The Canton system
For one to understand Albeit, it is absolutely imperative that they understand the Canton system that lays at the root of its uniqueness.
In just about all cities, “neighborhoods” are mere shades of the city as a whole; minor deviations in culture and architecture from one region to the next. Boundaries between one section and another are blurry and dynamic, with some zones changing completely within the span of a year.
This is the status quo that Albeit contrasts with. Its eleven “Cantons” are as clear-cut, unique and rooted in tradition as they come. These individual zones are both the founding element of the city and a force of change in the present.
On September 24, 1978, the official date of Albeit’s foundation as a city, the “Canton System” was introduced to the local public and the viewing world alike. The concept was simple: instead of starting construction at one point and branching outward, contributing to sprawl and a lack of metropolitan identity, Albeit planners portioned off 11 sections of land to 11 world-famous landscape designers. Measuring about 0.718 nautical miles (longitude) by 1.00 nautical miles (latitude,) these giant portions of Albeit were all designed, mapped out and constructed individually; as a result, each and every one had an appearance to call its own. Each Canton reflected the individual ideas of its designer.
By the mid eighties, each section of Albeit had a unique flavor of architecture, dining and culture. Residents of each Canton took pride in their status as, say, an “Unterwaldie” or a “Paccie,” and did their best to distinguish themselves from one another. By choice, each of the eleven districts was markedly different from one another by the beginning of the nineties. Some went so far as to identify themselves by their Canton instead of their city, writing “Graupel” or “Phoebe” on envelopes instead of Albeit.
For some, it is a wonder that the city did not merely disintegrate into eleven pieces. Credit for the city’s relative unity goes primarily to the extensive transportation grid that links every Canton with one another.
Although the eleven designers had free reign over the inner contents of their eleven neighborhoods, the border of each lay firmly in the government’s hands. “Canstras” (A play on Canton and Strasse, the German word for street) run in between each region and make up the city’s main road network. Underground, things get even more complex. Albeit’s massive subway line includes both inner-Canton rail and inter-Canton rail, the latter of which comprises 20 subway interchanges. Incentives like these ensure that the city stays physically unified, even if each Canton’s culture seeks to be distinctive.
It is this large-scale division problem, this equal portioning of the city boundaries that sets Albeit apart from all other cities. Washington, DC has one large road diagram; Albeit, ID has eleven. Rome and Munich each have their respective architectural styles, but the city of Cantons has nearly a dozen. In most states and countries, it takes a good hour of driving to see any change in the local culture. Not so with Albeit. One trip through the city is all it takes to go from utilitarian to whimsical, bread-and-butter to architecturally exotic. Other cities can have their singular baseball and basketball teams; here in Albeit, the competitive spirit runs deep through each neighborhood. It’s not uncommon for an Inter-Canton baseball game to garner a higher audience than a professional match against New York.
The greatest consequence of this alternative to city planning, of course, is that Albeit cannot be studied in the singular. Treating all the Cantons as one would be as gross a generalization as grouping the residents of Dallas and Moscow together. A study of Albeitian construction, for example, would have to include the individual architecture styles of all eleven districts, lest one or two neighborhoods speak on behalf of all the rest.
Is this to say that no unifying themes exist? Of course not. For example, the A-frame house is a mainstay in every single Canton in Albeit, as is the game of Alball. What makes each neighborhood special is its unique approach to these overhanging standards. For example, A-frame houses in Noluevac have gables on all four sides, flat rooftops in Elam and raised bases in Phoebe.
Divisive as they might appear to be, Albeit’s 11 Cantons are a source of camaraderie for almost every resident of the city. Unified as they are by road and rail, the neighborhoods are best studied apart—not together. Only then does the sheer diversity and splendor of greater Albeit begin to show.