Some are lovable, like the Emerald City of Oz, where you can get cleaned up after a rough road trip:


 Then there are the cities which are better off as dreams – because in real life they would be nightmares. In particular, I think of the garden cities of Le Corbusier:

And then those dreamt cities which, tragically, got built:


Brasilia, the dream of Oscar Niemeyer


Albany, New York, Nelson Rockefeller


The Bronx, Robert Moses

 There are people who map imaginary cities such as these of Gramen, the capital of the equally imaginary Scania.


In the San Francisco Public Library’s online card catalogue, there are 17,455 listings that begin “City of…” including:

        City of Vice, of Ice, of Rocks, of Dust, and Ash.

 City of Dreams, of Dreadful Nights, of Dragons, of Angels, of Fallen Angels.

 Of Scoundrels, Rogues and Schnorrers, of Bad Men, of Lost Girls, and Lost Souls.

 Of Promise, of Secrets, of Whispers, of Wind, of Glass and a City of Fire.

 There’s a City of God and one of the Dead. All the way to the Lost City of Z.

Better yet, the cities in Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities from 1972 in which Marco Polo tells Kublai Khan of his visits to these cities (among others):

City Notable for
Despina Different cities if approached by land or sea
Phyllis Only the part you see at any one time exists
Moriana Behind what you see is “rusting sheetmetal, sackcloth, planks bristling with spikes…”
Octavia Built on a net over a chasm like a spiderweb
Eusapia The dead are placed in an identical city, beneath the living one

And then with the mythical city of Zobeide, Calvino comes closest to home. “They tell this tale of its foundation; men of various nations had an identical dream… and they decided to build a city like the one in the dream. The city’s streets were streets where they went to work every day, with no link any more to the dream.

Which, for that matter, had long been forgotten.”


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