About Philomena

Philomena is a meditation on the city, told through a series of illustrations, maps, and encounters. The imaginary cities rendered here explore concepts of urban form, some precedented, others speculative. Each vignette is rooted in an idea about the city – how they grow and change over time, how as artifacts they encapsulate the throes of fortune, time, and politics, how one might have dreamt them to be different.

An allegory for the undiscovered country, Philomena is partly inspired by the folio of 16th century German cartographers Georg Braun and Frans Hogenberg. Their six-volume work, Civitates Orbis Terrarum, depicts a world whose cities are growing and shrinking like great and complex organisms, each a variation and divergence on the same theme. The prose of Italo Calvino, the miniature towns of Lynonel Feininger, and the accounts of dreamers and wanderers exploring strange and unknown continents have all served as inspirations as well.

The name Philomena has been borrowed from an old livestock carrier I saw one morning in the Wallabout Bay of Brooklyn. It bore the name Falconia, but under heavy coats of white paint, the old name, Philomena, was still visible. That name, far more lovely but now erased, has been given to this invented country.