Edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 10/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
Japan-ness in Architecture
by Arata Isozaki, foreword by Toshiko Mori
Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, $30
369 pages, 54 black-and-white illustrations
Japan's architecture, interiors, and objects today hold the high ground occupied once by Scandinavia and later by Italy: They manage to be both clearly modern and clearly Japanese. In this study, which Arata Isozaki has been developing for 20 years, the noted architect asks what it means for a design to be "Japanese" in an age of globalization.
His first section tells of the Western 19th-century craze for japonaiserie—folding screens, netsuke, shagreen boxes—and of Frank Lloyd Wright's search for the essence of Japan through collecting woodblock prints and designing the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. Isozaki finds, however, that the hotel, with its "conventional Beaux-Arts compositional scheme," did not seem Japanese "to the Japanese eye." He devotes other sections to three exemplary but very different buildings: the seventh-century Ise Shrine, the 12th-century Todai-ji temple, and the 17th-century Katsura Imperial Villa. In studying these buildings, he identifies such principles as flatness, emptiness, and ambiguity. The ideas may be difficult to summarize, but his investigative method is widely applicable. It can inform our understanding not only of architecture but also of interior design and the decorative arts—and not only for Japan but also for many other nations. Isozaki has given us a thought-provoking book.
Great Houses in Sweden
by Massimo Listri and Daniel Rey
Mulgrave, Australia: Images Publishing Group, distributed by Antique Collectors' Club, $65
239 pages, 222 color illustrations
Named for the artistically inclined King Gustav III of Sweden, who reigned in the late 1700's, the Gustavian style is characterized by large windows with minimal curtains, light wood floors, white ceilings, pale walls, and delicately garlanded decoration. The combination is remarkably similar to today's best design, in that traditional elements are used—but in an airier, simpler, and more restrained way than most of what went before.
This attractive book surveys Gustavian and Gustavian-influenced interiors not generally open to the public. We see rooms in the Stockholm Royal Palace, the Tidö Castle, Skokloster Castle, and other buildings along the shores of Lake Mälaren as well as in farmhouses in the rural province of Hälsingland. Particularly striking is Gustav III's own Museum of Antiquities. A series of serene spaces, all in white and pale gray, it houses 200 ancient sculptures and decorative objects that the king shipped back to Sweden from his travels in Italy.
Yearning for Beauty: The Wiener Werkstätte and the Stoclet House
by Peter Noever, Etienne Davignon, Paul Dujardin, and Anne Mommens
Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz Verlag, distributed by Distributed Art Publishers, $95
452 pages, 685 illustrations (418 color)
Inside these deeply embossed, silvery covers is one of the most thorough and beautiful books ever produced about the Wiener Werkstätte, the group of Viennese architects, artists, and artisans founded in 1903 by Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser. Accompanying essays by authorities including Harvard University's Eduard F. Sekler—whose Hoffmann monograph is the keystone of scholarship on his architecture and interiors—are some historic archival photographs never published before.
A year-by-year chronology begins in 1893 and continues to 1939, embracing both the antecedents and the aftermath of the movement. Arranged chronologically from 1903 to 1930, a beautiful 170-page portfolio of color photographs illustrates a profusion of the group's creative output, including furniture, graphics, jewelry, metalwork, and textiles. The book's final 56 pages are devoted exclusively to the Stoclet House. This palatial Brussels residence, built from 1905 to 1911, was designed by Hoffmann with contributions from many Wiener Werkstätte members. The unified architecture, interiors, and decorative objects made the building a textbook example of the Gesamtkunstwerk, or total work of art.
This impressive book simultaneously shows and embodies the Wiener Werkstätte's goals of fine craftsmanship in every product and of artistic quality in every detail of daily life.
What They're Reading...
Afiya Halima Adams, President of AHA Designs
Collecting African American Art: Works on Paper and Canvas
by Halima Taha
New York: Crown Publishers, $50
270 pages, 150 illustrations (75 color)
Adams regards art and design as the same. "They're just in different mediums and scales," she says. When she's hired for an interiors job, the first thing she does is determine her client's taste in art, and this book is an important reference point in the process—whether the client is interested specifically in African-American art or not. That's because the book covers everything from framing to estate planning. (Artists run the gamut from abstract modernist Sam Gilliam to contemporary photographer Lorna Simpson.) "It helps me make knowledgeable decisions," Adams says. "Art can make or break a project."