Nova Cantabrigiensis: Plans for a Utopian island

Nova Cantabrigiensis is a utopian island, a perfect city in the Minas Basin, Nova Scotia, imagined and meticulously planned out by outsider artist John Devlin.

Devlin fell in love with the city of Cambridge, where he went to study Theology in 1979. When mental illness forced him to leave after only one year and move back to Nova Scotia, he channeled his sadness at leaving Cambridge's stunning architecture and "divine atmosphere" by designing and drawing endless sketches of a new, even more perfect version of Cambridge, where he could imagine himself living, as happy as he remembered being during his short time in the "real" Cambridge. He redesigned Cambridge's architecture and design by mixing his favourite elements of different buildings together, adding "joyful features" like lasers and rotating fountains to the mix, and by bringing in architectural motifs and ideas from other cities he admired, like Oxford and Venice. He created over 360 such drawings over the years, using ballpoint pen and Crayola crayons, often on the backs of unemployment lists and government stationary. This book collects many of these superb pieces, which offer endless details to get lost in: symbols that recur throughout; familiar buildings altered in a dreamlike, idiosyncratic way; and handwritten notes and mathematical calculations.

The following photos unfortunately don't do Devlin's drawings justice, but they at least give some idea of his style and minute attention to architectural detail:

The best thing to do would be come by the store and see it for yourself! If you'd like to read more about Nova Cantabrigiensis, you can also visit its official website:

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