In Focus: Novigrad

Monday, 2 July 2018

This is the third in a set of updates that focus in on some of the iconic virtual cities that will feature in The Continuous City, and how they have been photographed to reveal them in a new light.

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When I decided to include the city of Novigrad from CD Projekt Red's The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt I knew immediately which sections of the book the city would be split between. In The Continuous City, I divide urban game spaces into a set of 9 typologies in order to explore how cities in games share the same structures and patterns. These 9 are divided into three parts, the first part including Outskirts, Pathways, and Entrances;  the second being Towers, Houses, and Networks; and the third being Nests, Ruins, Sanctuaries. Novigrad is a city so easily condensed into Towers and Pathways. Yes it may contain houses of all kinds, and the occasional sanctuary, but Novigrad is a city dominated by the romantic relationship between the path and the tower.   

 

Perhaps that is because Novigrad is not so much a city inspired by the medieval cities themselves, but instead by images of them, the paintings and etchings that shape how we see these spaces. These works, often later than their historical period, look back with a certain anachronism—they bring a romantic eye to a medieval time. Novigrad is shaped by the patterns of these images, which relied heavily on a balance of pathways to lead the eye, and towering landmarks to fix it in place. In a similar sense, much of Novigrad is shaped for the player to pass through, a body of medieval urban space meant to be passed through on the way to a landmark, not lingered over and studied. 

But lingering over, and studying Novigrad is exactly what I did, bringing a new "out-of-time" perspective to this anachronistic city. The photographer's eye is a different one to the painter's, and in my photography of Novigrad I brought a distinctly modern perspective to a medieval place. I didn't want to capture the city's architecture just in its mythic, romantic mode, but in its intimate, layered structure as well. Of course, it is impossible to escape the romantic nature of towers and pathways, the way they lead the feet onward and the eye upward, but I was able to play against these traits, to muddy them with the grain of an analogue camera that had no place in this digital recreation of pre-digital streets. This is a new Novigrad then, one adapted for our new eyes, and revealed for what it is, a history that never was, a city of false mud and weightless stone. 

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More updates on the cities that will be broken down across the sections of the book will follow in the coming weeks, so make sure to follow the campaign or pledge above to keep in touch.

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