The Book Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino is a classic modernist novel yet has had a widespread popularity that elevates it above most books of its type and has come to have an enduring influence among artists and architects.
It’s a staple for architecture students and architects alike, but why is it so popular and what’s so interesting about it? After all it may not seem on first sight to be particularly relevant to the practice of architecture as although it proports to be about cities it’s actually a magical realist book whose cities are dreamlike creations. A post modern novel with little plot and seemingly a much more poetic dreamlike quality.
But on starting to read and being drawn into the novel I think it becomes apparent why this has become such a touchstone for creative thinking about design and cities and why many architects love it so much, me included.
Before the review I will give some background and have a more detailed look at the structure of the book. This I feel is really important because of the way the book was written. The structure of the book in fact, is an integral part of the beauty of its beauty.