Architecture Week: Invisible Cities

Illustration by Anna Seibæk Torp-Pedersen

At times all I need is a brief glimpse, an opening in the midst of an incongruous landscape, a glint of lights in the fog, the dialogue of two passers-by meeting in the crowd, and I think that, setting out from there, I will put together, piece by piece, the perfect city, made of fragments mixed with the rest, of instants separated by intervals, of signals one sends out, not knowing who receives them.

– Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, p.147.

Filtering stories on the online design and architectural magazine, Dezeen, by the tag ‘paper’ returns six pages of results. Click through to the earliest entry. It documents a graduate show in which a young designer has shaped an armchair from papier-mâché using pages of the Metro newspaper. One of the more recent results is a story about PaperBricks – a project by a designer living in Eindhoven called WooJai Lee, this time using newspaper to form building blocks that can become tables, benches and shelves. These designs make use of the printed page as a material of construction; attempts to contest the ephemerality of text by making it into something more substantial. As if to say, ‘printed words can be sturdy’. They can be shaped into building blocks. They can support. They can take a person’s weight.

Sometimes, literary architectural spaces can exist in more concrete terms than those made from the material itself. Some fictional lands are navigated and some imagined buildings are used more often than real ones ever are. Successive generations of children and adults alike have been led down – and in some cases have refused to leave – the corridors of J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts. The very fact that these places don’t exist