edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 9/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
Yeohlee: Work Material Architecture
By Yeohlee Teng
Mulgrave, Australia: Peleus Press, distributed by Antique Collectors' Club, $65
224 pages, 269 illustrations (233 color)
Architecture is a word often used metaphorically, referring not only to built designs but also to any coherent formulation that results from a conscious act. The work of Yeohlee Teng clearly falls into the latter category. Teng came from her native Malaysia to study at the Parsons School of Design in New York, staying on to launch the fashion label Yeohlee—clothing that's sometimes soft and supple, sometimes strikingly geometric, sometimes both at once, and always ravishingly simple. As Paola Antonelli, curator in the Museum of Modern Art's architecture and design department, writes in one of this book's eight essays, "Good design may be described as a combination of lucid strategy, speculative interest in other human beings, and aesthetic talent. It then follows that some particular instances of clothing design naturally belong to the field of design studies…. The best contemporary objects are those which express consciousness by displaying the reasons why they were made and the process that led to their making."
By Studio Marmo with text by Marco Campagna
New York: W.W. Norton & Company, $55 paperbound
132 pages, 576 color illustrations, CD-ROM
Coverage of stone types, stone features, and quarrying and processing techniques introduces the heart of this book: a collection of 576 photographic swatches of natural stones—marble, travertine, onyx, granite, quartzite, limestone—with information about sources, availability, compressive and tensile strengths, water absorption, density, and other specifications. The accompanying CD-ROM contains images of all the swatches, which can be printed for use in design studies and presentations.
If you specify stone, you need either a gigantic sample room or this little book. Even if you do have a gigantic sample room, this book is useful.
Dwellings: Living With Great Style
By Stephen Sills and James Huniford
New York: Bulfinch Press, AOL Time Warner Book Group, $30
224 pages, 200 color illustrations
Stephen Sills and James Huniford founded their New York residential design firm in 1985. "In the beginning, our style was considered fresh, with lots of light and monochromatic color schemes. We were noted for our honey-gold colors, spareness, and lots of breathing room," they write. Since then, we infer from this monograph—their first—the firm's style has grown more complex, but it's still fresh and spare.
Compared to the typical glossy coffee-table extravaganza, Dwellings measures a diminutive 7 by 9 inches, its unjacketed gray linen cover featuring three tiny rectangles of photography. Inside, many more small-scale images are juxtaposed with full-page close-ups of fabrics and carpets, while pale gray pages offer nothing but a few words of handwritten script. What the script says, unfortunately, is frequently unremarkable. No matter. What the illustrations say is something very different. They speak a sophisticated language that could come only from professionals with the most highly developed skills, discipline, and taste.
Art of the First Cities: The Third Millenium BC From the Mediterranean to the Indus
Edited by Joan Aruz with Ronald Wallenfels
New Haven: Yale University Press, $75
564 pages, 712 illustrations (535 color)
"Art of the First Cities" closed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, on August 17. Because of the many difficulties in assembling the 300 artifacts from 53 lenders in 16 countries, the show will not travel. Fortunately for those of us who failed to get to the Met, however, a comprehensive catalog has now come out. (Its late publication leads one to surmise that there may also have been difficulties in assembling the two-dimensional materials.)
Despite the complexities, the simple and powerful presence of these votive statues, musical instruments, toys, headdresses, jewelry, vessels, stelae, seals, and tablets makes itself felt, and commonalities impress more forcefully than differences. In her introduction, Joan Aruz, curator in charge of the Met's department of ancient Near Eastern art, quotes from philosopher Karl Jaspers's The Origin and Goal of History: "The unity of mankind is impressively evident in the fact that similar basic traits of religion, forms of thought, implements, and social forms recur all over the earth. The simplicity of man is great despite his diversity."
What They're Reading...
Founder of a namesake Los Angeles firm that specializes in interior and product design
By Mary Beard
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, $20
209 pages, 32 black-and-white illustrations
Kavanaugh finds this new history of one of the world's most famous buildings immediately useful in her current work at the Gennadius Library, a classical-studies center in Athens. Aside from that, she points out, the Parthenon's design—based on venerable principles of proportion, refined by subtle optical corrections—is relevant to all design at all times in all places.