edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 11/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
Gene Summers: Art/Architecture
by Werner Blaser
Boston: Birkhäuser Publishing, distributed by Princeton Architectural Press, $72
228 pages, 202 illustrations (81 color)
Gene Summers is a multitalented phenomenon, and this monograph of his work is long overdue. After studying with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology in the 1950's, Summers became Mies's chief assistant—playing a key role at the Farnsworth house in Plano, Illinois; 860/880 Lake Shore Drive and IIT's chapel in Chicago; the Seagram Building in New York; and the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. Later, as partner in charge of design for C.F. Murphy Associates, his projects included the McCormick Place convention center Chicago. As Phyllis Lambert's partner at Ridgway, he restored downtown Los Angeles's Biltmore Hotel, filling it with Mies furniture and Jim Dine art. In 1989, he returned to IIT to serve as dean of the College of Architecture. During, between, and after these more formal engagements, he worked on his own, designing and casting bronze furniture and furnishings for Holly Hunt, turning wood bowls, designing tapestries, painting watercolors, and publishing them in book form. Happily, all these endeavors are represented in this handsome volume.
Summers's work is not that of a single theme expressed in different media. The rigorous clarity of his architecture and interior design is complemented by the animal vigor of his bronzes and the fresh lyricism of his flower paintings. Perhaps the overall theme is simply an insistence on quality. As Lambert writes in her introduction, "The design of a spoon and the design of a building are of equal importance to Gene Summers, but expressly on condition that they are done well. This book shows his work at these two scales: powerful buildings at the leading edge of technology. . .and, with equal dedication and research, the. . . carefully crafted [objects] that he has made with his own hands…. [His] work is a paradigm of gentleness and boldness."
Oriental Carpets and Their Structure: Highlights From the V&A Collection
by Jennifer Wearden
London: V&A Publications, distributed by Harry N. Abrams, $45
144 pages, 150 color illustrations
This instructive book presents not just another portfolio of beautiful carpets but also a succinct tutorial on how they were made. Its core is 100 well shown examples from London's Victoria and Albert Museum. These are arranged not by their dates or cultural-geographic origins but by the patterns knotted into the carpets' pile—an organization that encourages the discovery of contrasts and similarities.
An introduction and detailed notes for each carpet analyze underlying structure, explaining "why patterns are as they are and why they appear on carpets woven in one region and not another." Jennifer Wearden includes plentiful notes, clear diagrams of knotting variations, a helpful bibliography, and a tiny (10-word) glossary but unfortunately no index.
Giuseppe Terragni: Transformations Decompositions Critiques
by Peter Eisenman
New York: Monacelli Press, $60
304 pages, 150 black-and-white illustrations, 350 two-color diagrams
Giuseppe Terragni was the Peter Eisenman of his day: an architect whose influence was immense in comparison with his body of built work, a journalist and writer of radical texts, and a designer whose work was transformed by subtle geometric manipulations.
Although this book took 40 years to write, a length of time approximately equal to Terragni's short life, Eisenman focuses on only two buildings, the Casa del Fascio and the Casa Giuliani-Frigerio, both in the Italian city of Como. His analysis of these two is exhaustive but limited, ignoring considerations of function, context, and history. (Some may find this slightly troubling, considering that the Casa del Fascio—as its name suggests—was constructed as the National Fascist Party's local headquarters.) Instead, Eisenman favors formal readings. These are expressed largely through a dazzling array of meticulous plans, elevations, and isometric drawings showing every imaginable nuance of Terragni's design process. An obviously obsessive undertaking, this rare book is also obviously the product of a fortuitous symbiosis between a critic and his subject.
What They're Reading...
Founder of a namesake firm most associated with residential work in California's Napa Valley
by Adam Lewis
New York: Viking Studio, $40
262 pages, 130 illustrations (34 color)
Opening with a foreword by Albert Hadley, this book covers the life of the famous Parsons School of Design educator and Tiffany & Co. design director. When we reviewed the biography last year, we wished for "more classroom notes and fewer social ones." Thomas Bartlett disagrees—he finds Truex's privileged and busy social life fascinating. "I wish," Bartlett says, "that I could have met half the people Truex knew."
For Stanley Abercrombie's review of this book, click here.