Simonds’s most recent photographs of the Floating Cities architectural models are images from a narrative fiction he is writing. Excerpts of the fiction recently appeared in About Time, a co-authored book with Herbert Molderings, published by Verlag Der Buchhandlung Walther and Franz König, Cologne 2023.
Charles Simonds's Floating Cities are changing constellations of social and economic land units transferred to a water site. Although planned and managed, these maritime communities have the flexibility of a natural system, with the ability to divide and multiply their configurations much as an organic, cellular structure. This work is conceived as a critique of existing traditional economic notions of property. Simonds views these futuristic communities as alternative modes of living. Free to travel the oceans, the inhabitants would develop an
economy based on their unique relationship to the sea and their transitory interaction with fixed, land-based communities. The Floating Cities themselves would alter in time, both reflecting the defining characteristics of the inhabitants and, conversely, shaping those very characteristics as the alteration of the site produced altered states of spatial orientation.
Simonds's photomontages of the Floating Cities indicate some of the endless possible arrangements of units.
Floating Cities originated in 1972 from Simonds’ desire to provide everyone with their own ideal imaginary dwelling place.
“If you wanted to live on an English countryside and I on a South Seas island, I could provide each of us with a barge with that fantasy, we could attach them and live as neighbors until the time that we no longer wish to be together, then we could detach and go our own separate ways.”
In the 1970s this thought evolved into Floating Cities. First exhibited as “Floating Cities and Other Architectures” (Schwebende Stadte und andere Architekturen) in 1978 as the Westfalischer Kunstverein Munster, Germany; later in Genoa at the Samangallery (1978) then in Bonner Kunstverein Bonn (1978) and in Geneva at Centre d’Art Contemporain (1979) and others.
The idea took the form of a re-arrangeable architectural model (a toy), diagrams, photomontages, and a fictive text that Simonds wrote entitled “Floating Cities/Maritime Communities” in 1978. The works explored configurations of communities as a means of finding analogies with the evolution of simple aquatic organisms that exhibited early signs of specialization. Simonds developed the idea in response to news articles that appeared documenting that shipbuilders, facing a slumping market, began constructing factories in high technology locations and floating them to parts of the world where they would have been more expensive and difficult to produce.