Amy Casey and Biological Buildings

Amy Casey paintings of building tissues

Amy Casey Building Tissues

Amy Casey Building Tissues

It’s not out of the ordinary to hear architects talk about the urban fabric that gives rise to a project. It’s an evocative analogy to talk about the city as a kind of woven, knitted or quilted blanket– these analogies work because they suggest methods of their assembly, continuity and/or cohesion. The trouble is that blankets don’t bring much action to a picnic: they mostly cover things, and sometimes trap heat to help us fall asleep. Urban fabric? Snoozeville.

A better analogy, and one I couldn’t stop imaging looking at these paintings is of an urban tissue. Not facial or toilet tissue, but the kind we have in our bodies: the groups of cells that work together to serve some function. The advantage over fabric analogies is that tissue analogies suggest some compositional make up, a morphology and most importantly: function. Our cities and towns don’t just blanket over natural features but are vibrant and responsive organisms that can be injured by natural or man-made disaster and atrophy (Detroit), recover (New Orleans) or grow (Austin). And like humans our cities can develop cancer (suburbs).

In all honesty, these pantings are simply fantastic. Yes, the paintings above remind me of Muscle, Nervous and Connective tissue, but it isn’t necessary to play semantic tug-of-war with blankets to appreciate the imagination and skill that went into their creation.

Here’s a video of Amy talking about her work without ever mentioning blankets or tissue.


September 16, 2011 / By