Edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 7/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
Vignelli: From A to Z
by Massimo Vignelli
Mulgrave, Australia: Images Publishing Group, distributed by ACC Distribution, $50
196 pages, 400 color illustrations
With his wife and partner, Lella, Massimo Vignelli is responsible for some of the finest interiors and furniture that this magazine has published. Here is a felicitous selection of the Interior Design Hall of Fame member's designs, including products and showrooms for Artemide, Knoll, and Hauserman; stacking mugs and dishes for Heller; shopping bags for Bloomingdale's; subway maps for New York; jewelry for San Lorenzo; watches for Pierre Junod; men's and women's clothing for the Design: Vignelli label; packaging for Malma, a Polish brand of pasta, and various wineries; and glass lamps and pitchers for Venini, his employer when he was an architecture student in Venice.
His introduction is autobiographical. ("By the time I was 18, I knew all the most important European architects.") It's followed by concise illustrated essays about the principles and concepts behind all good design. The alphabetically ordered topics begin with A for Ambiguity and B for Books. Together, these topics roughly reconstitute a course Vignelli has been teaching at Harvard's School of Design and Architecture, but the format is not slavishly followed. Letters missing from Vignelli's native Italian alphabet (J, K, W, X, and Y) are missing here, too. There are two entries for P (Packaging and Product Design) and two for S (Structure and Style). For Z, Vignelli admits frankly that he has "nothing to say." It hardly needs mentioning that the book, designed by Vignelli himself, is deliciously handsome.
René Binet: From Nature to Form
plates by René Binet, text by Olaf Breidbach and Robert Proctor
New York: Prestel Publishing, $25 paperbound
96 pages, 100 illustrations (75 color)
Skilled as both an architect and a watercolorist, René Binet was steeped in classicism as a student at the Sorbonne in Paris—but turned away, toward the color and ornament of Moorish design. He also developed an interest in structural innovation, especially in the decorative elegance possible with iron construction: He's best known for his monumental entrance gate to the 1900 Exposition Universelle, and in 1911 he completed an extensive addition to the Printemps department store. Published in four installments in 1902 and 1903, his Esquisses Décoratives featured sketches for his famous gate as well as for furniture, wrought iron, stained glass, mosaics, wallpaper, and even jewelry. Attuned to the art nouveau style, they also reflect some of the scientific explorations of nature taking place at the time and, of course, a strong artistic individuality. The present publication is the first reprint of these fascinating plates in more than a century.
Burning Man: Art in the Desert
by A. Leo Nash
New York: Harry N. Abrams, $30
160 pages, 125 duo-tone illustrations
One of the most curious, chaotic, creative adventures in the whole universe of art and design is the 20-year-old annual phenomenon called Burning Man, at which a fantastic city of sculptures, "art cars," dwellings, and temples is constructed in Nevada's Black Rock Desert over the course of a week of work and play—then consumed in bonfires. Here are 125 images, not one of them dull or ordinary.
What They're Reading. . .
Partner of NBBJ
Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest
by Russell Link
Seattle: University of Washington Press, $30
320 pages, 188 illustrations (96 color)
As a group, designers have a pretty broad scope. In addition to nonfiction related to the industry, some of them are reading poetry and literature. On Interior Design Hall of Fame member Rysia Suchecka's night table, there's always something about food or gardening. This book provides specific instructions on creating habitats for indigenous species, rethinking man-made landscapes to approximate a natural environment. "Normally we go out to see wildlife, but this allows me to invite them in to my world," Suchecka says. "How do you trim a tree to create space for a bird? How do you deal with dead limbs or hollows?" In addition to constructing a condo for owls and a guest house for otters, she's currently considering plans for the headquarters of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle—and, of course, reading for pleasure still brings designers back to their work. As this architect puts it, spaces for wildlife provide "inspiration for integrated design. They make me relate to my surroundings." —Deborah Wilk