‘Invisible Cities’, by Italo Calvino is a book, which is necessarily found on the bookshelf of every architect. It is a marvelous collection of out of the box, descriptions of utopian, and rather weird impressions of cities by Marco Polo, and described in various ways, by actions, souvenirs, and sly examples in Kublai Khan’s court.
As architects, the book takes us on a wonderful, observant, and metaphorical journey, which leads to rethinking all the stereotypical and standard concepts of urban development, and the influence of architecture on life in the city.
There are numerous of his works, those literature lovers, and avid readers love to read and reread. These magical books somehow have a great potential to influence the creative, naïve, and keen minds of architects as well.
It is said that one would never look at the world the way they used too, once they’ve read an Italo Calvino novel. Such is the charm of this magical realist author.
Many of us have often wondered if any other works of Italo Calvino would touch the right nerves in our architect’s brains like The ‘Invisible cities’ did to open our minds, and defamiliarize and rethink the contexts?
This short article will answer this query on point, and then leave you with an intrigued mind to start reading right away. Note: Not all of them are not directly related to architecture, but not even architecture is only about architecture.
Collection of Sands
The collection of sand – essays by Italo Calvino is a collection of essays, journalistic pieces, witty and detailed observations, and travel diaries, in which he describes a unique approach. It is a direct influence of his visits to Japan, Iran, and Mexico.
Among all the reviews, this one by Benjamin Wallace resonates most “His thoughts on life and his travels might change the way you look people in the eye, might change the way you look at art, or trains, or statues. His thoughts might do nothing for you at first, and then suddenly you may have a grain of sand in your palm which holds all the thoughts of all grains of sand ever to have existed.”
This collection of essays is an insight into travel and culture to those regions through the dreamy eyes of Italo Calvino.
Mr. Palomar –
Calvino’s works are not mere fiction, but one that leaves an impression, and published at the times, when those impressions and interpretations were much needed. One such work is Mr. Palomar. Calvino has tried to re-establish the link between art and science, which seemed to be lost during the postmodern times, through the story of this seemingly unusual person, who looks at the sky, his lawn, the sea, starlings, tortoises, Roman rooftops, a girl, giraffes and much else, and wants only to observe, to learn a modest lesson from creatures and things. But there seems to be too much to grasp.
Before architects, Architecture was also an amalgamation of art, science, mathematics, and empathy, which seems to be distorted, after the division of roles, among architects, and engineers, and artists. Architects seem to be lost in the creative competitions, thus disturbing the equilibrium between the above-mentioned foundation stones. Thus this book comes as a favor to this postmodern and contemporary era, to rethink the direction that we are moving in, and bring architects close to the lapsed basics.
Marcovaldo: or The Seasons in the City Background
We architects come across various people, yet a figment of empathy remains unrealized. Marcovaldo in these short stories shall take you to the depth of the heart of an innocent person, who expects nature out of unreal, urban life as a metaphor, and thus missing his rural home. It is a story of how surroundings, homes, and cities shape us and generate aspirations, inspirations, and imaginations.
The book encourages a dive into the depth of this character’s life and gives the architects satisfaction, by highlighting the surprising rewards of nature that the city offers to Marcovaldo, in return for his yearning. The Mushrooms sprout out of the cement in ‘Mushrooms in the City, the sky suddenly opens wide in ‘Park-Bench Vacation’, the moon shines brighter than the neon signs in ‘The Moon and GNAC.’ to name but a few.
The most real part about the book is that Marcovaldo is not some realist hero figure, but the same pessimistic and sometimes cynical person, struggling through life, as we are. With Calvino’s art and this amazing story, it might introduce the world to you in a different way, which is exactly what we architects long for.
If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino
Italo Calvino has been described as, “one of those storytellers, who hold up a mirror up to nature, and then write about the mirror.”
As beautiful as this statement sounds, it is ferociously true. ‘If on a winter’s night a traveler is one such book, about a reader trying to read a book. The chapters are divided into two phases, the second part of each chapter describes the contents of the book in the discussion, whereas the first part describes the desperate attempts the reader makes to acquire and read that book.
Although it is not about architecture, it has an intriguing drift of dimensions; The kind that leads the mind to feel like a passenger in a rollercoaster ride, yet peaceful. The layers of contexts, and the layered interpretation of a reader’s mind, would definitely relate to the empathic brain of an architect, and lead it to admire the utter beauty of the book and the book within. These works have the potential to push just the right creative and sensitive buttons of an architect’s mind, to change the perception and approach to everything that is created. Apart from it, they are an overwhelming source of entertainment and awe, to keep following the world of words.