Your Tuesday: Opus Musivum

“Now is the winter of our discontent; made a glorious disappointment with the lockdown speech, ”as the bard would say today. As we gather indoors, in various states, surrounded by failed quarantine plans and vaccine (st) deployment, we need a positive plan to lift our spirits.

So, I have a little design puzzle for you, in the spirit of last week’s discussion of Edward De Bono’s lateral thinking. Below, a short story in the style of Italo Calvino’s book Invisible cities, describing a hypothetical town. Your task is to draw the city map from the story reading, which is full of word games and literary clues.

To solve this problem, it may help to know that it was written for students of architecture and that I used it as a first project during the ten years that I taught the first year in three schools of architecture. different. I should apologize in advance to the 750+ former students (some are now teachers themselves) for whom this can bring back the horrors of their loss of innocence in their first year.

This puzzle was a key starting point for a radical reorganization of the way architecture education began. After discerning the city plan, the students designed buildings in the city, analyzed aspects of urban design and planning, refined their buildings and interiors; all during their first semester. But more so next week, when I unveil the plan and the controversial agenda that followed.

For now, here’s the story.


At dawn, traveling north, Axel and Ingrid stumble upon the south gate of Opus Musivum, a town that offers a different path for everyone in its intended streets. Within its four square walls, the plan adopts an order established for a time of kings and queens, bishops and knights, but includes an avenue against the tide. Today, at the start of the 21st century, it is a compact and understandable city, a combination of traditional urban design and contemporary architecture.

This gate, one of the four, is three-quarters west on the city wall and offers several paths. Axel’s path is Opus Avenue, a large street heading NNE through Central Park to another gate, in an inverted position on the north city wall. This avenue takes him through all sectors of the city, revealing the contrasts of the city but not its secrets.

Taking a different path, Ingrid will cross her path several times. She heads north 2 blocks and sees the art gallery on the northeast corner and the university in the blocks to the west. It turns east along Hologram Street, passes the gallery and crosses Axel’s path to the museum (in two parts) and then to the library, also sharing the park frontage. Next comes the cathedral. To its right is a mix of SoHo galleries, cafes, shops and housing (and used car parks).

It circles the cathedral on the port side and heads north between the Parliament (left) and the courthouse (right). In the city blocks to the east are the civil service, police, prison, and commercial and corporate headquarters. She turns left again halfway, heading west between Parliament and City Hall, she enters Central Park and meets Axel at the central fountain.

He went beyond the Sanctuary, the Statuary and the Rotunda, discerning the work of two landscape hands, one Boullée, the other Rousseau, dividing the Park as the Avenue divides the city. Looking south, they see that the facades of the library and the museum are of two different orders. Axel continues.

Ingrid sees an inverted Lion and WW in the fountain basin, and heads west to enter the manufacturing district: a Constructivist carpet of jagged roofs, cranes, and antennae extending to the city ​​walls. Passing between marked towers, it turns north towards the stadium and the hospital. Walk between them until the next intersection, looking left is the PoMoHo walkway.

To the northwest, she looks at the apartment towers, but Ingrid turns right and is almost run over by an ambulance at the entrance to the hospital emergency room. On one side, it passes in front of the shopping center that faces the park, on the other is a bohemian district of discount stores all the way to the port. Between the buildings decorated with flags and panels, she sees water and docks.

She walks towards Axel, meets him with two flat irons housing the opera and the cinema. To the east is the film studio. Axel continues and sees the harbor on the left beyond the cinema, while Ingrid admires the film school to her right as she walks towards the apartments north of the shopping district.

As she walks past the film school, she can see north to the gate and the sea beyond. Meeting with Axel at the door they passed between the buildings making a colorful finale. They leave a city of six sectors and wander east along the shore, the city lights shining in the enveloping twilight.


Tone Wheeler is Senior Architect at Environa Studio, Adjunct Professor at UNSW, and President of the Australian Architecture Association. The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and are neither owned nor endorsed by A + D, AAA or UNSW. Tone does not read Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Linked In. Reason is preserved by reading and responding only to comments sent to [email protected]

About Margaret L. Portillo

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