Over the recent holidays I was out for a ramble here in San Francisco and happened into the shop ATYS. There I saw a handful of excellent prints from SF–based design firm Publique Living. The series, called Grafik 180 CityArt, is by the firm's principal, Lian Ng. In an effort to share what I was so happy to learn about, I decided to put a few questions to him.
How did this series of prints start, and can we expect to see more of them?
This series of artwork started in 2007 was inspired by the distinctive architectural element of buildings around the world. Whether it’s a pattern or shape that distinguishes these buildings, it is the first layer of visual iconic recognition. The cities in which these buildings reside are called out by their airport code instead of their names, creating another layer of graphic distinction. The codes also function as a beacon of destination, proclaiming the cities' association with inspiring architecture. There are now 28 in the series with more to come. I don't think there's a limit as to how many of these prints we’ll do as there are many more inspiring buildings popping up constantly. I'm working on a few at the moment and will reveal them once they are ready. There are two of us working on the designs separately, each taking on a building we like. The other designer is Jean Orlebeke. She designed the AVN, BOS, CDG, FRA, IAD (Swiss), JFK, LAX (Metro), MIA, ORD (Marina) and SFO (deYoung). I designed the rest.
Why did you choose to identify each city by its airport code?
The cities are identified by their airport codes because that's the visual code for the port of entry for anyone flying into that city; it's also a standardized three-letter code that has been established. Some of the buildings featured are not in a major city with a recognizable airport code, so the main airport for that destination is used instead of a smaller airport, i.e. FRA—that building is in Biberach—but the main port of entry is Frankfurt. NRT is not even in Tokyo, but in Chiba, and the building is in Tama City, Tokyo. There's no airport in Tokyo itself.
How did you decide on which buildings to choose for each city? In many cases you've opted for known buildings, but hardly icons of their cities.
Some buildings are iconic to the cities they represent—like the Marina Towers in Chicago, while others are a bit more obscure. The idea is to bring people's attention to those buildings or their architectural patterns, to create a sense of discovery of those hidden gems.
Each architectural graphic is a kind of abstraction, whether it leaps off of the color, or texture, or form. How did you decide what your point of departure would be for each building?
It's about looking at buildings with fresh eyes, finding an element to create a pattern or an arresting visual. There's really no set elements from a building that is used for the visual—some are from the skin, some from the ceiling and some from the internal walls.
Have you been to each of the buildings for which you made posters?
Not all of them, but I would love to!
You must sell loads of them online? Are they in many brick-and-mortar shops?
They are sold online as well as in a few stores. ATYS in San Francisco and Style Garage in Toronto carry the widest selection.