Atlantic Cities

Fantasy Versions of New York, Continuously Scrambled

Fantasy Versions of New York, Continuously Scrambled
Brian Foo/Continuous City

Would New York in a different shape still be as busy, vibrant, chaotic? Would it still be New York?

That's the question at the heart of "Continuous City," a multimedia project by Brian Foo — part chapter book, part website, part art project — in which two ordinary New Yorkers wake up to a new iteration of the city each morning.

Though Foo works as a web developer, the primary product of "Continuous City" will be a decidedly old-fashioned thing: a hardcover book in 12 chapters. "Each chapter is a different version of New York, loosely told as a story of two New Yorkers going through their own relationship and making their way through how New York is transforming," Foo says.

Inspired in part by Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, in which Marco Polo tells Mongol emperor Kublai Khan tales of absurd agglomerations, "Continuous City" toys with fantastic variations in urban design, such as: What if New York were a giant checkerboard? Or a circle? In one scenario, our heroes find that New York's buildings are all stacked on top of each other, and they must adjust their lives accordingly.

"I look at New York as a third character messing with their relationship," says Foo. "They're at the mercy whenever they wake up to whatever the next iteration of New York would be."

To illustrate these metamorphoses, Foo made watercolor drawings of over 200 buildings. You can "paint" your own city with them on his site. In the end, "Continuous City" will include a book, posters, prints, shirts, and a more developed web application that allows users to craft their own permutations of New York and potentially add their own buildings as well.

Foo posted "Continuous Cities" as a Kickstarter project at the beginning of June, where it, like his previous project, "Cities of You,"  quickly obliterated its funding goals.

Insets, from top to bottom: The Flatiron Building, the MetLife Building, the New Museum. Courtesy Brian Foo.

Henry Grabar is a freelance writer and a former fellow at The Atlantic Cities. He lives in New York. All posts »

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