edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 7/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
Pietre Dure: The Art of Semiprecious Stonework
by Annamaria Giusti
Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, $85
264 pages, 204 color illustrations
Pietre dure. In the U.S., the term is more often seen in its singular form, pietra dura. But the plural is clearly appropriate, as it refers to decorative mosaics composed of many hard stones. With the proper artistry, this work can be gorgeous, combining the bright green of malachite, the azure blue of lapis lazuli, the reds of carnelian and porphyry. The hardness of the stones permits a high finish, and the results have enriched altars, vases, tabletops, furniture panels, and whole walls. The technique was skillfully employed in India, where the surfaces of the Taj Mahal writhe with arabesques of inlaid stones—although that country's work goes unmentioned here.
Instead, after a nod to precedents in ancient Rome and Byzantium, the author focuses on the pietre dure of the Renaissance, particularly that of Rome, again, and Florence, somewhat later. (The latter emphasis is not unfair. The technique is also known as Florentine mosaic.) Happily, the spectacular effects of pietre dure produce an equally spectacular book, with plenty of full-bleed color images of the extraordinary works. The visual feast is sure to please any designer.
Absolutely Fabulous! Architecture and Fashion
by Ruth Hanisch
New York: Prestel Publishing, $40
144 pages, 230 illustrations (190 color)
At the rarefied intersection of high design and high fashion, nothing less-than-fabulous can succeed. Represented in this collection of 33 examples of recent work are such prominent firms as Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Massimiliano Fuksas Architetto and such highly droppable names as Louis Vuitton, Paul Smith, Hermès, and Giorgio Armani. We see their striking shops in New York, Paris, and Milan, but the most striking are—not surprisingly—in Tokyo. They include Ron Arad Associates's store for Yohji Yamamoto, its interior looped with giant coils of aluminum tubing; Herzog & de Meuron's Prada "epicenter," set in a lozenge-shape steel frame; Chanel's suitably chic 10-story building by Peter Marino Architect; and the Tod's flagship by Toyo Ito & Associates, Architects.
The book closes with a serious essay about the long, evolving relationship between fashion and architecture. As author Ruth Hanisch speculates, "In this light the flagship stores could be as paradigmatic for architecture in the first years of the third millennium as new museum buildings were in the 1980's." Maybe so. For the moment, in any case, they're absolutely fabulous.
The World of Ornament
introduction by David Batterham
Cologne, Germany: Taschen, $200
528 pages, 250 color illustrations, DVD
The 19th century was obsessed with the past and foreign places as sources of design inspiration—and equally obsessed with the cataloging of information. These two preoccupations combined to produce a number of pattern books on exotic ornament, the most famous being Owen Jones's The Grammar of Ornament, published in 1856, and Albert Charles Auguste Racinet's L'Ornement Polychrome, published in two volumes in 1875 and 1888.
Racinet's monumental compilation and another, L'Ornement des Tissus by M. Dupont-Auberville, have now been republished together in lavish style. The book measures a shelf-devouring 111 /2 by 17 1/2 by 2 1/2 inches and weighs in at almost 14 pounds. But there is quality as well as quantity: The excellent reproductions are clear and fresh—compared to a more modest reprint of Racinet's book in 1988—and the color plates, each offering a number of examples, are dazzling. Western and Eastern styles are covered, and examples come not just from fabrics but also from ceramics, mosaics, frescoes, manuscripts, and jewelry. The accompanying DVD offers high-resolution images that make the 5,000 individual ornaments accessible for unrestricted use.
What They're Reading...
Principal of Parallel Design Partnership
Donald Deskey: Decorative Designs and Interiors
by David A. Hanks and Jennifer Toher
New York: E.P. Dutton
214 pages, 254 illustrations (44 color)
While researching 1930's and '40's designers for a duplex renovation in New York, Tayar grew attached to this out-of-print book filled with period photographs. He also liked its scope, covering everything from private residences to public buildings and industrial products by the deco great. "I knew Deskey had designed Radio City Music Hall," Tayar says. "But I had no idea about his Crest toothpaste tube and box for Proctor & Gamble."—Kelly Beamon