John Gulliver Hancock has an obsession. The artist has taken it upon himself to draw every building in New York, an ambitious goal that he expects will extend "well after I’m dead."
This isn’t the first time he’s been drawn to an exhaustively obsessive, seemingly impossible project. Previously, he attempted to document all the rooftops in Paris, all the cars in Los Angeles, and all the bikes in Berlin. Australian by birth, Hancock has traveled all around the world, ritualistically recording objects as a means of familiarizing himself with foreign places. The buildings series began when he relocated to Brooklyn in 2009. As he writes in the introduction to his new book, All the Buildings in New York, cataloging has "become an almost ritualistic undertaking, a therapy of sorts, helping me to organize the overwhelming infinity and chaos of New York into something I can know and understand." And with each new building, he immerses himself deeper into a city that he once saw through a tourist’s eyes as a film set of pop-cultural references.
Hancock’s subjects run the gamut from the iconic to the prosaic—from must-see structures like the Chrysler building to lesser-known neighborhood fixtures like 75 1/2 Bedford Street. Uniting them all is a signature retro style of limited, washed-out colors underneath thick black lines.
He maintains that he has no favorites apart from whatever building he’s currently drawing. "It’s typical as a creative, I think, to be in love with what you are working on at the present moment," he tells Co.Design. "Like most relationships, the drawing process is a roller coaster full of love, frustration, and a sense of achievement."
Most of the buildings Hancock has drawn so far have been pulled from Manhattan’s cityscape, and he doesn’t expect to broaden his scope anytime soon: "I think New York is such an anomaly in its dense structure that it makes sense to focus [on that]."