Mason Carter and his artwork. (Photo from Mason Carter)

Welcome to Blendini City, a colorful world where humans and buildings live in harmony with one another as co-citizens. The year is 2150, and you can effortlessly take a train from Little Philly to the Hat District (where buildings wear hats), passing through Storyville along the way. 

Mason Carter, who lives in Germantown, began drawing the fantasy world of Blendini City in 2018. It’s a manifestation of his dream of a utopian society where humans coexist with their built environment. It’s also a very concrete invitation to every one of us to preserve and value the history that surrounds us. 

“It’s a blending of my interests and also blending different kinds of things into a city,” said Carter, who cares deeply about the future of the city of Philadelphia that he lives in. “Cities are amazing complex organisms of all sorts of different things coming together, so Blendini is a city that really celebrates diversity; it celebrates different cultures and ways of thinking and things to do.”

Carter is a graduate of the Citizens Planning Institute, an eight-week course led by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission that teaches Philadelphians about the zoning regulations that dictate how the city is built.   

Even the bright colors of the buildings in his cityscapes are decided by the relationship between each one as he draws them rather than being predetermined. 

The goal is to “guide people to think about our buildings and how important they are in our landscape,” he said. 

According to Carter, buildings and people have different ways of viewing the world. 

“People tend to want to be rational creatures, but they tend not to be,” he explained. “They’re more leaning into emotions. And buildings are the opposite: they are incredibly rational but seek to be emotional. So it’s that difference, that intersection where it creates a very interesting coexistence.” 

Carter, now 36, became an artist relatively recently at the age of 30 after taking a class called “Observation, Memory and Imagination” at the Fleisher Art Memorial. Growing up, he always liked to doodle, drawing “fantasy maps on napkin-type things,” but it wasn’t until the class that he brought his passion to the next level. 

When Carter began drawing Blendini City, he lived near Washington Square in Center City and moved to Germantown in 2021. Since then, being in the neighborhood has had a profound impact on how he views Blendini and the value of place-based communities in general. 

“I’ve always really wanted to be part of a community where you know your neighbors and start to have all these different degrees of friends,” he said. “I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of that ‘good morning energy’ being in Germantown.” 

Carter’s favorite building in the neighborhood is the Masonic Hall on Germantown Avenue, now home to both the Kinesics Dance Dynamics Theatre and Ubuntu FIne Art Gallery. He’s also a fan of the now-abandoned Germantown Town Hall’s strength and resiliency. Overall, he likes the combination of buildings from all different historical periods in the neighborhood, including those that recall its agricultural history, like Wyck Farmhouse, Grumblethorp, and Johnson House. 

“It really works so well as an ensemble,” Carter said. 

Carter hopes his art can serve as an inspiration for people to value, treasure, and steward the buildings surrounding them so their ensemble can live on. That includes buildings like the Germantown YWCA, which longtime residents have battled for the past six years to preserve. He’s also conscious of the loss of both architecture and community through the destruction of buildings, like the Orpheum Theater on Chelten Avenue, which was demolished in 1967. 

Outside of Blendini City, as a citizen planner, Carter is well-versed in the rules and regulations that dictate the future of Philadelphia. He currently sits on the SEPTA Citizen Advisory Committee and has participated in a working group with the City Planning Commission. He uses his knowledge of planning and zoning regulations to help advocate for his community, such as in the campaign to keep the Chestnut Hill West train running, for which he designed a poster. 

You can keep up with Carter’s work by following him on Instagram, visiting his website, or saying hi on Germantown Avenue.