Modernist Design Complete, a book review

Modernism impacts on every aspect of our lives. This progressive aesthetic and philosophical movement, which emerged in the late 19th and early 20th century in the midst of modern industrial societies and rapid urbanisation, and the horrors of the world wars, continues to shape our lives. Modernism has set a powerful framework for how we think and create, how are homes are built and interiors decorated, and the way our cities are imagined.

Modernism, though, can be a touch complex to follow given its ever-evolving nature, and the various ideological fractions, sub-groups and sub-sub-categories that formed during the last century. World wars and mass exile, especially of the key Bauhaus members to the US and beyond, helped spread the movement worldwide, creating exciting regional responses and dialogue. And there were many diverse characters involved too, each adding their own flavour to the modernist movement.

Modernist Design Complete’ will help navigate the movement. Thames & Hudson’s latest book brings together most facets and scales of design under a single volume to present the vast breadth of towering and lesser-known figures within modernism. This lavishly-illustrated book (635 feature here) reveals unexpected connections and aims to form new insights too.

Written by design critic Dominic Bradbury, the format is logical and easy to follow. It is divided into two main chapters – ‘media and masters’ and ‘houses and interior’, with a final A-Z of modernist designers. The former is further divided to include furniture, lighting, ceramics and glass, industrial and product design, and graphics and posters, featuring designers who were most influential in each category – all of which are conveniently colour-coded.

There are profiles of nearly a hundred creators, including the main faces of movement – László Moholy-Nagy, Alvar Aalto, Le Corbusier, Eliel Saarinen and Walter Gropius, as well as lesser-known figures. Complete with commissioned essays by established academics and subject specialists, ‘Modernist Design Complete’ aims to be the definitive guide for those involved in the creative industries, and for anyone interested in design, design thinking and design history.

Images in order: Red & Blue chair by Gerrit Rietveld, 1918 © Wright20.com; Brno chairs by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich, 1929 © Richard Powers; Scarpa’s Bugne vase, 1936, © Wright20.com; 66 Air King Skyscraper radio by Harold Van Doren, 1933 © Wright20.com; 
Sonneveld House by Dutch Functionalists Brinkman/Van der Vlugt, 1933 © Richard Powers
Villa Savoye; Le Corbusier 1931 © Richard Powers; 114 Polaroid lamp designed by Walter Dorwin Teague © Wright20.com

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