The inter-city train that Harvey (Taylor of HBT) set in motion in his incisive and characteristically exuberant presentation at the recent Shires BusinessXchange meeting has been running around my mind ever since and prompting searching questions –
Have I got the balance between Domesti and Auda right; Am I in Nebulo, when I should be in Specifi; And what about the balance between Complexi and Simpli (and here he gave us a wonderful quote from Einstein ‘Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler’); Most important of all, am I living in Authenti…?
And thinking about Harvey’s cities got me thinking about, and then re-reading, Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, that extraordinary book of imagined cities, of states of mind and experience, of dreams and desire, of images and ideas. The world, parsed through an infinite series of possibilities.
Take the ‘grey stone metropolis’ of Fedora, for example, in the centre of which ‘stands a metal building with a crystal globe in every room.’ ..
These are the forms the city could have taken if, for one reason or another, it had not become what we see today. In every age someone, looking at Fedora as it was, imagined a way of making it the ideal city, but while he constructed his miniature model, Fedora was already no longer the same as before, and what had until yesterday a possible future became only a toy in a glass globe.
On the map of your empire, O Great Khan, there must be room both for the big, stone Fedora and the little Fedoras in glass globes. Not because they are all equally real, but because all are only assumptions. The one contains what is accepted as necessary when it is not yet so; the others, what is imagined as possible and, a moment later, is possible no longer.
[Cities & Desire 4, Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, translated from the Italian from William Weaver, Picador]
And then I found this series of ravishing images, inspired by Invisible Cities. The image for Zora is above:
Zora’s secret lies in the way your gaze runs over patterns following one another as in a musical score where not a note can be altered or displaced.
See the whole set, by magic fly paula, here.
If you ask an inhabitant of Zenobia to describe his vision of a happy life, it is always a city like Zenobia that he imagines, with its pilings and its suspended stairways, a Zenobia perhaps quite different, a-flutter with banners and ribbons, but always derived by combining elements of that first model.