Forthcoming from Birkhäuser Vienna, applied virtuality book series Vol. 6 (Spring 2015).

By Ludger Hovestadt, Vera Bühlmann, with Sebastian Michael, Diana Alvarez-Marin, Miro Roman

from the preamble:

Orlando – figment of the imagination, ideal and idol and fallible in every way conceivable but flawless in the eye of the beholder – is given to the world perfectly formed by the gods, themselves constructs of the human endeavour to conquer the unknowable and unknown. Timeless, ageless, and deriving immense powers mostly from an indomitable spirit paired with an enquiring mind, Orlando is all human, all humanity, all humility and all pride: an articulation of the embodied consciousness we may call the experience of being alive. Not good or bad, nor beyond the pale is Orlando, Orlando is wonder and discovery and surprise; and strife for self and self-knowledge and hunger for connections that mean something; and need for identity, desire for the loss of self and urge for survival; and yearning for the tender release that is death and fear of the violent crash into the absence of life that is dying. And aching for a place in history and undoing that history bit by bit. And invention, creation, as much as destruction. And cruelty and kindness and the duality of all things polar and their fusion. And the idea of being itself. (Never even mind religion and statehood and status and tribe and the blood ties that bind and sin and redemption or even forgiveness.) Orlando is all made up which is why Orlando is real, and Orlando, of course, is ancient as much as Orlando is new. Orlando is charged by the gods – subject as they are to their own whims and fancies and with wisdom endowed no more and no less than we can conceive – to embark on a quest to The City. And so, as we go to The City, our protagonist shall be Orlando…


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from the book cover:

We are all nomads
native to the universe.

This is a stage play,
a narrative about us on the planet.
About how we relate to each other
and to the Great Masters among us.
Welcome to The City.

The views are wide open and bright.
Cities are powerful and challenging.
The heights are lofty the abysses are deep.
Take a seat!

Here’s the setting: A planet.
The generic city.
And 100% urbanism.
Raise the curtain!

Everything is connected.
Everything imparts everything.
The self and the other.
Good and evil.
Adland perfection to bad news provocation.
The burning pain of aching souls versus the purity of nature.
Catastrophe and salvation circling each other forever in their merry-go-round.
A Venetian Carnival: Masks, murder, love, perfidy and beauty.

What should I do,
if I am capable of anything
but have no idea what to do?

A Quantum City invites you to tap into the wealth of indexes belonging to our world. You get introduced to Orlando, a person with no noteworthy qualities, nor any particular properties: a human being who has not yet travelled. And it’s because of this that Orlando is singled out by the gods. He sets sail from Crete towards Athens in 320 BCE, hoping to find evidence of perfection. Throughout the book you follow him on his Odyssey through Western civilisation; though Orlando never quite ends up where she intended to go. And yet, by the time she arrives in the New York of the 1960s, all the decisions that have been made must be called hers. Orlando’s adventure is to challenge the collective origin of intellectual nature. In doing so, Orlando becomes neither an authoritarian functionary, nor a restless activist, nor a comfortable member of a bourgeoisie, but a citizen of the digital age, a Quantum Citizen.

This is not a book as you might expect. It doesn’t offer a theory about cities; rather it speaks of any theory. It is not engaged in solving problems, but it is outraged at the kind of stupidity that cultivates ignorance, at the oppressive and anonymous demand that any solid formulation of a problem should be simple. And above all it takes you onto a journey to (re-)discover The City…

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A joint research project by:

Chair for Computer Aided Architectural Design CAAD, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ETH in Zurich

The Future Cities Lab, NUS and ETH, Singapore

Research Blog with working materials: