Fairytales, music, playing cards, Kama sutra, and psychiatry through the lens of architectural illustration.
The amazing Italian illustrator Federico Babina takes architecture and places it in unexpected contexts. Have you ever thought of a Zaha Hadid building through the lens of an illustrated plan? Or have you ever imagined a portrait of Dostoevsky in the form of Saint Basil's Cathedral? That's what Babina does. Strelka Magazine collected some of his illustration series to explore how unpredictable architecture can be.
This series reflects on mental illnesses such as autism, dementia, depression, dyslexia, and others, each in one single frame, represented by the ordinary symbol of a house. Might this frame represent the idea of non-stigmatisation or does it depict something else? It’s up to the viewer to decide:
On the one hand, through this series of images I wanted to make an illustrated reflection on the relationship between creativity and psychopathology. On the other hand, I tried to do an abstract exercise of translation from one language to another, from the architecture of the mind to an illustrated architecture.
I believe that psychic uneasiness, even if not in a pathological form, exists in various forms and quantities in each of us, so it belongs to our lives, and we must not stigmatise it. Sooner or later every one of us draws near to the uneasiness and the suffering derived from psychic pathologies and then realises the stereotypes and the prejudices that wind through this world. It is quite true that architecture and the spaces that we live in influence our behaviour and psychopathology: the one who plans spaces is the one who plans attitudes, behaviours, and emotional multisensorial experiences.
This series brings to life the personalities of such characters as Peter Pan, Aladdin, and Hansel and Gretel. They are represented both in macro- and micro-perspective, so it is possible to get some idea of their stories.
In this series Babina analyses designs of 25 of the greatest architects like Zaha Hadid, Le Corbusier, Carlo Rossi, Peter Eisenman, and others. He abstracts from and minimises the designs to make them look like simple geometrical symbols and labyrinths:
The architectural plan is a formula to order the anarchy of space. Plans are like the signatures of architects and can reveal conceptual details of the artistic and aesthetic personality of their authors. So sometimes it’s like studying graphology. Asymmetries and symmetries, curved lines and straight lines, solids and voids, sounds and silences, lights and shadows are the elements that alternate and follow each other in a geometric pattern to draw a built environment. The Archiplan illustrations are like dynamic labyrinths that, as abstract symbols, guide one’s movement through space towards an idea and interact with the architectural volume.
This series of 12 illustrations is dedicated to reimagining architecture's famous faces. If you have ever played cards, you can try to guess who is the queen and who is the knave.
Federico Babina has invented his own version of the Kama Sutra. But in his version people are actually replaced (or represented) by buildings, but this makes it no less interesting. The illustrator offers 6 different positions. This is what love in architecture really is:
It’s always fun to play with architectural forms and volumes. To interweave geometries as sculptural bodies shaking in a voluptuous architectural embrace. Many architectural constructions lean, intentionally or unintentionally, on metaphorical values and on sexual symbolism. The semantic, metaphorical, and symbolic meaning of architecture is a constant through the ages, regardless of the style and the historical period.
With these illustrations, I like to imagine an anthropomorphic architectures infused by oniric imagination and surreal themes to depict the unconscious double‐life of architecture.
These 12 images represent one way to explore not only the functional component of architecture but also its capacity for communication, highlighting the traces of sexuality and sensuality hidden between shapes, and representing the transgression and life hiding under the guise of architecture.
Here the past, present, and future are entangled and represent a parallel universe. What could architecture be if something different had happened to Norman Foster or Rem Koolhaas? Babina gives a chance to imagine the unreal.
What would the European avant-garde look like if industrial architect Louis Kahn was an artist? Would he remind one of Paul Klee? Or, what would happen if it was possible to mix Le Corbusier and Picasso's creativity? Federico Babina explored the artistic and architectural styles of the great masters and mixed them.
Lines are the essence of visual culture. This simple object forms ideas into clear and expressive complex objects. This series represents famous projects designed by Gerrit Rietveld, Rem Koolhaas, and others in the form of minimalistic lines.
In this series of illustrations, Babina tries to represent the style of famous architects in set design. This is how scenography can be inspired by architecture to shape new kinds dramaturgy.
Architecture is the scenography of the real world. They both have common elements, as both interpret a text‐project. In these illustrations, I try to transform some famous architects into the set designers of their own work. I imagine spaces set up for a performance of a show that relates to the architect’s work.
For example: stage machinery that simulates architectural illusions, which draw from the language of the characters to represent an architectural metaphor.
A virtual theatre where the scenography, architecture, light, shapes, and objects create a tiny show to make a short trip with the imagination and fantasy through an aesthetic universe inspired by architecture and some of its protagonists.
How is it possible to depict music? Is it possible to illustrate Pink Floyd's sound? Are there any basic signs or elements that allow for designing a visual code for Joy Division? Federico Babina has the keys.
Text: Ekaterina Arie