Federico Babina’s illustrated series / by stephanie calvet

CITY-01_905 Here’s a random injection of colour into your day from a guy who has unlimited material to draw from. Italian architect and graphic artist Federico Babina turns out dozens upon dozens of illustrations exploring the intersection of architecture and related design fields. His prolific collection of work straddles contemporary art, cinema, and music – even zoo animals. The roster in each series he produces reads like a kind of architectural Who’s Who: ‘starchitects’ like Jean Nouvel and Zaha Hadid feature prominently, as do modernists Oscar Niemeyer and Corb.

’A’ is shaped by the scooped profile of Alvar Aalto's Riola Parish Church roofline.

In the series entitled Archibet, Babina applies his interpretation of famous architects’ signature styles to lettering. He describes each letter as a “small surrealist building that becomes part of an imaginary city made up of different shapes and styles, all speaking the same language of architecture.” His illustrated alphabet is composed of these 26 individual works of art: ‘A’ is shaped by the scooped profile of Alvar Aalto’s Riola Parish Church roofline; ‘B’ is transformed by the deeply saturated spiritual spaces of Luis Barragán; and, Norman Foster’s technical prowess is captured in a monolithic, metallic ‘F’.

’B’ is transformed by the deeply saturated spiritual spaces of Luis Barragán.

The artist has honed a colourful illustration style that recalls vintage movie posters. To create his images he combines a collage of different techniques, from hand drawing to 3-D modelling and other visualization programs. For me, Babina’s whimsical studies summon up renowned American illustrator Charley Harper’s highly stylized wildlife illustrations, which capture the essence of his subjects with the fewest possible visual elements.


Babina continues his architecture-themed series with Archimusic, imagining architectural compositions inspired by famous musicians’ hit songs and styles. Here too, his selection of artists runs the gamut from classical music composers, to rock legends, to contemporary singer-songwriters. Among the twenty-something illustrations is a hot red electric guitar-shaped building in the characteristic style of Jimmy Hendrix and one that echoes the repetitive structures of Philip Glass’ music.

Babina draws structures inspired by musicians’ hit songs, style, and album art.

Babina is the Barcelona-based illustrator who produced Archicine, posters featuring iconic architecture from classic movies. His retro graphic style offers a fresh interpretation of the places where some of our favourite characters lived, such as the ultra-modern, ultra-unfriendly Villa Arpel in Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle, and the striking mid-century redwood abode in A Single Man.

Babina’s version of Villa Arpel, the ultra-modern geometric house in <em>Mon Oncle</em>

Everything gets even further distilled in the series Archipixel. Here, the artist pairs famous architects and their buildings and renders them as pixelated cartoons, like vintage video game characters. The idea of the project, according to Babina, is to “represent the complexity of the forms and personalities through the simplicity of the pixel."

In Archipixel, Babina pairs famous architects and their buildings and renders them as pixelated cartoons. Here, Le Corbusier and the chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp are distilled down to the most basic technology, like vintage video game characters. According to Babina, the idea of the project is to “represent the complexity of the forms and personalities through the simplicity of the pixel.”

Switching gears entirely, Babina also imagines a new life for iconic buildings from the Catalan capital in his highly detailed Immaginario series. The Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (Richard Meier), Torre Agbar (Jean Nouvel), and the once-controversial Forum Building (Herzog & de Meuron) are wholly (re)contextualized here...

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While architecture junkies can collect prints and posters of Babina’s work, the artist has plans to turn his illustrated architectural series into a book. Check out his extensive portfolio at http://federicobabina.com/

NOTE: If you need to brush up on your architecture ABCs, this lively animation by architect Andrea Stinga and graphic designer Federico Gonzalez may help. The video depicts the best-known buildings of 26 famous architects, one for each letter of the alphabet.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/56974716]