Floating City · Imaging and Data Visualisation

Floating City Research

Before delving into my own concepts of floating cities, I did some research on the subject to see how other artists and creators approached developing their own designs. I also looked into my own experiences with “floating cities” in the media, for example referring back to references of these within video games I had played or films and TV shows.

City in the Sky – The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006)



Image source – “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess“(2006) – http://architectureofzelda.weebly.com/the-city-in-the-sky.html

In “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess“(2006) there is a great example of a floating city known as the “City in the Sky” which is situated floating above the city of Hyrule, looking back at this was certainly nostalgic for me. Logical mechanics such as propellers below the city to keep the dungeon afloat could also be replicated in our floating city’s design, it would give our concept a reason why it’s levitating more so than just relying on magic. As a cause of its elevated height, one of the key themes throughout this Zelda dungeon was wind, the player would then use elements such as gusts of wind to try and progress through the floating fortress. Molly had researched how renewable energy such as wind turbines were a huge source of Ireland’s power, these statistics could also link into the floating city concept.

However despite the city’s complicated infrastructure and knowledge of mechanics in contrast to other cities within the game, the “city in the sky” has been described as primitive and abandoned. “The reason for this decline is currently unknown, but the civilisation that built this place was consummately skilled with technology. It is highly futuristic in design, drawing from modern day science fiction for many of its elements. ” Talbot (no date)

But also according to legend, long ago there was a race even closer to the gods, and some say THESE creatures made the Hylians. When they created the people of Hylia, they simultaneously created a new capital, a city that floated in the heavens. They dwelt there…and some scholars believe that this race lives there still, somewhere in the great sky.“— Shad (The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess)

Angel Island – Sonic the Hedgehog

Image left – “Angel Island” Sonic Adventure (1998)

Image Right – “Angel Island” Sonic X (2003)

Keeping up with the nostalgia train, I delved deeper into some more of my favourite games when I was younger and I had to mention my childhood hero, Sonic the Hedgehog, and the series of video games and media that followed. “Angel Island” was one of the key locations in my favourite TV series “Sonic X” (April 6, 2003 – March 28, 2004), it’s design and lore in the franchise is a hard one to forget. The island had the ability to fly due to the power of the six chaos emeralds, however if the master emerald was removed, the island would then fall. Hence why Knuckles the Echinda was in charge of guarding the master emerald to protect his home. The island is huge, spanning the same size as a continent and shares the same name of a real island in California, “Angel Island.”

Various sources had influenced Angel Island, one of which being Nephelokokkygia (414 BC) (“Cloud Cuckoo Land”) derived from famous greek playwright Aristophanes. This of course had inspired many elements of floating cities within media, such as the Studio Ghibli film Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986)

File:Angel Island Zone, Sonic the Hedgehog 3.png

Image – “Angel Island” Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (1994)

Cloud Cuckoo Land” -Nephelokokkygia (414 BC)

Following some additional research on the inspiration for Angel Island in the Sonic franchise,  Nephelokokkygia (414 BC) (“Cloud Cuckoo Land”), I found out a lot about the origins of the concept of the floating city. The drama The Birds (414 BC) directed by Greek playwright Aristophanes, tells the story of a man who convinces the birds of the world to create a city in the sky that could bring man and the God’s closer together. It would then be called Nubicuculia or Cloud Cuckoo Land.

You’d never forget it if you’d been there. The day the clouds came to life. Everyone laughed at first. Thought it were a big joke. Didn’t last.Nephelokokkygia – Cloud Cuckoo Land (414 BC)

I never realised how much this play had taken affect in modern culture, for example the term of someone peculiar being described as ‘cuckoo’ or in ‘cuckoo land’was actually coined from the Greek play. I really like the idea of creating a place with some really strange customs and traditions in homage to the play and the many creations it inspired.

Image – http://wordhistories.com/2015/02/17/cloudcuckooland/

“Columbia” – Bioshock Infinite (2013)

File:The Flying City of Columbia.pngFile:IcvVsbvZFQcYq.jpegFile:Oct22-Screen03.jpgFile:Ff bioshock5 ss.jpg

Images – “Columbia” – Bioshock Infinite (2013)

In regards to a really well designed floating city environment, “Columbia” really takes the biscuit, it’s complexity extends to deeper meanings more so than it’s pretty exterior, it is a corrupt city surrounded by beauty. In Bioshock lore, the city floats above the North American continent due to the scientific discoveries of fictional physicist ‘Rosalind Lutece.’ Columbia is a city submersed in religion and specific ideals, more so if you don’t fit these ideals you can succumb to racism and segregation from society. Reactors, propellers and balloons help give Columbia it’s ability to float, but quantum levitation allows objects to be suspended indefinitely.

Quantum leviation refers to when a superconductor repels a magnet, thus making an object levitate, or in this instance, the city of Columbia. “One of the key properties of superconductors is that it hates magnetic fields, And so the superconductor “repels” the magnet” Sachdev (2014)


Talbot (no date) The city in the sky. Available at: http://architectureofzelda.weebly.com/the-city-in-the-sky.html (Accessed: 13 February 2017).
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006) Directed by Eiji Aonuma [Video Game]. Nintendo.
City in the sky (2006) Available at: http://zelda.wikia.com/wiki/City_in_the_Sky (Accessed: 13 February 2017).
Angel Island (2016) Available at: http://sonic.wikia.com/wiki/Angel_Island#Trivia (Accessed: 26 February 2017).
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (1994) Directed by Sonic Team [Video Game]. Sega Genesis.
Sonic Adventure (1998) Directed by Sonic Team [Video Game]. Sega
Sonic X (2003) Directed by TMS Entertainment [TV Series]. Sega
Maher, R. and profile, V. my complete (2010) Nephelokokkygia*. Available at: http://eponymistuk.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/nephelokokkygia.html (Accessed: 26 February 2017).
Nephelokokkygia (414 BC) Directed by Aristophanes [Play]
Cloudcuckooland (no date) Available at: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Cloudcuckooland (Accessed: 26 February 2017).
(No Date) Available at: http://www.livescience.com/48140-physicist-demonstrates-levitation.html (Accessed: 26 February 2017).
Columbia (no date) Available at: http://bioshock.wikia.com/wiki/Columbia (Accessed: 26 February 2017).
Bioshock Infinite (2013) Directed by Ken Levine [Video Game]. 2K games.

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