reviewed by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 10/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
Hotel Design: Planning and Development
by Walter A. Rutes, Richard H. Penner, and Lawrence Adams
New York: W. W. Norton & Co.
422 pages, many b&w illustrations plus 32-page color portfolio, $100.
Building Type Basics for Hospitality Facilities
edited by Stephen A. Kliment
New York: John Wiley
178 pages, many b&w illustrations plus 16-page color portfolio, $69.95.
Hip Hotels: Budget
by Herbert Ypma
New York: Thames & Hudson
246 pages, 512 illustrations, 411 in color, $29.95 paperbound.
In 1985 Andrée Putman designed Morgan's Hotel in New York, soon followed by a succession of small hotels by Philippe Starck, and a whole new standard in hotel design was established. The hotel environment would no longer be judged by its quantities of velvet and gilt, but also by its quotients of adventure and imagination. Even in the most liberated examples, however, both public and back-of-the-house facilities are still subject to a complex array of guidelines, code requirements, checklists, and principles of function and economics. Here are three new books with three different slants on the subject.
The most thorough and potentially useful, perhaps, is Hotel Design: Planning and Development, its authors including Walter A. ("Wally") Rutes, whose work experience has been not only at design firms such as Skidmore, Owings & Merrill but also at hotel chains such as Sheraton, Ramada, and Inter-Continental. The present book is an expansion and revision of the same team's Hotel Planning and Design, published in 1985. The first half describes the characteristics of a dozen different hotel types (downtown, suburban, resort, convention, etc.). A second section presents criteria for guest room floors, bathroom equipment, food and beverage outlets, laundries, parking facilities, and many other aspects of the modern hotel. Forty pages are devoted to management and development issues, and extensive appendices add information on environmental planning, budget coordination, market trends, forecasts of net operating income, and more. Illustrations throughout show a wide range of design types and design quality.
Hospitality Facilities is part of a new Building Type Basics series being edited by Stephen A. Kliment, former editor of Architectural Record. In it, various experts consider different aspects of current hotel design: Brian McDonough gives an overall perspective of the field, including hotel functions, project teams, and various phases of the design, construction, and postconstruction processes; groups of other authors then focus on specific hotel types such as luxury, resort, limited-service, casinos, and conference centers. An appendix summarizes the "Principal Planning and Design Characteristics of Hospitality Facilities," and, in addition to a conventional index, endpapers offer a "Quick Index to Twenty Essential Questions." The book is an early example of what promises to be a smart and useful series.
Considerably less serious but considerably more attractive than those two compilations of standards and guidelines is Hip Hotels: Budget, part of a series that has already looked at city hotels, escape hotels, and hotels in France. "Hip," as used here, is an acronym for "highly individual properties," and so they are, all in the post-Putman spirit.
Design as an Understanding of the Business Environment: The Switzer Group
Introduction by Peter Slatin
New York: Edizioni Press
142 pages, many color illustrations, $40.
Lou Switzer is a member of this magazine's Hall of Fame. His namesake design firm was founded in 1975, has been a perennial staple of our Giants listings since 1980, and has been frequently featured in these pages. Based in New York, the firm now has outposts in Washington, Atlanta, and Miami. Its client retention rate is an astonishing 80 percent, including its very first two clients, IBM and Citibank. Even more notable than the firm's success, however, is its identity with the changing character of the office, a subject Switzer knows completely. For just one example, his 1994 IBM facility in Cranford, NJ, was the earliest large-scale demonstration of "hoteling" principles, offering 180 workspaces for a mobile staff of 800 employees. This handsome book, printed in Italy, shows that job and 20 others; together they give a picture not only of one firm's admirable work, but also of the volatile field in which it specializes—as the title says, "Design as an Understanding of the Business Environment."
Out of the Ordinary: Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Associates - Architecture, Urbanism, Design
by David Brownlee, David De Long, and Kathryn B. Hiesinger
New Haven: Yale University Press
288 pages, 554 illustrations, 270 in color, $60.
The catalogue for an exhibition recently seen at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and traveling soon to La Jolla, CA, and to Pittsburgh, this is an authoritative and sympathetic summary of the work of one of the world's most distinguished, most adventurous, and most independent design firms. It is written by the three curators of the exhibition.
David Brownlee presents a readable and valuable account of Venturi and Scott Brown's separate and then united adventures in architecture and urban design before 1980; David De Long continues that story to the present; and Kathryn Hiesinger examines the firm's work in the fields of interior design and decorative arts. Brownlee and De Long, both at the University of Pennsylvania, were co-authors a decade ago of the definitive monograph on another Philadelphia-based giant, Louis Kahn, and Hiesinger is a curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In addition, there are an illustrated chronology by Diane L. Minnite, a detailed project list compiled by William Whitaker, and a selected bibliography.
Readers of Interior Design will, of course, find much of interest in Hiesinger's section of the book, including furniture, china, cutlery, glassware, and fabrics, mostly from the years between 1978 and 1993. Here is the well-known furniture design for Knoll, tableware for Swid Powell and Alessi, rugs for V'Soske, and fabric for Designtex, along with less familiar furniture designs for Arc International and the Milan Triennale and even some jewelry designs for Cleto Munari. Hiesinger also presents the interior design that has complemented the firm's architecture throughout its history, beginning with the 1958-59 renovation of New York's James B. Duke house for New York University's Institute of Fine Arts and the 1962 Grand's Restaurant in Philadelphia.
But the heart of the book is found in the conclusion of De Long's essay, which clarifies the principles that characterize Venturi and Scott Brown design in any medium and at any scale. He rescues their work from inappropriate identity with the most literal of the postmodernists, such as Michael Graves, Robert A. M. Stern, and Allen Greenberg (although the Venturis' influence on such work is clear, and it should not be forgotten that, as Brownlee points out, Stern had championed Venturi's early work in his 1969 New Directions in American Architecture). De Long quotes a 1982 complaint from Venturi that "The Postmodernists, in supplanting the Modernists, have substituted for the largely irrelevant universal vocabulary of heroic industrialism another largely irrelevant universal vocabulary—that of parvenu Classicism, with its American manifestation, a dash of Deco and a whiff of Ledoux." And he quotes Scott Brown's 1992 addition that "…our allusions are representations rather than copies of historic precedents. The deceit is only skin deep."
De Long continues to explain that the Venturis' contribution is not limited to their intellectualized manipulation of references, but consists also in their particularized manipulation of geometry. He quotes "what must be the first perceptive, positive analysis" of Venturi's 1964 house for his mother: Ellen Perry (now Ellen Perry Berkeley), writing in the May 1965 Progressive Architecture, noted that "The whole, in its studied disjointedness, appears to express the discontinuity and fragmented quality that characterizes contemporary life."
That life is not naturally easy or comfortable, and the Venturis' brilliant attempts to express it continue to be edgy, quirky, and provocative. Brownlee, Hiesinger, and (especially) De Long show us their value. The three authors, in De Long's own words, help us appreciate the Venturis for "the full measure of how they forever changed architecture."
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