Images of Utopian Texts
Illustration for Mary Griffith’s “Three Hundred Years Hence” Book written in 1836.
The Book takes place in 2136’s America, Philadelphia, New York and Pennsylvania. She imagines a world ruled by Women power, where there is no war, crimes, and racism. There are autonomous vehicles powered by a machine that does not use oil or steam and those machines are used for farming, transportation and other hard labour works. The streets are wide, clean, regular and every neighbourhood has its own green park. She describes future New York as a revival of Greek culture and max. two or three storey buildings due to big fires that happened two centuries before. Besides, railroads are everywhere and are connected to each other. Autonomous vehicles – similar to private cars and air balloons with the direction wheels are used for transportation.
Illustrations based on the novel “We” by Yevgeny Zamyatin.
It is widely acknowledged that Orwell’s “1984” and Huxley’s “New Brave World” are based on this book. “We” describes a totalitarian state in the 26th century where buildings are made of glass and everything is observed by guardians and the government.
What prompted both the projects and the interest in the book? What stimulated you in translating written texts into images?
This project is developed within the context of the “Architecture and Utopia” course lead by Aslıhan Şenel and Nizam Onur Sönmez at the Istanbul Technical University, Architectural Design Graduate Program. As a result of the tutors’ motivation and vision, we were tasked to read utopian literature written since Plato’s ‘Republic’ and me and my colleague Emre Gündüz decided to study Marry Griffith’s “Three Hundred Years Hence” and Yevgeny Ivanovic Zamyatin’s “We” to analyze and then present to our colleagues.
Griffith’s book is the first Utopian novel written by an American woman and represents unique perspective towards 1800s world and their expectations. Besides, the author constantly was describing how Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and New York appeared alike in 1830s and how these cities and daily life has changed after 300 years. She describes new inventions, autonomous vehicles that are designed to replace farmers and transportation.
In “We” by Zamyatin, he describes a dystopia were buildings are made by glass and there is no privacy. The big brother is always watching you. People are living like robots, every hour and every step is designed by the government. Actually the novel could be considered as main inspiration of 1984 by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. In this book also there were many detailed description about this isolated city and their daily life.
As architects, we thought that for presentation purposes, we needed to focus on the images that we created in our mind while reading these books, trying to create the imagined landscapes of the authors through a variety of images and colors.
What is the potential of the image?
The Image could be concentrated as a representation of a story. It has the potential to combine information into one frozen moment and reflect it to the viewer. Here images are used not only to represent the architecture of the cities, but also the daily life of the characters inhabiting these worlds. I admit that however the main aim is to imagine and represent architecture that is described within the novel. Clues about transportation, workspace, living areas and most importantly the governance systems ruling these states and their consequences are also hinted to.
What defined the language of representation of the projects?
In ‘Three Hundred Years Hence’, the author describes the future od New York as one with wide avenues, two to three story buildings, and autonomous cars on rails everywhere stating New York as the revival of Ancient Greek. In order to obtain the described atmosphere, raw models and images of 1830s New York were used as background. Churches and other historical building additions were juxtaposed to obtain the parallel between Ancient Greece and New York. Sketchy textures and gray scale establish the impression of the old city whilst flying balloons and railways in villages, autonomous farming machines are used to reflect the new inventions of advanced society.
In “We”, the aim was to obtain the image looking like an alternative reality or futuristic world. Models and textures used for the city are simple and raw. Thus, a yellow sky dominates the image and hints to a ‘out of the world’ impression. All buildings are made of glass and there is an obsession for order and symmetry. The totalitarian government rules the world and the linear-simple colored images are created in order to reflect the governance and daily life of the citizens. The flying cars and “aeros” give additional impression of the futuristic and dystopian world.
What was your work process in the development of the projects? Did you first read the book and then decide to draw? Or was this a simultaneous process?
Firstly I read the books and constantly took notes especially with regards to the description of daily life and architecture. Then I sketched to construct these mental images on the paper. Next, I jumped into researching information about the book, the era, technology, models and images related to the topic. Finally by composing all found materials I attempted to model and then to edit the images until they reflected the vision created in my mind while reading those books.
What is your take to the contemporary role and abuse of the image?
As I said before, an image can represent much more information and emotions than we think. Images could be considered as a short story or movie. There could be details reflecting numerous details about life, technology, human behavior etc. In short, I think that image are the representation and frozen frames of an action, they are a valuable media for representing ideas with strong backgrounds.
In the 2st. Century human beings are considered with a fast life – they have to work fast, eat fast, travel fast. Therefore we consume images very quickly and there are tons of images without context or subtexts. Image cannot not be considered as “pretty wallpapers”, in contrary, they are a form of intellectual thought.
What are you currently working on?
I am working on my thesis which is based on “War and Architecture: How war changes the architectural characteristics of the cities”. Besides, I am still reading books which I plan to create new images about and publish a collection of images derived from stories.
Have you ever thought of inverting the process and from an image deriving a narrative?
I had a project few years ago where we were expected to design living spaces at high altitude and then write a story about the project which explored why people live at high altitudes? Wihtin this project, after finishing the physical model, I wrote a short story.
Born in 1991, Kosovo, Hadis Abdula is a first year student in Architectural Design Graduate Program at Istanbul Technical University, Graduate School of Science, Engineering and Technology. He received a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the same university in 2015. Currently he is working on his master thesis “War and Architecture” and works for an architecture office in Istanbul. He is a founder of Kraft Design Atelier located in Prizren, Kosovo and has attended various international competitions. In his spare time he enjoys reading, writing and drawing.