edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 10/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
The Silk Road: 2,000 Years in the Heart of Asia
By Frances Wood
Berkeley: University of California Press, $30
270 pages, 135 illustrations (104 color), two maps
The Silk Road—in reality an intertwining series of ancient trade routes—was for hundreds of years a key factor in the exchange not only of goods but also of cultural ideas. In this richly illustrated book, Frances Wood, head of the Chinese collection at the British Library in London, describes the Silk Road's rivers, deserts, and snowy mountain passes, its traders, thieves, and betrothed princesses, its carefully guarded methods of making silk, paper, and porcelain, and the spices, manuscripts, and tapestries that constituted the Silk Road's chief treasures. Then as now, the routes' fascination was "as much a matter of imagination as of trade," Wood writes in her epilogue. She closes by quoting James Elroy Flecker's description of Silk Road merchants: "We travel not for trafficking alone/By hotter winds our fiery hearts are fanned/For lust of knowing what should not be known/We make the Golden Journey to Samarkand."
The Villas of Palladio
By Giovanni Giaconi with text by Kim Williams
New York: Princeton Architectural Press, $50
152 pages, 122 illustrations (100 color)
Sometimes drawings are more informative than photographs. This is certainly true for Palladian facades, where proportions and planar relationships merit exact study. Reproduced at full-page size, Giovanni Giaconi's meticulous pen-and-ink watercolor renderings depict all 32 of Andrea Palladio's Italian villas—whether Vicenza's celebrated Villa Rotunda or the less-known likes of Molina's Villa Porto, scarcely begun before construction was halted.
In the uncolored studies that accompany each finished rendering, Giaconi's skeletal pencil traces of underlying alignments make the architectural relationships even clearer, as do the book's other supporting materials. Palladio's own woodcuts of plans and elevations, taken from his Four Books of Architecture, accompany most of Giaconi's drawings. The descriptive text is by Kim Williams, an architect who has worked in both Florence and New York as well as directing an international conference on architecture and mathematics.
Up, Down, Across: Elevators, Escalators, and Moving Sidewalks
Edited by Alisa Goetz
New York: Merrell Publishers, $50
224 pages, 260 illustrations (122 color)
In 1854 at New York's Crystal Palace, Elisha Otis demonstrated his elevator safety brake—an event described at least four times in this collection of essays. In 1900 in Paris, visitors to the Exposition Universelle traveled on a moving sidewalk or trottoir roulant. From those days to these, designers and engineers have been busily concocting new ways of carrying us from one location to the next.
All of them, it seems, are pictured here, and the highly readable text is supplemented by an illustrated glossary and various charts. One presents elevator densities for different countries—Italy being the most dense, with 130 elevators per 10,000 people. Then there are comparative elevator speeds, topping out with the Taipei Financial Center's 37.6 miles per hour, and moving-walkway speeds, notably the 650 feet per minute reached by a 2002 installation in the Paris metro.
Alisa Goetz is the assistant curator at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., and her book covers the museum's exhibition of the same name, on view through April 18. The show's curator is Pentagram partner Abbott Miller, also responsible for the graphics of this book.
What They're Reading...
Founder of a namesake Minneapolis firm, established in 1982
Naturally Modern: Creating Interiors With Wood, Stone, Leather, and Natural Fabrics
By Ros Byam Shaw with photography by Andrew Wood
New York: Harry N. Abrams, $28
144 pages, 250 color illustrations
Focusing first on individual "elements"—wood, stone, etc.—then devoting separate chapters to different room types, this persuasively illustrated book argues that interiors can promote a sense of well-being if they're composed of materials found in nature. "It's a great read for these complicated times," William Beson says. "Now, more than ever, interior designers are looking for ways to create environments grounded in peace and harmony."
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