Introduction: Book City

Architecture students at UC Berkeley are asked to carve a fantastical city out of an old book. With a few quick tips, you can recycle an old textbook into your own Book City.

What you will need:
1. An old book
2. An Exacto Knife
3. A Straight Edge
4. Patience
5. Clamps (optional)

Step 1: Design a City!

First, design a city. It could be based on your hometown, a city you visited, or any place you have dreamed up. I designed my city as an abstract interpretation of Zobeide, a fictional city from Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities.

I designed Zobeide through a series of iterative sketches and collages to achieve at a city plan I liked. It can be as detailed or abstracted as you would like to make it. It is helpful to start to imagine a 3D version of the city plan as the final design will be realized as a 3d object, more of a sculpture than a drawing.

Step 2: Make a Game Plan

These are a few pages from my sketchbook. The specific instructions in the image above will not be relevant to your project, but are meant to show you the type of planning that will help you succeed.

Carving a book out of a city requires a bit of planning ahead. It is a subtractive process which involves carefully excavating the book until only the form of the city remains.

It is important to consider where the city will be situated on the page, how deep you will carve, and how the city will connect to the rest of the page. As you can see, I drew out a series of sketches as a set of instructions to myself, to create a clear strategy.

It is helpful to try to anticipate problems that might arise later, instead of discovering them after already cutting through 300 pages or more.

Step 3: Start Slicing!

Once you've designed your city and developed a strategy, you are ready to dig into your book!

Though it may seem tedious, I found the most effective way to carve into a book with precision is to work on one page at a time. On each page, use your exacto knife to cut away the part of the page which you would like to excavate. You can place a piece of cardboard or a cutting mat under the page you are working on so you don't accidentally cut all the way through to the pages below. If you are cutting straight lines, be sure to run the blade against a metal ruler or another straight edge so your cuts will be as straight as possible.

It is important that your cutting area aligns from page to page. To achieve this, establish a repeatable grid on which to base your design. For example, your cutting area could be exactly 2" in from the edge of the book on each side. It can also be helpful to clamp the book down to the table below. Clamping will help you cut each page as carefully as possible because you can make the page very flat, and it will not shift or slip out of place between cuts. It also provides a sturdier surface to cut into.

If you are not used to using an exacto knife, I recommend going slowly at first. Be sure to cut towards your body, not away. Use light pressure, and change your blade often. The blade is extremely sharp, so take note of where your fingers are so you do not accidentally cut yourself.

Be careful, go slowly, and be patient!

Step 4: Crank Up the Tunes

As you can possibly imagine, slicing through hundreds or thousands of pages can be a repetitive process that takes a huge amount of time to complete. You'll need a great playlist to help you push through when you feel like giving up. Here is mine:

My Book Slicing Playlist:

1. P.Y.T. (Michael Jackson)
2. You Go Down Smooth (Lake Street Dive)
3. Tears Dry On Their Own (Amy Winehouse)
4. Make Some Room (The Suffers)
5. SIgned, Sealed, Delivered [I'm Yours] (Stevie Wonder)
6. What You Don't Do (Lianne La Havas)
7. The Schuyler Sisters (Hamilton Cast)
8. Shake it Off (Taylor Swift)
9. No Problem (Chance The Rapper)
10. I Know You Know (Esperanza Spalding)
11. Hello (Erykah Badu)

Step 5: Voila!

And there you have it! Your very own Book City! Enjoy!