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Joseph le Perdriel worked before on the EBBS.net website, since 1996 dedicated to the work of François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters. He found out that information on the internet is not forever and that great information about Les Cités Obscures was vanishing.
Altaplana was created to incorporate EBBS.net and host all information that was still available. In May 2015 also the information of the official website Urbicande.be was incorporated, after this website was stopped.
Altaplana hosts now the most comprehensive dictionary of all topics related to the Obscure Cities and its authors François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters, based on the original dictionary that was made late 90's by Sylvain St.Pierre.
The Altaplana website is not an “official” website, but it could not have become what it is today without the support and help of François Schuiten, Benoît Peeters, the people at Casterman, organisers of events and the large group of dedicated fans of Les Cités Obscures.
by Benoît Peeters
François and I have known each other since we were twelve. If not for the fact that the expression sounds a bit strange, we could say that ours is a thirty years friendship. We were in the same classroom, both newcomers. François felt too tall; I thought I was too short. He drew ceaselessly; I liked to write. We wasted no time in creating together a funny little newspaper. It was, with very little difference, the same kind of partnership as today: François handled the pictures, I was in charge of the texts, and all the rest was common to both. Mixing a bit too enthusiastically reality with fiction, our little sheet eventually brought upon us the displeasure of the faculty. The college launched another periodical, full of Latin translations and moralizing anecdotes.
We lost sight of each other for a few years. When we met again, at twenty, we were both a bit deeper in the dreams of twelve-year-olds. François drew more than ever: with Claude Renard, Benoît Sokal, Alain Goffin and a few others, he was one of the main pillars of “Neuvième Rêve” (Ninth Dream), that little group that wanted to shake the then sleepy field of Belgian comic strips. I kept writing, and had just published a tiny novel: a fake life of Claude Simon. Very quickly, we felt that we wanted to work to team up again.
At the beginning of the Eighties, on a rainy Sunday, near Laguiole, we visited together a little museum entirely devoted to the painter Augustin Desombres, a little known student of Gérôme. It is there that we first heard about the Obscure Cities. Two years later, in Brussels, we discovered a door leading to them, in the incredible maze of the municipal Courthouse. Never would we have imagined where those explorations might lead us, or the encounters that would follow. Even today, we still do not know which directions our pacing will take us to.
A few stops
The very term Obscure Cities is indicative of the privileged status granted to the city. A famous saying, attributed to the architect Luigi Snozzi, even proclaims boldly: “The countryside for the dogs and the cities for men!”
The City, as an autonomous institution and organization model, is the basis of Obscure society and the main government system, a bit as was the case in Italy for centuries. The most curious phenomenon is perhaps those strange links that tie some of our world's cities to those of the Obscure World. One can only be struck, for exemple, by the numerous relationships between Brussels and Brüsel, Paris and Pâhry, Genova and Genova. And let us not forget the imaginary cities, such as Urbicande, Calvani…
Some great figures
One cannot talk about the world of the Obscure Cities without mentioning some of its more remarkable people: Joseph Poelart the genius who created the Palace of the Three Powers in Brüsel , the architect Victor Horta revered in the city of Xhystos , the urbatect Eugen Robick an unknown disciple of Le Corbusier who entirely rebuilt Urbicande , the painter Augustin Desombres and the fascinating Mary…
Horta and the Obscure Cities
Victor Horta was not only the greatest Belgian architect. He is also the one who had the deepest influence on the world of the Obscure Cities. The city of Xhystos owes him almost everything, even if it is in many ways only a superficial caricature of his style.
Despite the destruction of many of his buildings, first of which was the Maison du Peuple, Baron Horta is today the center of a cult almost as high in Belgium as in the Obscure Cities. A subway station and a museum bear his name, his portrait is on banknotes, several books and exhibits are devoted to him, and crowds gather in ever increasing numbers at his house/workshop of Rue Américaine. But this late recognition cannot erase the mistakes of previous decades. The work being celebrated is forever mutilated, just like that of Paul Hankar, his friend and accomplice.
You can also read the_obscure_cities_an_introduction by Julian Darius, and the French story Le Devoir de transmission selon François Schuiten by Gilles Ratier, to get more background information about François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters. And although not all their work is officially related to the Obscure Cities, they all seem to fit somehow in the concept of their Les Cités Obscures.
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Yes, I have composed, I have beautified, I have combined certain facts, but never, never did I do damage to the truth!
L'Echo des Cités (page 54)