A CORK-based Spaniard has an absorbing hobby that involves simulating his adopted city for a computer game.
Antonio Bernal, 37, started to recreate Cork city in 2017, which was released on YouTube and Steam. He took a break from this game, a city-building simulator, entitled ‘Cities: Skylines’ but has returned to it with an update comprising the northside, including Shandon Quarter and Cathedral Road.
“While this is not a 1:1 model, it’s a realistic artistic recreation and it showcases a 3D model of Shandon bells which was made especially for this project,” says Antonio.
Despite his impressive rendering of the city, Antonio has no formal background in architecture or design.
He explains that the game allows participants “to manage cities in any way you like,” adding: “You can create imaginary cities or, in this case, there’s a lot of different maps available of Cork.
“I started trying to create a very close recreation of Cork. You can play at trying to manage the budget of the city or manage the traffic. The way I play it at the moment is purely for building purposes, for aesthetics.”
Antonio’s rendering of the northside varies in terms of accuracy.
“It doesn’t try to be a 1:1 model. I do the roads and street layout by manually copying Google Maps, trying to make it accurate. But it’s not like a model where everything is measured to the exact millimetre.
“The buildings are similar to the buildings available on the platform I use. There’s a huge selection of different buildings. It’s a matter of taking time to find the right building.”
The whole idea of building cities is something that Antonio finds utterly compelling from an aesthetic point of view.
“It’s very immersive. You’re creating your own world. I used to play this game making my own cities. Living in Cork, I decided to try and make Cork and see how close I could get it to look. It looks pretty close to the reality — and that’s what motivates me. It’s an ongoing project.”
Antonio thinks his recreation of Cork could have “potential application for traffic or for planning”. The game simulates traffic quite well and the roads have the real number of lanes and directions on them.
Antonio got in touch with City Council but says he hasn’t heard back yet.
“It’s hard to get to the right people. It has been used for a project a private developer in the city is interested in. They came to me looking for a video representation of the concept. I was asked not to disclose the project.”
Updating the computer game is all part of Antonio’s time-consuming hobby. His version of the Cork docklands was done in 2017.
“There’s potential for me to update it and bring in the new developments from the last few years.”
He is proud of his recreation of Morrison’s Island as well as that of the port and marina and Cork Airport. And he is happy with how the Dunkettle Interchange and the Jack Lynch tunnel worked out.
What does he think of the afternoon and early evening private car ban on Patrick Street?
“I live in the suburbs so I don’t go to the city centre as much as I used to. I agree with the idea of the car ban. It’s important to prioritise pedestrianisation and bicycle lanes, especially now with the pandemic because people won’t be taking the bus.
“There are some problems (with the Patrick Street ban on cars) that need to be ironed out. But it’s a good idea.”
Antonio says he was wary of the original plans for flood defences in the city.
“I haven’t really followed the latest developments but what I saw the last time round looked more promising than the original plans. I hope the view of the water won’t be blocked.”
Antonio says that city building as a game interests different types of people.
“It’s a bit like model building. A lot of people who are into model building, simulating trains and scenery and landscapes, are very artistic. It’s a creative community.”
And also, undoubtedly, a nerdy one.
From the province of Cadiz in Spain, Antonio ended up in Cork because of his fondness for traditional Irish music.
“I played the uileann pipes for five or six years in Spain. There’s a very small traditional music scene there.
“I was living in Seville playing Celtic music in a band. That led me to Cork. I started playing sessions in town and made friends with musicians here.
“I play in Sin É although I haven’t played for a while (because of the pandemic.)”
Antonio also plays the bouzouki.
Having studied IT at college in Spain, Antonio’s day job is as a project manager with Amazon in Cork. He is married to a West Cork woman, Eleanor Reilly, and the couple have two daughters, six month old Livia and two year old Agnes.
What originally attracted Antonio to Cork was the people.
“I also fell in love with the character of the city. There is a great balance between how much culture is offered and the structure of the city, the way the river flows through the canals. It’s very aesthetically pleasing.”
Antonio’s love for the city is also captured in his watercolour paintings although with young children, he doesn’t get much time for that Spursuit these days.