March 10th, 2005


On this typeface I will build my city!

For almost ten years now the British artist Paul Noble has been making intricate large-scale pencil drawings of an imaginary town. He calls it Nobson New Town, after himself. Sometimes Nobson looks like a Northern English town with lots of housing estates, sometimes it has more of a sci-fi, Sim City sort of look, complete with Disneyesque outcrops of rock and phallic Tolkein-style bridges.

Nobson is practical and detailed enough to be considered a blueprint for a real town. It has all the facilities: a chemical waste plant, a ruined castle for the tourists, and even a palace -- Paul's palace, a fantasy home for the artist, overlooking a dramatic seashore.

I don't know if Noble considers himself an architect, but as a town planner he's a great graphic designer: many of the town's basic forms are modeled on a 1970s Letraset font called Block Up. His town, should it ever be built, will be great to read from the air: as towns go, it'll make a great book.

And why shouldn't Nobson be built one day? Real architects like Rem Koolhaas started as fantasists, progressing from far-fetched books like Delirious New York to actual buildings in the city (I refer, of course, to the Prrrrrrrada store, darling). Video artist Vito Acconci now has an architecture studio and recently built a store in Daikanyama for fashion label United Bamboo. (As an architect, Acconci is a great radio presenter.) Noble has produced a book based on Nobson -- how long before he gets to build the real thing? In 3D Letraset and concrete, please.