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François Schuiten: Imagining the Perfect Cities of Dreams

François Schuiten

François Schuiten is one of my favourite comics artists. Born and resident in Belgium, his series Les Cités Obscures, or The Obscure Cities, contains some of the most awesome artwork and concepts to be found in comics anywhere.

Obscure city

Inspired by his brother, an architect, and the work of Jules Verne, M. C. Escher, and the architectural visions of Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta and Étienne-Louis Boullée, his series, created with his friend Benoît Peeters for the Belgian monthly comics magazine (À Suivre), is a collection of stories, each one about a city or building.

It is a fabricated world where architects, urbanists, and ultimately "urbatects", are the leading powers and architecture is the driving force behind society.

Schuiten artwork

His work is not confined to books, however. He also designed the metro stations of Porte de Hal in Brussels and Arts et Métiers in Paris. He designed the scenography for A Planet of Visions, one of the main pavilions of the Hannover World's Fair, which attracted more than five million visitors.

His draughtsmanship is without parallel in comics, with a high level of architectural accuracy combined with a mind-boggling imagination.

Schuiten book covers

Some Schuiten book covers.

Studying his imagery gives rise to many thoughts on what cities could be and should be like. He even designed a city on biomimicry proinciples - a regenerative city if you like, Vegetal:

Vegetal city

Vegetal city.

Schuiten artwork, greening the city

François Schuiten artwork, greening the city.

This vision is realised with his architect brother, Luc Schuiten. For Luc, nature is a model in the design of a new construction method he calls "Archiborescence", combining architecture and tree to make buildings whose materials are mainly forms of living organisms.

His work, together with that of his brothers, has inspired others such as the architect Olivier Dain Belmont to visualise sustainable cities:

vision of green city by Olivier Dain Belmont

This is an extract from the concept of Archiborescence by Luc Shuiten:

The discipline of architecture has developed in a process diametrically opposed to living organisms. To build is to destroy everything before, on a portion of nature, and remove all traces of life, to deposit instead dead materials in geometric order.

Have we not too quickly forgotten that we are above all biological beings settled on a planet itself alive?

To find our bearings, we would first redevelop a local environment designed also as a living organism, kind of intermediate stage between the planet and us. But to do this, we must find new raw materials stripped as possible of the artifices of industrialization as the price to pay for this type of development inevitably leads to depletion of the earth.

The development of archiborescent cities would have a major impact on the quality of our environment by removing pollution; we would benefit in many powerful ways from such an approach.

François Schuiten's work is being published in English by Alaxis Press, who can be found here. Treat yourself to a book this Christmas!