Edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 10/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
Strawberry Hill: Horace Walpole's Gothic Castle
by Anna Chalcraft and Judith Viscardi
London: Frances Lincoln, $45
160 pages, 137 illustrations (100 color)
In the midst of the 18th century's classical revival came an intentional departure, a new fascination with the Gothic. One important English practitioner in both literature and architecture was Horace Walpole, who, besides being the youngest son of Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole, was the author of the 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story and the owner and designer of the house Strawberry Hill.
Begun in 1754 in what is now the London suburb of Richmond, the project involved a large and changing roster of architects and advisers. The result was deliberately asymmetrical and irregular, with theatrical spaces intended as showplaces for a vast collection of art, artifacts, and curios. One room was devoted to paintings by Hans Holbein the Younger, while another, known as the Tribune or Cabinet, displayed treasures including a silver bell by Benvenuto Cellini, a dagger owned by Henry VIII, and a bronze bust of Caligula with eyes of silver. And everywhere there was Gothic decor. Impressive fan vaults made of papier-mâché, Walpole bragged, were "richer than the roof of paradise."
So many visitors rang the bell in hopes of seeing these wonders that in 1774 Walpole wrote a Catalogue for Shewing the House, thought to have been the first such illustrated guide. The present book, published to coincide with the property's conservation and restoration, takes readers on the same route through the rooms. Though much of Walpole's collection has been dispersed in the past two centuries, period engravings here show us the interiors as they were originally furnished.
Style City Europe
edited by Lucas Dietrich
London: Thames & Hudson, $30
328 pages, 914 color illustrations
This attractive and very design-conscious guide covers 14 cities in Europe: Amsterdam, Antwerp, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Dublin, Istanbul, Lisbon, London, Paris, Rome, Rotterdam, and Vienna. For all of them, recommendations are offered in five basic categories: Sleep, Eat, Drink, Shop, and See. A cluster of colorful images faces each page of text. Without captions, however, it's often difficult to identify which is which—a real drawback for readers looking for the best-designed hotel room or restaurant. Those who succeed in matching word to image can turn to the end of the book, where a section called Contact provides phone numbers and addresses, both street and e-mail.
Textiles Today: A Global Survey of Trends and Traditions
by Chloë Colchester
London: Thames & Hudson, $50
208 pages, 381 color illustrations
Chloë Colchester is a scholar of Polynesian textiles and the author of The New Textiles: Trends and Traditions, 1991, and Clothing the Pacific, 2003. Her new compilation is a real eye-opener. We see an enormous variety of styles, patterns, and visual effects, of course. Consider the nouveau tech of Tord Boontje and Interfaceflor carpets made from fabric waste. In addition, she shows us fiber-optic chandeliers, T-shirts, baseball caps, flags, and art. The book's global reach embraces Nigeria, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Australia, Iceland, and more.
Of even greater interest are amazing examples of new textile technology, many of them featured in 2005's "Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance" at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, in New York. There's spray-on clothing, self-cooling sports uniforms, jackets that alert firemen to noxious fumes, fabrics made from nettles or peat or tobacco or buckwheat, window blinds that harvest daytime solar energy and convert it to light at night, synthetic fibers used as human implants in arteries and spinal cords, fabric coatings that repel water, oil, or even honey without affecting the fabric's hand. The visual variety is delicious, but the science is amazing.
What They're Reading . . .
CEO of Blu Dot Design and Manufacturing
History of Shit
by Dominique Laporte
Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, $17
174 pages, 55 illustrations
When psychoanalyst Dominique Laporte's derisory take on the History of Western Civilization caught architect Maurice Blanks's eye, he says he assumed the title referred to the "antithesis of Corbu's obsession with cleanliness, best represented in his book Towards a New Architecture." What he found instead was a deeply theoretical, humorous meditation. Laporte claims that, while the management of human waste has literally allowed man to rise from his own muck, much of society hides its dirty secrets behind the appearance of cleanliness. Amid these sociopolitical observations, the 1978 book offers an overview of the history of sanitation in Western cities. While technology has certainly made it easier for today's urban planners to conceal pipes than it was for the builders of 16th-century Paris, the issue can still be a cause for concern. Laporte's examination of waste might also help postmodernists, interested in ornament, to learn the difference between form and folly. —Deborah Wilk