are awesome new additions being made as the pledged amount increases. Check out more details about his project here, and also keep yourself updated on the project’s status by following it on Facebook and Twitter.
Also, do take advantage of Foo’s amazing web application and create your own version of New York City! Share your vision of New York City with us–after you create your design, click on the save button on the top right of the screen, and then copy and share the link with us in the comments below. We look forward to seeing your creations!
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @thisisaby