La fièvre d’Urbicande (1985) by François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters is the second volume in the Cités Obscures series. This was the one which captured my attention the most when I first saw it. The book opens with a foreword by the central character, Robick, chief architect of the city of Urbicande, in which he discusses his plans to unify the city’s separate halves by extending the design of the city’s southern half into the chaotic northern section.
Urbicande is built on the steeply-sloped banks of a wide river. The rational, rectilinear southern bank is exposed to the sun while the northern bank is a place of shadow and mists; traffic between the two halves is strictly controlled by the administrators of the south who fear the chaos the north represents. The style of the southern region is a superb imagining of an Art Deco metropolis, the physical and psychological opposite of the north bank which is revealed as an older place of winding lanes and dishevelled buildings. In Robick’s foreword he refers to former “masters” who happen to be people from our world: architect Étienne-Louis Boullée and architectural renderer and theorist Hugh Ferriss. Mention of Ferriss was a surprise since he isn’t so well-known outside the architectural sphere. I’ve previously discussed his Metropolis of Tomorrow which is an evident influence in the style of some of Schuiten’s skyscrapers.