Valocea Project – sources of inspiration and the character of a city

Throughout the entirety of this project’s existence, I’ve been a frequent lurker and… not-always-so-frequent poster in a thread over at the Canadian Public Transit Discussion Board, which by the way is a pretty cool site and an invaluable resource (especially the wiki) for anyone who wants to know more about North American public transportation. The thread in question, called “Anyone create their own transit system?” and being about exactly what you’d think based on the title, has been around a lot longer than I’ve been posting there (I first posted in it during December of 2012), and is in fact what originally sparked the idea of the whole Valocea thing in the first place. As I detail out in my history post, the idea of creating a fictional transit system had a lot of appeal, but of course, I needed somewhere to put it, so I started thinking up a city, which needed to exist somewhere in the real world, so I made up a US state, and then finally I realized that for my fictional place to be part of the US meant there’d be way too many constraints on it. Thus, the country of Valocea was born, and the project expanded far beyond what I thought it would originally be. Not that this is a bad thing; I’ve enjoyed all the time I’ve spent on it and intend to follow through with the idea of creating the entire country, not just one city and a transit system, in as much detail as I can muster.

That said, with all the mapping and figuring I was doing for the nation as a whole, the original concept – developing one city (Lennvale) and focusing on transit aspects – have received relatively little attention. Recently, that’s begun to change, as I’ve picked up a “Modern City” add-on for CC3 and begun planning out how I’ll map the city of Lennvale using that. And, at the same time, I’ve been putting together notes on just what rolling stock is used by V-Net, the country’s national rail operator.

Then, a post by Ra’akone, one of the regulars in that thread, about his fascinating “future city/transit system” called Nu’u-Sara, got me thinking about this even more. In the post, he described Nu’u-Sara’s character by way of citing real Earth cities and locations that parts of his city would resemble, or that served as inspiration. I really appreciated this post, not only because it got me thinking about my own project in this way, but also because it made it possible to “see” his city a little bit better than I had before.

So I decided to put together something similar, which you can read below. This post is devoted to discussing the city of Lennvale, and trying to impart to the reader a better sense of how I envision it in my head, the kind of “feel” I want it to have as a city. Because it’s also something I’ve been thinking about lately, and because Ra’akone also dropped a few more details about makeup of his rail vehicle fleet in his post, I’ll also make a separate post for the transit and rail stuff, which will go up sometime after this one. Naturally, this all ended up being somewhat longer than I had originally intended, which should surprise no one who knows me very well.

First, for reference purposes, here is the latest full map of Valocea, which I recently posted. Lennvale is located in the Pascale region, just to the right of the center of the map (near the east terminus of that channel that bisects the mainland), occupying the large peninsula on the Sounto Sound. Here is an image that zeros in on Lennvale:

Ignore the blocky, pixelated look of the hill and mountain contours - it's like that because of how zoomed in it is. A properly made regional map of a smaller area like this would use a different scale to make everything look better.

Ignore the blocky, pixelated look of the hill and mountain contours – it’s like that because of how zoomed in it is. A properly made regional map of a smaller area like this would use a different scale to make everything look better.

The city limits are indicated by that orangeish-yellow overlay on top of the southeastern section of mainland there (and includes the three closest islands that also have that transparent color on them). Now, this area isn’t completely done – I will definitely be adding more rivers, possibly some more hills or mountains, and the exact shape of the city limits along the western border may change. That said, it’s not going to change drastically, so this should remain pretty accurate going forward.

The city covers a total area of 909.42 square kilometers (including the three islands; also note that that number does not exclude water areas, so the exact square km total will fluctuate a bit as I continue to work on creating the city in more detail. Still, the total area will stay in the general range of “around 900 square km”). You can also see in the image where the main downtown sector is, right along the upper river (which would be roughly as wide as the portion of the Hudson River that flows between Hoboken, NJ, and Manhattan, though that’s not set in stone yet – regardless it won’t be anywhere near wide enough for you to be unable to clearly see the other side), with the west bank being the “primary” core, where the main transit hubs and majority of the taller office and other buildings are. Lennvale Central Station, often considered the “main” transit hub of the city due to how many rail lines (urban and passenger) pass through it in addition to being the primary terminus for a number of long-distance express bus routes, sits in the middle of the “transit core”, which is a series of north-south running stations serving buses, urban rail services, commuter and intercity rail, which are situated along the river. The east bank would be split between additional office buildings, retail complexes, and a large riverside park that would stretch along a good portion of the bank. Downtown was originally going to be right on the east coast of the peninsula the city is on, but I realized I wanted it to be closer to the geographical center of the city; it not only made more sense in terms of how I’m envisioning the flow of transit pathways through the city, but also makes for a more interesting area with the downtown being split between the two riverbanks.

While Lennvale wouldn’t have quite the kind of variety within it that Nu’u-Sara does, it still would have a decently wide set of architectural styles; in particular, a very noticeable old/new mix, due in part to the fact that the current city of “Lennvale” was created by merging several existing, growing cities at the time and naming them after the largest/so-far most successful one (this would have occurred sometime around 1900). So its origins come from several cities, some of which would have had slightly different styles. On top of that, a major disaster event that occurred in the city during the late ’50s or early ’60s (not sure of the exact time frame nor type yet, though given Valocea’s location, an earthquake is certainly a possibility, potentially involving fires and/or flooding as well as a result of the quake) destroyed a good number of buildings, necessitating a complete rebuilding of some parts of the city. The hardest hit areas were the the downtown core, the northeast area (from where the river flows out into the sound and stretching east from there toward the coast), central south, and southeast. So, those portions look very modern, as they are dominated by structures constructed after that event.

Now I’ll begin to get into describing some specific areas of the city, using links to images, all of which are hosted on Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons and all of which have sharable CC licenses. Note that I’m linking to the information page for the image, which shows the author/photographer, license information, etc. Click on the image itself once on that page to see the full-size version. Note also that none of these images were chosen randomly – they weren’t just the first image I could find by searching Wikipedia for the city in question. Each of these images is one that I already had in my collection of city pics/wallpapers, and each one jumped out at me as making me think “Part of Lennvale could look like this.” Obviously no part of Lenvvale would look EXACTLY like any one of these real cities, but the idea is that those specific images evoke the kinds of architecture and looks of the fictional places. So those are good visual references for what the character of the city is like in various areas.

That’s really what this post is all about: trying to describe the character of the city through a combination of text and images. My unfortunate lack of skill when it comes to drawing and/or 3D-modeling of any sort means that I won’t ever be able to create an actual image of Lennvale – of a building, or a street corner, or a park. The closest I can get are the maps that I will create in CC3. So, I must make up for that with descriptions, and of course, with images from real places that make me think of Lennvale, that make me say, THIS is the kind of look that this or that part of the city would have. So, without further ado:

For a “visual” of the core of downtown, I’ve drawn very heavy inspiration from a few cities in particular. Vancouver, Montreal, and Calgary in Canada, as well as Melbourne and Sydney in Australia. The city has a very large number of modern public spaces (parks and other open areas), especially in/around downtown but elsewhere as well, and these are influenced by spaces in Toronto (I especially love this one for the mix of distinctly new and distinctly old architecture), Seattle, and Portland. Melbourne also shows up again as a visual influence with an absolutely gorgeous riverside park-type area (part of the east bank of the river through downtown, mentioned above, could look like this). Public spaces and dedicated pedestrian areas are plentiful throughout Lennvale, and in many Valocean cities. In many cases, major transit stops will be attached to such places, and the built up areas of the city have very wide sidewalks. There are also a good number of indoor public spaces, especially in downtown – obviously this includes locations such as public libraries, but also, there are many places like this building in downtown San Francisco (that photo, unlike all the Wikipedia page links throughout the rest of this post, was taken by me). The ground floor there is a large, open space with a bunch of tables and chairs, and anyone is free to simply come in and eat their lunch inside.

While Valocea’s cities are (logically) mostly “western” in appearance and feel, I’ve also drawn on several cities in Asia as visual inspiration. Seoul, South Korea, and the Minato Mirai district in Yokohama, Japan, provide further ideas for outdoor public spaces. Both of those photos depict really beautiful locations, and there’d definitely be some spaces like that in Lennvale (especially the Yokohama one, given how much room for waterfront space there is in Lennvale. The look of the grassy area right along the water, with the pedestrian bridge to the left and ultra-modern high-rise buildings in the background, is extremely Lennvale-esque). And speaking of Seoul, the buildings in Samsung Town are awfully slick – there would be some really modern ones like that (no doubt the most recently constructed buildings of the area) in downtown Lennvale. And I can’t pass up Singapore’s spectacular modern downtown waterfront sector.

Melbourne also provides additional inspiration specifically for a modern waterfront business district (the rebuilt northeast Lennvale waterfront area, which would be a secondary CBD/city center located outside the main downtown core, could look like this). Lennvale’s port would no doubt be a major one – I’m not sure of the exact location, but along the southwest coast is a strong possibility. The port of Vancouver provides some inspiration here (though it is worth noting, given the mass of double-stacked freight rail cars visible in the lower portion of this image, that double-stacking containers on freight cars is an uncommon practice in Valocea, unlike in Canada or the US). Vancouver’s beautiful English Bay also serves as a reference for what other parts of Lennvale that sit on a major coast or waterway could look like. Modern buildings for facilities such as libraries, hospitals, and universities would be fairly common in the rebuilt areas, in an “ultra-modern” style such as the library at the University of Vancouver, or this building in Singapore, part of the Singapore Management University.

In the west and northwest parts of the city, a considerably larger number of older buildings survived, so there’s more of a mix – buildings of different styles and ages sit next to one another more frequently compared to the more heavily rebuilt areas. One city that comes to mind for this kind of thing is San Francisco, which is specifically known for having several different architectural styles in the same city, and often on the same block, as in these two photos (again, like the SF photo above, these were taken by myself). Another city that Valocea’s old-new architectural mix could evoke is (again) Montreal. And then there are sections of the city where even less rebuilding took place, with a greater number of older structures being preserved and restored over the years; in these areas, distinctly modern looking buildings are uncommon. Given that much of Valocea’s earlier architecture was heavily influenced by Europe, visual cues for those areas come from such cities as Paris and Strasbourg in France, as well as the ridiculously charming Quebec City in Canada (which obviously isn’t in Europe, but certainly looks like it could have been), and one more time, parts of Montreal.

In terms of specific architectural styles for older buildings, there are a lot that are in the Renaissance revival and Neo-Baroque/Second Empire styles when it comes to large buildings (universities, libraries, government centers, hotels, financial institutions), along with Art Deco (fairly common for apartment buildings) and some Neoclassical as well. Also, I really like the capitol building and surrounding area in Madison, Wisconsin (speaking of neoclassical). Unfortunately, the best photos I’ve seen of this area (a couple of truly magnificent aerial photos of the downtown Madison area centered on the capitol building) are not licensed for “general” use – they are part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s photo library, so I’m not linking to them. Here is a pretty good photo from Wikipeida of the actual capitol building itself, and a view of it from nearby downtown Madison. Lennvale is the capital of its Region (Pascale), thus I’ve envisioned a building and area that would be really reminiscent of that, probably in the northern area of the city. Another older governmental building that I’ve found inspiring is the absolutely magnificent, positively Castlevania-esque city hall in Montreal. Some buildings like this would definitely have a place in the parts of Lennvale (and elsewhere in Valocea) where older buildings still stand. In terms of smaller buildings (housing, retail storefronts, etc), the above-mentioned Quebec City and Montreal provide a lot of inspiration for the older parts. I’m less sure of the name of the architectural styles represented in those photos – I think there is some colonial in there? Some “Tudor Revival” style houses would also be present.

Of course, spread throughout the city would also be a large number of what could be called “ordinary” buildings and houses (ordinary for North America, anyway). Stuff like your average houses or apartment buildings in your average American or Canadian city (Wikipedia references a “Neo-eclectic” style for houses that is definitely along the lines of what I’m talking about, as well as “bungalow” homes). Generally, such dwellings would be more present in areas harder hit by the disaster. One style that’s common in parts of the US (very much so in California) is the “Ranch-style” house – this would actually be pretty uncommon in Valocea, because space is at a bit more of a premium. It’s not an extremely densely populated country, but certainly much more so on average than the US (which has a country-wide population density of just 32.35 people per square km, according to Wikipedia. This contrasts against Valocea’s country-wide average density, which hasn’t yet been decided for certain but will be somewhere in the range of 130-140 people per square km). Lennvale isn’t quite as crowded for the most part as New York (excluding the downtown core, which can be quite crowded, of course), but it is more crowded, and less sprawling, than say, the greater Los Angeles area. This is true of not just Lennvale itself, but also the surrounding cities, large and small, and holds for many metropolitan areas of Valocea. Terraced Houses (New York city’s “brownstones” are a relatively well-known example of this), which save on space, are not as common in Lennvale as in NYC, but there are still a decent number of neighborhoods containing them. The size and style of the city’s numerous apartment complexes would depend on the location (again, the closer it is to where the disaster incident did the most damage, the more likely it is to be a newer building), which would determine the age and type. Multiple types can be found throughout the city, from “townhouses” that were once one larger house that was later converted to apartments, to complexes in older, classical buildings, to mid-20th century “ordinary” buildings, to fancy modern high-rises.

Looking back at the preceding sections, you can tell that Vancouver and Montreal have contributed a lot of influence and inspiration. You might also notice that Canadian cities, in general, are much more well represented among my various examples than United States cities. Valocea as a whole, including Lennvale, is definitely more reminiscent of Canada than the US in this regard, for the most part. When it comes to architecture, the types of styles used, the mix of old vs. new buildings, and the overall feel, I’d say that several of Canada’s most prominent cities are sort of “in-between” the cities of America and the cities of Western Europe. This is also where many Valocean cities fall when it comes to those aspects, so it’s natural that these Canadian cities have been a very heavy influence.

So there we are! It’s actually been beneficial to me to write up this post and determine what links to use – I’d collected a lot of images over time and thought, Oh, this looks like it could be Lennvale, but now there’s a more precisely arrayed set of photos that represent this big overview of what the city is like. Of course, that the mapping is coming along steadily also helps!

Next up is a (probably similarly detailed) post about the recent developments on the transit vehicle side of things.

-Saito S



3 thoughts on “Valocea Project – sources of inspiration and the character of a city

  1. you will know who I am once you read the post.
    I just wanted to let you know that this post right here has influenced me to or more detail into my city, New Stafford. Very detailed. I can “see” what Lennvale looks like. I’m starting to do that more, and making more mental notes.

    • You’re right, I DO know who you are now that I’ve read the post! President of the Atlantic Islands, right? XD

      Anyway, I’m glad my post was able to serve as inspiration of sorts! Once I started on this, it became pretty fun to pick out photos of different areas that reminded me of Lennvale in this way or that. The hard part was choosing just which images to include!

  2. Pingback: Valocea Project – history of public transit during the late 20th and early 21st centuries (part 1) | Saito Nexus

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