What would it necessitate for Britain to become a truly unified nation? A relocated capital city, perhaps? It's a question, and answer, that Bartlett School of Architecture graduate and illustrator Eric Wong sought to address in his speculative project and "blueprint for the United Kingdom" Cohesion. The series of illustrations are currently being exhibited at The Factory in London, a gallery and collaborative workspace opened last year by Factory Fifteen.
In Wong's drawings he's relocated the UK's capital from London to the center of the British Isles, the Isle of Man, and renamed it Cohesion as a nod to its aim of unifying the country. The detailed and humorous architectural illustrations imagine what this brave new capital might look like, with its suburban swan settlements, grazing sheep, and towering tectonic structures.
Wong's drawings also reflect on a Rockefeller Foundation idea that tasked 100 cities, many of them capitals, to build stronger resilience and more inclusive economies. Transferring the capital is a way to create this inclusivity, fostering greater unity and so greater resilience too. The images also take inspiration from the 1666 novel The Blazing World by Margaret Cavendish, who was the Duchess of Newcastle. In The Blazing World, the novel's heroine finds a place where diversity and inventions work in harmony, which she then applies to save the United Kingdom.
For Wong, moving the capital—not just certain government departments or industries, which is currently the case—could be the driver for real change. It could ease up pressures on London's overburdened infrastructures, its transport, and its housing. It could also redistribute wealth, shifting the focus away from the south-east of the country where a lot of the wealth and UK population resides.
Along with this, the perspective-bending artworks also apply plenty of British wit and whimsy to these ideas—referencing artists from Britain's past who have also tackled the urban landscape.
"Graphic influences were borrowed from famous British creatives who depicted a sort of romanticised and alternative urban utopia," Wong tells Creators. "The spirit of Heath Robinson's absurd yet insightful inventions through to his ingenious sense of wit helped to inform the graphic setting and design endeavor in this specific proposal. Color influences come from a variety of disciplines and creative professions from cinematography, graphic novels, illustrations, paintings through to photographers. Chris Doyle, Wes Anderson, L.S Lowry, and Henrik Spohler."
By pooling on this heritage, the illustrations imaginatively ponder difficult questions like How can Britain be a truly United Kingdom? and What is the re-imagined role of capital cities to suggest new urban cohesive typologies? Plus, they do so in an accessible and visually stunning way.
"The narrative aims to re-unite an arguably broken Britain in the 21st century, providing for the disenfranchised generation within the UK and the increasing dislocated global communities," Wong notes. "The architectural illustrations presented in Cohesion aims to encourage and speculate on new spatial programs and systems that may be fit for the challenges of the 21st century. The proposal does not seek to find a solution to current issues, but it aims to speculate on an alternative and questions the 'what if' scenario. It can be argued that the current mood in the nation is one of disappointment and uncertainty. The city Cohesion and the architectural design development and illustrations does however, posit itself as a forward looking model of confidence, solidarity and cohesion."
Queen' s Instruments
Suburban Swan Settlements, Castle and Trellick Tower Typology