Edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 6/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
byDiane Dorrans Saeks
New York: Rizzoli International Publications, $60
224 pages, 200 color illustrations
Orlando Diaz-Azcuy is a dedicated modernist—but one with no fear of an ornate antique. Against backgrounds of the greatest serenity, never severity, carefully chosen objects of fanciful character play starring roles. "I have never liked excess. I like simplicity with a touch of glamour," this book quotes him as saying. As his fellow Interior Design Hall of Fame member John Saladino writes in an appreciative foreword, "His immaculate attention to the geometrical shapes of the selected furnishings suggests elegant dancers in a ballet."
Born in Cuba, educated in the U.S., Diaz-Azcuy spent a dozen years as a design principal at Gensler, where he was responsible for the interiors of the San Francisco headquarters of Levi Strauss & Co., the United Bank of Denver, Northrop Corporation, and Wells Fargo. He opened the firm now known as Orlando Diaz-Azcuy Design Associates in San Francisco in 1987 and a New York branch in 2001. In both locations, he and his distinctively white-smocked team have turned out solutions for law firms, hospitals, hotels, and athletic clubs in addition to such one-of-a-kind commissions as the Intermezzo lounge for the San Francisco Opera, where he served as a trustee. The firm has also designed products for Boyd Lighting, HBF Textiles, HBF, McGuire Furniture Company, Pallas Textiles, F. Schumacher & Co., Steelcase, and Stow-Davis.
This welcome book shows only 20 projects, giving all of them the room they deserve. The 17 residential interiors include six he designed for his own use; the three offices are his own. There are, unfortunately, no floor plans, but the book is handsomely designed with fine photography by Jaime Ardiles-Arce, Tim Street-Porter, John Vaughan, Toshi Yoshimi, and others. The text is in the best of hands, those of Diane Dorrans Saeks, who has an impressive 20 design books to her credit. Here, she steps modestly back and lets her subject shine.
Made in Cassina
edited byGiampiero Bosoni
Milan: Skira Editore; distributed by Rizzoli International Publications, $70
360 pages, 584 illustrations (379 color)
The Italian furniture giant Cassina was founded as Amedeo Cassina in 1927 by brothers Umberto and Cesare Cassina. Its first products were 19th-century reproductions, and it moved into contemporary design only around 1940, attaining an international reputation for avant-garde work in the 1950's. Cassina was acquired by Steelcase in the late 1980's and eventually by Poltrona Frau in 2005. These pages tell the company's whole story, pausing at such milestones as Gio Ponti's Superleggera chair (1957), Gianfranco Frattini's stacking tables (1966), Mario Bellini's Cab chair (1977), and Vico Magistretti's Sindbad chairs and sofas (1981). In addition to furniture, attention is directed to advertising, showroom interiors, manufacturing processes, and, of course, design philosophy.
Giampiero Bosoni, a professor of architecture and design history at the Politecnico di Milano, not only edited the book but also contributed 20 of the 49 essays. There are brief biographies of 54 designers and firms, plus longer ones for seven maestri: Franco Albini, Erik Gunnar Asplund, Le Corbusier, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Charlotte Perriand, Gerrit Rietveld, and Frank Lloyd Wright. A comprehensive list of more than 700 products by Cassina notes their designers and years of introduction.
What They're Reading. . .
Kirsten Childs, director of interior design at Croxton Collaborative Architects
Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature
byJanine M. Benyus
New York: Harper Perennial, $15
"It's my bible. It's the one that really captured me," Kirsten Childs says of the last of science writer Janine M. Benyus's six books on the natural world. In Biomimicry, she suggests that designers considering innovations for man-made environments should take advantage of the 4 billion years of R&D provided by the earth's evolutionary process. "It offers such valuable information. There are so many creatures and life systems that have adapted to living amid both harsh and mild climates," the architect says. (One of the book's many examples entails the analysis of botanical photosynthesis in the service of more efficient solar cells.) An early champion of the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program, for which she served on the steering committee and chaired the indoor environmental-quality section, she's currently working on the Natural Resources Defense Council office in New York. "We are always looking at using the least amount of hardware, using the existing assets of the site," she says. The city's concrete canyons could certainly benefit from a biomimetic approach.