During his research, Houplain collected some 40,000 symbols and trademarks, forming the foundation for Logobook. Here he gathers around 7000 logo designs arranged alphabetically making this not just a fascinating read but a practical reference book.
Purchase a copy of Logobook here.
Author: Gerhard Richter and Dieter Schwarz
Published by Heni Publishing
Sometimes it is the simple incidents that can lead to some intriguing works of art. In the case of November, Gerhard Richter became fascinated with the dripping patterns his black Edding marker-pen ink made on paper whilst decanting it in 2008. Using benzene, acetone and black tushe, the German artist set about experimenting with the process – thinning the materials and manipulating the patterns and colours.
The result is the November series – 54 works of art, comprising 27 individual sheets with mirror images on both sides. Heni Publishing has gathered the entire series in November - showcasing the enchanting shapes and quite colours of Richer’s work.
Read more on the book here.
The Color Revolution
By Regina Lee Blaszczyk
Published by MIT Press
Fashion helps shape our visual landscape and, well, adds a little fun to our lives. However, behind what may seem like a frivolous world are countless brains deciding on what we wear and what colour these garments should be made available in.
The colour of the season isn’t just some fluke or flippant decision made by the editor of Vogue but the work of colour specialists who through history have directed trends based on economic forces and shifting cultural values that have in turn influenced consumers’ preferences.
Design historian Regina Lee Blaszczyk maps all this out in The Colour Revolution. The author traces the relationship of colour and commerce, from haute couture to automobile showrooms to interior design, describing the role of the colour profession in consumer culture. This is an intriguing story of how colourists have helped industry manipulate consumers.
The Colour Revolution examines the evolution of the colour profession from 1850 to 1970, telling the stories of innovators who managed the colour cornucopia that modern artificial dyes and pigments made possible. These ‘colour engineers’ helped corporations understand the art of illusion and the psychology of this medium.
With a focus on America, the book is a lively account of how individuals and industry made colour a transforming force in our culture and design. For instance, Blaszczyk describes the strategic burst of colour that took place in the 1920s, when General Motors introduced a bright blue saloon to compete with Ford’s all-black Model T and when housewares became available in a range of brilliant hues.
She explains the process of colour forecasting, and she shows how colour information flowed from the fashion houses of Paris to textile mills in New Jersey.
London Portrait of the City
Written by Reuel Golden
‘When a man is tired of London,’ English author Samuel Johnson famously said in 1777, ‘he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.’ And so begins London Portrait of the City preparing the reader for what is a sensory feast celebrating this city.
It is easy to mock London. This giant metropolis can seem unruly at times – the transport system is little shaky, the people a little unfriendly and the weather a little unpredictable which is presumably why it never seems to make the top 10 cities to live in.
Yet London is well worth celebrating in that it is in fact one of the most habitable megacities on the planet. It is relatively safe, has more parks and green patches than most large cities, and some of the best state schools in the country.
London was the first megacity – this was the first modern city to reach a million inhabitants by 1900 emerging as the imperial capital of around a third of the world. What really sets London apart from other European capital cities is that is ever changing and accommodating to modern times.
The city has assimilated the many waves of migrants that have come and continue to do so over the centuries. Much like New York City, it acts almost like a sponge, absorbing new cultures, their food, sometimes their habits, yet retaining a very unique identity.
Very few cities manage to be as versatile as London. This is a living city, a business city, a tourist city, a shopping city – it manages to be both sane and frivolous, adult and child. And it carries huge amounts of so called soft power, be it in the arts, business and technology.
Written by Reuel Golden and published by TASCHEN, London Portrait of the City is a photographic journey of the last 150 years. It has been chronologically divided into five chapters – ‘The monster city’ 1837-1901, ‘Modern times’ 1902-1938, ‘Consequences of war’ 1939-1959, ‘The party and the morning after’ 1960-1981, and finally ‘New perspectives’ from 1982 to the present day.
London’s history is told through quotations, lively essays and references from movies, books and music. Golden captures the city’s history, its architecture, its street culture, humour and unique vibe through the hundreds of photographs – some never published – sourced from a wide array of archives around the world.
The book came out before the 2012 Olympics, but all who saw that splendid show with its multicultural yet uniquely London flavour would want to revel in Golden’s delicious pictorial history.
Written and edited by Sandra Rendgen, Julius Wiedemann
TASCHEN creates visually engaging books. The publisher excels at binding together paper that demonstrated the digital age should never eliminate the desire for the thoughtfully designed and engagingly written physical book.
Information Graphics does just this. Its analysis of graphic design past and present together with its rich selection of images provide a wonderful framework for this visual world that is forever evolving but remains as poignant as ever. On a daily basis we are confronted with a never-ending flow of information – a complex variety of data – and sometimes the easiest way to communicate is visually.
The book with its 200 projects and over 400 visual examples, presents a fascinating perspective on the subject, highlighting the work of the masters of the profession who have created a number of breakthroughs that have changed the way we communicate.
Information Graphics has been divided into two distinct sections. An introductory chapter gives an overview of the subject tracing graphic design back to the primitive cave painting which is seen as a way of communicating. It also features interesting essays by experts in this field including the author, art historian Sandra Rendgen, Paolo Ciuccarelli, Richard Saul Wurman, and Simon Rogers. The second part of the book is entirely dedicated to contemporary works by some of today’s most renowned professionals from around the world.
This is a book to read, or to browse. It is one to inspire not just for those in the profession but any of us who is interested in the history and practice of communicating visually.
Mid-Century Ads: Advertising from the Mad Men Era
Editor: Jim Heimann
Our fascination with the slick, sexy and at times seedy world of advertising in the 50s and 60s has been noticeably heightened with the compulsive US television series Mad Men. Watching the handsome Don Draper oozing slickness on a film set – that has most of us mid-century design lovers oozing envy – is addictive viewing.
A new book has set out to celebrate the creative work of real life Don Drapers – ad men of the age of the ‘big idea’ who set out in selling us the American Dream. They succeeded in not only repackaging this seemingly perfect world for the optimistic post-war generation, but fundamentally alter how advertising communicates with the consumer.
Magazines of the period were flooded with clever campaigns selling everything from girdles to guns – images that paint a fascinating picture of not just patterns of consumption but society as a whole, giving insight into the zeitgeist of the period. They capture the spirit of the 50s and 60s, as concerns about the Cold War gave way to the carefree booze-and-cigarettes Mad Men era.
‘Mid-Century Ads: Advertising from the Mad Men Era’ by TASCHEN is as slick and handsome as the content it carries. With thousands of images, including a wide range of significant advertising campaigns from both eras, the two-volume book is visually a treat.
One of the ads featured is a seemingly innocent one that paved the way for modern advertising. This was ‘Think Small’, an ad campaign by agency Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) in the US for the Volkswagen Beetle. The German carmaker was finding the Beetle a tough sell across the Atlantic for the American consumers’ passion for larger, brasher cars.
Instead of bombarding consumers with endless literature about the car, DDB built a campaign that focused entirely on the Beetle’s form. A tiny image of the Beetle appeared on an empty white space to emphasise the cars size, simplicity and minimalism and it was a huge success.
For Mid-Century Ads, the original images have been digitally enhanced to bring back the vivid colours and crisp fonts used at the time. Editor Jim Heimann, himself a cultural anthropologist and graphic design historian, has added words to enhance this rich journey back in time when slick suited ad men sold us a wallet full of coloured dreams.
‘Mid-Century Ads: Advertising from the Mad Men Era’ is edited by Jim Heimann and published by TASCHEN
Order a copy here.
Project Japan, Metabolism Talks
By Rem Koolhaas and Hans Ulrich Obrist
Japanese minimalist architecture has had a profound impact on European building design, particularly private housing. Yet there is a complex ideology coming out of a more contemporary Japan that has been one of the most influential, yet elusive, movements in modern architecture. Japanese Metabolism is possibly the first non-western avant-garde.
This spirited movement was pioneered by a small group of young architects in the late 1950s whose utopian visions for cities of the future were characterised by mega flexible structures that symbolised organic growth and relied on modern technology. This is the last moment when architecture was a public rather than a private affair.
Rem Koolhaas is a big advocate of Metabolism. ‘Every architect carries the utopian gene,’ wrote the avant-garde Dutch architect and founder of Office of Metropolitan Architecture.
In Project Japan, Metabolism Talks, co-written with curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, Koolhaas sets out to explore this movement through a series of nine interviews conducted between 2005 and 2011 with the surviving members of the movement and those who had a crucial impact on the movement. The result is an oral and visual journey through nine chronological chapters that tells the story of Metabolism in the context of the history 20th century Japan.
Project Japan begins almost like a suspense thriller as the authors Koolhaas and Obrist in turn describe how they came to write such a concise history and analysis of Japanese Metabolism and the journey in which they entered to do so. It makes for quite an exciting opening few chapters teasing the reader to enter what promises to be an exciting journey of discovery.
Once there was a nation that went to war, but after they conquered a continent their own country was destroyed by atom bombs. For a group of apprentice architects, artists, and designers, led by a visionary, the dire situation of their country was not an obstacle but an inspiration to plan and think… after 15 years of incubation, they surprised the world with a new architecture—Metabolism—that proposed a radical makeover of the entire land,’ write Koolhaas and Obrist in the book.
Project Japan features some fascinating never-before-seen images including master plans from Manchuria to Tokyo, astonishing sci-fi urban visions and intimate snapshots of the Metabolists group.
This is an intelligently designed book by Dutch designer Irma Boom, where black-and-white images are interspersed with splashes of orange and hot pink – pages marked by pink bands on the edges represent the nine interviews.
This is an absolutely fascinating read that tells the story of 20th century Japan through its architecture, from its post-war devastation to the establishment of Metabolism, the rise of Kisho Kurokawa as the first celebrity architect, to Expo ’70 at Osaka, the tech wonderland that cemented Japan’s image as a technological utopia and marked the end of Metabolism.
Project Japan. Metabolism Talks is written by Rem Koolhaas and Hans Ulrich Obrist and published by Taschen. You can order a copy here.
By Daniel Alexander Ross
Books on cars tend to follow a simple formula – a pretty straight narrative that is either sequenced historically or by company. In this context, Intersection‘s Cars Now maintains this by guiding the reader through a selection of today’s most notable cars via alphabetically organised car companies. ‘We go make by make, model by model, to capture a snapshot of a species evolving,’ say the authors. And as a reference book, this formula works perfectly.
Founded over a decade ago, Intersection magazine set out to challenge our relation with the car and how that is communicated. The book – the first volume written by the team – retains the visual energy of the magazine with its hundreds of original photographs and illustrations. It is also surprisingly insightful to read.
Whether we choose to drive or not, it is near impossible not to interact with the automobile. The car impacts not just on the environment and how we live, but also on our landscape, visually shaping cities – something that is even more poignant with the growing number of megacities.
Cars Now has addressed the automobile in this wider context, documenting not only sexy supercars but also highlighting the latest innovations that address our dependency on fossil fuels, and all this from a global perspective.
Additionally, with some of the leading car companies, the authors have weaved in caracrchitecture. Increasingly marques like BMW are teaming up with big names in building design such as Coop Himmelb(l)au for the Welt Munich showroom and Zaha Hadid for the Leipzig factory (where the electric i cars will be built) in a bid to create stronger brand statements.
Another interesting addition is the designer Q+A that features in some of the major car companies’ chapters. Though a little superficial, it does help add a human element to an otherwise seemingly cold industry.
Cars Now is a celebration of the automobile in all its guises. To quote the authors: ‘Call it a last hurrah for the dying pleasures of smoking tires, and a deep breath of hope for the new crop of contenders trying to extend the electric frontier.’
For more images visit here.
By John Maeda
Redesigning Leadership is a gem of a book, and like a genuine gem is compact, short, succinct and a pleasure to read. Since it starts with a haiku I will attempt to sum up the book with my own feeble effort.
Wisdom in bursts
Succinct, real, obvious
As all insights should
Or as author John Maeda liked to communicate with his team on twitter
@mohsenmedic.. according to media savvy Maeda it is best to lead by listening hard preferably face-to-face and an open mind.
Maeda’s book is full of advice and experience that seemed on first encounter perfectly obvious, until I reflected that almost all the leaders and managers that I have seen in my life ignore them. All but a handful, and these remain vivid not just in my memory but in that of virtually all the students or doctors that had studied or worked under them.
When Maeda, a US born Japanese designer and computer scientist took over as the president of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design in 2008 he thought he knew how to lead. What makes him so successful as a leader was his ability to jettison all preconceived notions that did not work out in practice. In other words he was prepared to listen both to his surrounding and also to his own heart.
In this book he takes us in 80 pages through this experience. For Maeda linking and underpinning macro and micro management, art and design, leading and being led, are the same principles. His is a style of management that when faced with an employee that everyone disliked, instead of firing him he retains him because like a body an organisation ‘needs viruses … to survive and be strong’. My guess is that he also listened to the ‘virus’.
Here is a leader who tries to regularly see his team, preferably over a meal of pizzas: as he says ‘until you can serve pizza and drink over the Web, a social media portal to foster true collaboration will be so-so’.
Here is a president who emails all his students and staff individually when he can’t meet them face-to-face. Just the boss I always craved for and sometimes got.
Better to talk
eye to eye
than blog in stratosphere
Read it and re-read it if you aspire to be leader or boss that is both successful and is remembered with affection and the awe that comes from deep love.
Redesigning Leadership is published by MIT Press. You can also purchase the book directly from the DT bookshop.
Author, Roberta Bernabei
Self-expression has always existed, whether in the form of decorating the body or using objects – so the original human act of piercing some kind of pigment or object into the body gave birth to jewellery.
Contemporary Jewellers: Interview with European Artists successfully follows the development of this art and craft throughout the ages. It charts the history of jewellery makers, and explores the important role that self-expression has played in contemporary European jewellery design.
Here the author Roberta Bernabei fully explores the various jewellers in different stages of European history and in particular the post-war development of contemporary European jewellery. She has divided the book into two major categories: jewellery as content and jewellery as social commentary.
The first category, as the name suggests, is characterised by the meaning it encapsulates and projects. This is shown in the work of jewellers Gijs Bakker, Emmy Van and Peter Skubik.
In the second category, the jewellery has become a vehicle for the delivery of content that often relates to prevalent social conditions, politics, major world events or philosophical questions.
One of the major innovators in this area was Bruno Martinazzi, although others such as Otto Künzli and Ruudt Peters are notable contributors.
Bernabei, a professor at Loughborough University in the UK, has interviewed many of the major jewellery artists of recent years. Each interview is supported by a rich selection of photographs, detailed bibliography and an appendix that locates the jewellers’ work in galleries, museums and on line.
The book is a well-researched documentation of contemporary jewellery design, rich with photographs, drawings and illustrations of each practitioners work. It opens the door to contemporary practice and offers an essential reference for anyone interested in jewellery design.
Contemporary Jewellers: Interview with European Artists by Roberta Bernabei, Loughborough University is published by Berg. To purchase a copy visit here at the DT Bookshop.
Design as Politics
Author, Tony Fry
Our world is nearing a state of structural unsustainability, a truism so obvious that even global-warming deniers deny it under their breath. In Design as Politics, author Tony Frey develops his previous thesis on the role of design in preventing the coming catastrophe somewhat further.
Sustainability (with a capital S) is to be achieved and catastrophe prevented by placing design at the heart of vital social transformations. Here Fry uses design not in its politically neutral aesthetic definition of design as taste, applied to such products as architecture, furniture and fashion, but to design as it defines our very existence, our life styles, our values and hence the very core that defines our being, our existence and our relation to the environment.
Fry’s critique of the use of design currently in operation ranges wide and introduces many useful ideas. Thus technology has been designed to render us impervious to the way we are being manipulated, and becomes internalised to our very being such that ultimately it is technology that is designing us. The tools themselves effectively design the user. Man becomes defutured through unthinking, unlimited consumption, what has been called ‘consumption as grazing’.
Instead of being the political subject, mankind is instrumentalised into becoming the object of politics. Under these circumstances liberal democracy gives the illusion of change while reproducing more of the same, conjured up to pose as a difference.
Furthermore, under democracy pluralism is seen as a collection of atomised and individualised beings as opposed to collectivities, unities or bonded communities, with communal joint interests and goals.
For Fry, Sustainment is the acceptance of plurality within one unified goal, a meta-diverse end which he identifies as fundamentally changing our behaviour in order to avoid a defutured world. In this goal he can only be lauded by any sane person. And he rightly recognises that this future is unachievable within a global liberal political structure designed to turn the entire human race into a machine for consumption, using design (and education and the media) to obscure the unsustainablity of their project.
Here democratic politics, as he says, is reduced to providing consumer satisfaction, and hence politics is presented to the consumer as another product for consumption. What we have, he says, is ‘autonomous techno-centrism’ which shows us a ‘future from which we are absent’.
Fry is clearly well read and takes us through a fascinating, though somewhat complex and at times linguistically dense, journey touching on a large number of philosophers, social scientists and thinkers.
So far so good, and not very contentious. But when Fry goes into providing what he sees as a road to solution he goes badly wrong. While recognising the enormity of the problem he separates the political from the class-productive relations that are at the roots of the unsustainability of our current level of consumption.
Moreover, despite his repeated assertion that his solution is the only one that is not utopian, the world of Design as Politics is essentially built on a series of unsupportable assumptions.
He clearly understands that the fundamental cause of the unsustainabilty of our existence is anthropocentrism that was accentuated by the introduction of the capitalist mode of production that, in his words, has no reformative other.
Moreover he spends countless pages showing the undemocratic nature of democracy but then wishes to rebuild it from the inside (see page165). He then, contradicts himself by proposing to reform capitalism. The entire Design as Politics project aims at reforming capitalism (and democracy) so that it is changed from creating a technology for consumption to one for sustainment.
Central to his thesis is that design determines our fate – hence to change that fate we must begin by changing our understanding of design, to ‘rethink and redefine and reinvent the very nature of urban and rural life,’ and at its core a, ‘design becoming more dynamic, more powerful and more able to communicate the significance of designers to society in general’ he writes.
The agency for this change is an (hopefully) ever-widening, but tight, circle of people – designers – who have woken up not just to the horrors of a defutured world (after all many of us are already there) but on the root causes of that defuturing.
And what are those root causes? It is design for consumption, or ‘consumption as grazing’. And the solution is design for sustainment. And since democracy (I guess he means parliamentary democracy although nowhere does he define it as such) is also a system designed to cloud our vision we need to go beyond it. But by going beyond democracy Fry does not mean more, and more meaningful, democracy, which he dismisses as utopian radical democracy, but less – much less.
What Fry proposes is a cabal of designers and teachers who will in what he rightly recognises as a hard and difficult road, convince global capitalism to reform itself before the entire system collapses under the mass migration induced by global warming; and for the rest of us to consume for survival not for pleasure.
They, and we, will do so through teaching and persuasion, turning ‘knowing into the service of economic ends’. The hoped for outcome: a self-imposed ‘dictatorship of Sustainment’, or if people won’t, by imposition from above by an ‘adaptive design directorate’.
And if that change cannot rely on agreement it must ‘aim with material force’. Marx’s dictatorship of the proletariat, which was his shorthand for the democratic control of the majority on society, becomes the dictatorship of a committee or at best an idea – ‘thought itself as redirective practice’, as Fry puts it or ‘designed and managed interventions’ to impose ‘unfreedoms’.
His main foe is democracy with its laisser-faire attitude to the rampages of technology gone wild. His heroes are Martin Heidegger and Carl Schmitt, both neo-romantic critiques of democracy and philosophers of authoritarianism. His effectors are a clique of educators – in the form of enlightened designers educating (read imposing) a new form of design that safeguards our future by taming the rampages that capitalist profit motive has sown on our planet. A modern version of Plato’s philosopher king transposed to twenty-first century globalised world.
Somewhere among his solution both the real effectors of unsustainability, capitalism, and its dictatorship imposed through apparent parliamentary democracy is lost. Here Fry not only misses the real critique of Heidegger of the roots of technology, but aims to reform capitalism by educating it to respect the future of the human race by ceasing to be so anthropocentric – a socialised capitalism, so to speak.
It is like educating the thief to patrol the neighbourhood. Marx had identified commodity fetishism as central to capitalist relations. By placing design at the centre of the futuring of the planet, Fry is demonstrating the most extreme form of commodity fetishism to defetishise commodities. No wonder Marx barely gets a mention in these pages.
Fry rejects utopian solutions but opts for the impossible. To ‘induce a being otherwise’ by design begs the question of who is the designer, chosen by whom and answerable to whom.
Dictatorship of sustainment will become just that – an imposed unfreedom imposed by unelected designers, answerable to no one but that very global capital (where ‘the capitalist commodity sphere was constituted as a world of desire’) that presumably employs the designers.
It is not entirely accidental that the word profit does not appear anywhere in this book. Does Fry imagine a capitalism without profit. Without it would they be persuaded to create a world where ‘to live is to suffer’ reigns eternal?
Design as politics by Tony Fry is published by Berg 2011. You can purchase the book directly at Design Talks Bookshop here.
Tony Fry is a director of the sustainment consultancy Team D/E/S and adjunct professor of design at Griffith University, Queensland College of Art, Australia. Among his publication is A New Design Philosophy: an Introduction to Defuturing, and Design, Futuring: Sustainability, Ethics and New Practice.
Hella Jongerius: Misfit
Written by Louise Schouwenberg
Contributors Alice Rawsthorn and Paola Antonelli
Hella Jongerius: Misfit is a handsome book, its design, by fellow Dutch designer Irma Boom, reflecting the imaginative work of the maverick product designer.
Born in 1963, Jongerius graduated in industrial design from the Eindhoven Design Academy in The Netherlands coming to prominence in the early 90s with a series of designs for the influential Dutch conceptual design collective Droog Design.
Jongerius set up her own Rotterdam-based practice Jongeriuslab around the same time, relocating to Berlin in 2008, collaborating with the likes of Vitra, Royal Tichelaar Makkum and Swarovski. Her own work is held in the collections of MoMA, the Stedelijk Museum and London’s Design Museum.
Hella Jongerius: Misfit aims to capture the designer’s juxtaposition of seemingly opposite ideologies and practices: fusing industrial and craft, traditional and contemporary to create work that is tactile, a little unpolished – almost handmade – and always created with a sense of humour.
Jongerius is interested in old and new technologies, and the process itself. Thus her creations, be it a sofa or a simple vase, carry an intriguing narrative.
Jongerius is also keen to bring individuality to the manufactured object. Her B-Set of porcelain crockery, for instance, is fired at too high a temperature during the manufacturing process, so that the clay deforms slightly, giving each set a completely unique shape.
At the very core of the designer’s beliefs is that it is only in the misfit objects (hence the book’s title) that quality craftsmanship is present and that the imperfections of these products show the process and reveal the maker. Colour is pivotal to her work and so the book features over 300 images of Jongerius’s work arranged by colour.
Purchase this book here on the DT Bookshop.
Hella Jongerius: Misfit is published by Phaidon.
Robin Hood Gardens Re-Visions
Edited by Alan Powers
Contributions from Richard Rogers, Zaha Hadid, and Dan Cruikshank
Photographs by Sandra Lousada and Ioana Marinescu
Robin Hood Gardens – a housing estate on the fringes of Poplar in East London – is an example of mid twentieth-century architecture on the brink of extinction.
Much love has been shown to the Alison + Peter Smithson-designed project over the last few years, spurred on by a campaign for listing spearheaded by UK magazine Building Design which collected over 1,000 signatures from across the world.
Architects including Zaha Hadid and Richard Rogers tell of the influence the building and the prolific couple have over them, while one of the most compelling arguments on why the estate should be kept comes from Dickon Robinson’s evidence compiled on behalf of the The Twentieth Century Society‘s submission for a review of the listing decision.
Completed in 1972, Robin Hood Gardens is a design very much of the era – incorporating the then much lauded ‘streets in the sky’ concept, with wide landings where people living on higher floors could socialise as if on their doorsteps on the ground.
There are two main blocks, both with a long, linear shape, built from pre-cast concrete and home to 213 flats. The lower block is seven storeys high, the taller ten. Between the two buildings is a landscaped grassy area, designed as a recreation and rest area for residents, built using the rubble of the houses demolished for the project.
Robin Hood Gardens – Re-Visions collates a series of photographs, essays and a conversation between the Smithsons detailing the full history of the estate.
The original sketch drawings and plans, complete with hand-drawn sun compasses, show their skills as designers to the full, and deserve their place at the start of the book.
The old, colour photographs show a housing estate that was clearly a place enjoyed by its first inhabitants and one gets the distinct impression that it was the council’s neglect of the buildings that have led to the current situation.
Finally, a collection of Ioana Marinescu’s more recent photographs – previously the subject of an exhibition at the Royal Institute of British Architects – look very nice indeed, but display a faux-nostalgia for buildings that deserve to be photographed in a contemporary way.
The book has been published on the eve of local London council Tower Hamlet’s decision of which developer will get the privilege of razing the estate, which received its death knell from the previous Labour government when it granted it immunity from listing for five years from 2009.
It is a worthy totem of appreciation to a visionary housing project admired by thousands in its lifetime.
Robin Hood Gardens Re-Visions is published by The Twentieth Century Society.
Voiture Minimum: Le Corbusier and the Automobile
Written by Antonio Amado
‘If houses were built industrially, mass-produced like chassis,’ proclaimed Le Corbusier in his manifesto Towards an Architecture, ‘an aesthetic would be formed with surprising precision.’ The Swiss architect was famously obsessed with the automobile – almost in love with what he called the perfect machine. To him, and many progressive thinkers of the time, the automobile was a symbol of modernity and a focal point in his visions for futuristic utopias.’
Voiture Minimum, Le Corbusier and the Automobile explores the architect’s involvement with the automobile, designing in 1936 ‘a minimalist vehicle for maximum functionality’ which he called Voiture Minimum.
An engaging read by Antonio Amado, a Spanish architect and a professor at the University of La Coruna, the book is almost an exploration of ideas on cars and mobility at this junction in history. Amado is a fluid writer, creating a charming narrative, chapter after chapter building up to the climax that is the story of the car itself.
This includes a brief history of the French manufacturer Voisin and the impact founder Gabriel Voisin had on Le Corbusier. An architecture enthusiast he came up with the idea of prefab housing of which subsequently Le Corbusier wrote about in this in his magazine L’Esprit Nuveau.
By the 1930s Voisin was no longer able to make the luxury cars he made in the 1920s, mainly due to the American depression and the popularity of more affordable automobiles created by the likes of Ford. Instead under his new consultancy he designed the Biscooter (double scooter) prototype – a minimalist lightweight vehicle for two to three occupants. The car proved to be quite popular in post civil war Spain, manufactured there under the name Biscuter-Voisin and surviving almost ten years.
We also learn of other key architects of the time’s involvement with the automobile in the context of both town planning ideas and automotive design – from Adolf Loos, Walter Gropius, to Jean Prouvé and the American Frank Lloyd Wright.
The author even dedicates time to car design between the wars, exploring key trends in automobile design crucially, the impact of aerodynamics and the American aesthetic, as well as the story of Volkswagen’s ‘people’s car’, the Beetle.
Incidentally, Le Corbusier claimed his Voiture Minimum had been the inspiration for this car. He went as far as saying the car, designed for the 1936 SIA competition, had originated in 1928, before the Beetle. Here Amado, after extensive examination of archival and source materials, disproves this. In fact, he hints that the influence may have gone the other way.
It is almost half way through the book when we are introduced to Voiture Minimum., designed in collaboration with Le Corbusier’s cousin Pierre Jeanneret. This is a detailed account, highlighted with copies of original letters written by the architect to various car manufacturers, proposal after proposal, and endless sketches that ultimately lead to the final design.
Sadly, Voiture Minimum was never to be made into a production car. A full-scale model, though, was sculpted in 1987 by the Italian car designer Giorgio Giugiaro to exhibit at L’Aventure Le Corbusier: 1887-1965 at the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Two years later a similar prototype was created to mark the opening of the Design Museum in London.
Voiture Minimum: Le Corbusier and the Automobile is written by Antonio Amado and published by MIT Press.
The Porsche Book
Editor: Frank Orel
Love or loath cars, most of us would agree that Porsche builds beautiful automobiles that are thrilling to drive. From the timeless sculptural form of the 911 – so perfect in proportions that the designers find it hard to improve upon – to the Cayman, Boxter and the many derivatives, the Stuttgart marque simply creates emotionally charges vehicles that cause a visceral reaction in most of us.
In recent years the company that was founded by Austrian engineer Ferdinand Porsche back in 1931, has had to expand on its model range to include the four-door Panamera, the Cayenne sports utility vehicle and the just announced Cajun small sports utility (still in concept stage) – in the process offending some Porsche purists – yet it has never lost its global emotional appeal.
The Porsche Book aims to capture this. And with 173 photographs and images, this is very much a visual adventure. Written clearly for lovers of the marque, the 24 chapters have been designed to somehow race the reader in a nostalgic, image-packed journey through Porsche’s rich engineering and design history.
Providing text in English, German, French, Chinese and Russian, this elegant hardback captures the essence of Porsche: timeless design, speed and the promise of freedom.
Purchase this book here on the DT Bookstore.
The Porsche Book is edited by Frank Orel and published by teNeues.
The Furniture of Carlo Mollino
Authors: Napoleone Ferrari and Fulvio Ferrari
Carlo Mollino (1905-73), the maverick Italian designer, created site specific and commissioned pieces that are considered works of art – a 1948 table sold for around $4m at an auction recently setting a world record for a piece of twentieth-century furniture.
The son of a prominent Turin engineer, Mollino joined his father’s firm after graduating from Turin’s Royal School of Architecture in 1931, leaving soon after to pursue his own career as a designer and architect. He was involved with the avant-garde futurist and the surrealist movements of the time – evident in his highly expressive and sculptural work that contains an almost surreal narrative.
Mollino worked in numerous creative areas including furniture design, architecture, automobile design, theatre, photography, even town planning. He based his furniture on organic shapes such as animal bones, tree branches and the human body – the female body is very much a dominant theme. Mollino was also keen on researching new materials and technology to create these complex structures.
For instance he developed a complex construction technique so that the structure seems liberated by the weight of the material as seen on the glass and bentwood Arabesque table (1949), still in production by Italian industrial design firm Zanotta.
Amongst his most notable architectural work is the Società Ippica Torinese headquarters (1935-9) and the Teatro Regio Torinese (1966) both in Turin. He also designed the interiors. Experimenting with fabric and lighting, sometimes even creating his own murals, they were often quite theatrical.
The Furniture of Carlo Mollino presents his complete furniture and interior design. A collaborative effort with the Museo Casa Mollino, and written by the museum’s curators Napoleone Ferrari and Fulvio Ferrari, this extensive and original monograph emphasises the contemporary significance of Mollino’s pioneering work.
Leafing through the pages of this informative and beautifully illustrated book, you can’t help being overwhelmed by how much pure original thought and artistic expression has gone into his every design and every creation. The result is that his furniture pieces are not just well executed but sensual, evocative and completely timeless.
Purchase this book here on the DT Bookstore.
The Furniture of Carlo Mollino by: Fulvio Ferrari and Napoleone Ferrari is published by Phaidon.
Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century
Authors: William J Mitchell, Christopher E Borroni-Bird and Lawrence D Burns
We live in exciting times. The world is moving towards mass urbanisation, the countryside is being swallowed up by sprawling cities creating vast mega-cities – a recent UN report suggesting that over 70% of the world’s population will inhabit these dense urban landscapes by 2050.
Mobility, it seems, is still stuck in the era of the ‘horseless carriage’. The template is essentially that of the Ford Model T, which was good for the first 100 years of the automobile, but not necessarily a viable solution for our mobility needs now, and certainly not for the future.
Reinventing the Automobile argues that essentially we need to change the DNA of the car, as we know, by basing it on electric drive and wireless communication rather than on petroleum, the internal combustion engine and individual operation. The car, the authors argue, needs to become lighter and smarter by linking to other vehicles and a larger network, as in a ‘mobility internet’, to be able to collect and share data effectively.
The highly qualified authors of this easy-to-follow – albeit academic – 198-page book includes William Mitchell director of MIT’s Smart Cities research group and two of General Motor’s biggest brains Lawrence Burns and Christopher Borroni-Bird, director of advanced technology vehicle concepts.
The authors believe that personal mobility is a viable solution if we reinvent the car. They propose a number of vehicle concepts that are small, light and cheap enough to produce for mass use. These include the CityCar, a concept GM has developed with Smart Cities that adopts a standard four-wheel configuration with each wheel independently and digitally controlled to allow for a wider range of manoeuvres. These cars can execute sideways or crablike motions for parallel parking thanks to the wheel motors that provide various four-wheel steering capabilities.
The other proposition is the Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility (PUMA), a compact two-seater, front entry/exit cars with in-wheel motors. The rear wheels have been removed thanks to technology provided by the Segway Personal Transporter (PT), a vehicle that demonstrated the feasibility of maintaining balance electronically, in this case extended to a larger vehicle.
Laced with drawings explaining these concepts and their functionality step-by-step, and numerous graphs, Reinventing the Automobile is a thorough examination of these concepts and the network that needs to be implemented to support such sustainable urban mobility. It is a great research tool at a time when almost all car manufacturers are re-examining their role for the urban mobility in 2030 and beyond.
Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century is Published by MIT Press.
Unleashed: Contemporary art from Turkey
Editor: Hossein Amirsadeghi – Executive editor: Maryam Eisler
Published by Thames & Hudson and TransGlobe Publishing
The art word is always on the lookout for new territories to explore and invest in. India, China, Russia and to some extent Iran have grabbed recent headlines (and gallery space) and now, it seems, the world is shifting its attention in the direction of Turkey. A new book on the subject Unleashed: Contemporary art from Turkey, sets out to document this vibrant scene.
Istanbul is at the heart of this explosion in creativity. Ankara, and other major cities like Izmir and Diyarbakir are contributing to this movement, but Istanbul (crowned the 2010 European cultural capital) is the public face of a country eager to define itself as a liberal Muslim democracy facing Europe.
The city boasts around 250 mostly private art galleries. Ten years ago there would have only been a handful. ‘Turkey is undergoing almost a cultural explosion,’ says London based art patron Maryam Eisler. As executive editor of Unleashed, Eisler and her team have spent the last year exploring the country’s art scene, meeting with unknown artists as well as art patrons so as to document the scene.
From their findings, the majority of contemporary artists are responding to Turkey’s current social and political tension. There is also a strong dialogue emerging between the local artists and the Turkish diaspora.
Eisler notes that there is no censorship in Turkey, which is interesting given the country’s conflict with its current social liberalism, globalisation and entering the European Union – as well as the rise of Islamic ideology. Not to mention the historical battle it faces with cultural chauvinism and a reluctance to fully listen to regional voices be is Kurdish or Armenian.
Some of the artists featured in Unleashed, the likes of Taner Ceylan, are creating highly provocative homoerotic photorealist paintings. Others such as Hale Tenger deal with issues of immigration.
Hossein Amirsadeghi, the brainchild of Unleashed as well as two recent books on contemporary art in the Middle East and the Arab world, notes that in societies like Turkey, art can often be a powerful catalyst for change.
Different Sames: New Perspectives in Contemporary Iranian Art
Editor: Hossein Amirsadeghi
Published by Thames & Hudson and TransGlobe Publishing
Iran has a rich artistic and cultural narrative fused with a turbulent political history past and present. It is therefore not surprising that contemporary Iranian artists are eager to form their own visual language.
Thanks to recent exhibitions held in London, New York and the UAE, an array of publications and a thriving market for Iranian art, contemporary artists in and outside of the country are gaining much exposure.
‘Different Sames: New Perspectives in Contemporary Iranian Art’ is a comprehensive documentation of the movement, past and present.
Read the full book review in Wallpaper*.