Italo Calvino's 'Invisible Cities', Illustrated

Lima-based architect Karina Puente has a personal project: to illustrate each and every "invisible" city from Italo Calvino's 1972 novel. The book, which imagines imaginary conversations between the (real-life) Venetian explorer Marco Polo and the aged Mongol ruler Kublai Khan has been instrumental in framing approaches to urban discourse and the form of the city. According to Puente, who has shared six drawings with ArchDaily, "each illustration has a conceptual process, some of which take more time than others." Usually "I research, think, and ideate over each city for three weeks before making sketches." The final drawings and cut-outs take around a week to produce.

They are not only drawn – I use different types of paper and draw on each one before cutting them out with exacto knives. All the drawings are composed of layers of paper which are cut out and glued.

Cities and Memories 1

Leaving there and proceeding for three days towards the east, you reach Diomira, a city with sixty silver domes, bronze statues of all the gods, streets paved with lead, a crystal theatre, a golden cock that crows each morning on a tower. All these beauties will already be familiar to the visitor, who has seen them also in other cities. But the special quality of this city for the man who arrives there on a September evening, when the days are growing shorter and the multicoloured lamps are lighted all at once at the doors of the food stalls and from a terrace a woman's voice cries ooh!, is that he feels envy towards those who now believe they have once before lived an evening identical to this and who think they were happy, that time.

Diomira. Image © Karina Puente Frantzen
Anastasia. Image © Karina Puente Frantzen
Despina. Image © Karina Puente Frantzen
Zora. Image © Karina Puente Frantzen
Isaura. Image © Karina Puente Frantzen

About this author
Cite: James Taylor-Foster. "Italo Calvino's 'Invisible Cities', Illustrated" 27 Jan 2016. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

You've started following your first account!

Did you know?

You'll now receive updates based on what you follow! Personalize your stream and start following your favorite authors, offices and users.