Image and Text

Recently, the Nuance team embarked on a writing frenzy with the Palais de Justice in Brussels at its core. I say ‘team’ because while I was writing Liz was researching like only she can. It’s so very handy to have two minds instead of one. (More on the joys of collaboration another time.)

It was The Architects who first approached us about a collaboration to submit for Imagine the Future!, a competition to re-vision the Brussels Court House, and it was a really fun adventure in collaboration. I’m not sure any of us had any idea of how the final proposal would look, but it looks great, and I submitted a short story as a creative document to accompany the submission.

Our Themes? Urban narratives; flâneur; cross-sections; scientific and industrial boom; safety and sustainability; re-visioning history.

In virtual travels through the geographic, historical, architectural, and cultural world of Brussels, we encountered a number of fun images which we ultimately used to punctuate the short story.

A text should be able to stand alone without the aid of images, but in this case it seemed a fitting thing to do because we were working with architects, with the world of the visual.

We were also harking back to an era of change (late 19th century); an era on the cusp of scientific and industrial boom, where print and the media enjoyed a good wowser story, complete with line drawings or cross-sections of the fantastic new world and its inventions and natural wonders.

Our story’s narrative style was conversational, and I’d just finished reading WG Sebald’s Austerlitz (in English, not its native German) which inspired me on two levels, despite the entitled, flâneur-like posturing of its primary characters. (I know: a cheeky claim, since the book does tackle the holocaust and other Important Themes. Just a reaction to its tone.)

Austerlitz Inspiration Level 1 – the Concept: The book – a novel – was written in 2001, and the word ‘experimental’ is used to describe it because throughout the text are inserted black-and-white photographs. Nice images, too, which give the overall effect of a diary or journal: probably to continue the experience of the narrative, which describes Austerlitz’s sprawling collection of research about the architecture of buildings and their curious histories.

Austerlitz Inspiration Level 2 – the Design: It looks cool. As a wordsmith, it pays to know about Design On The Page. It pays to know how many words per line your target audience can absorb. It pays to know if the page will look aesthetically balanced; if there’s too much white space or too many different fonts. Design matters.

Our finished story ended up at around 6,000 words, with six images.

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