edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 2/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
Marcel Breuer—Design and Architecture
edited by Alexander von Vegesack and Mathias Remmele
Weil am Rhein, Germany: Vitra Design Museum, $70
448 pages, 446 illustrations (140 color)
This very welcome book accompanies a traveling Marcel Breuer exhibition, now at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany. Both cover furniture as well as buildings.
An essay on the "Inventor of Bent Tubular-Steel Furniture" is the most thorough on the subject, and the following 33-page color portfolio is beautiful, including some rarities. Another essay adds information about familiar pieces for Gavina and Knoll.
The Bambos houses for Bauhaus faculty get their due, and Breuer's residential design in general receives 70 pages. Explanation is also offered for the politically complicated and aesthetically controversial collaboration behind the Unesco complex in Paris.
Former partner Robert F. Gatje reminisces in "Working With Marcel Breuer," while I.M. Pei contributes a generous appreciation, "A Sophisticated Way of Looking Natural." Historian Barry Bergdoll, said to be working on a Breuer monograph, writes about the architect's experience "Encountering America." Isabelle Hyman describes his "Later Modernism" with much more grace and perception than she displayed in her scholarly but curiously sour 2001 Breuer monograph.
The final chapter features photographs of religious buildings, including some of his best collaborations: the starkly dramatic Saint John's Abbey, the sensuous Saint Francis de Sales church, and the powerful Baldegg convent. Then, for dessert, a pictorial "biography" shows a dozen images of Breuer—with his brother and sister in 1907, with Walter Gropius and other Bauhaus colleagues, with Jacqueline Kennedy touring the Whitney Museum of American Art construction site in New York.
Concluding the book are a bibliography and a chronology but, disappointingly, no index. Even without, this is the richest, liveliest, and most satisfactory of all recent publications about one of the 20th century's seminal architects.
How To See: A Guide to Reading Our Man-Made Environment
by George Nelson
Oakland, California: Design Within Reach, $30 paperbound
160 pages, 316 illustrations (219 color)
In 1973, George Nelson accepted an unusual assignment: to write a training manual for the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Titled "How to See," this 71-page pamphlet proposed to "open our eyes to a world of visual information available to us every minute but ignored by us much of the time." By 1977, Nelson had expanded the pamphlet into a 234-page illustrated book of the same title.
A quarter century later, Design Within Reach founder Rob Forbes decided that the larger version deserved a new audience. Jacqueline Nelson, the designer's widow, gave permission for reprinting, on the condition that the book's design be by Chris Pullman, the former Nelson staff member originally responsible for it.
Nelson and Pullman's intent had, in fact, never been followed. Besides lacking color, the 1977 book included many flaws, such as illustrations several pages removed from relevant text. Corrections made, the new edition blossoms with color and visual energy, and Nelson's prose—wry, wise, and ingratiating—remains a joy.
Curiously, Forbes and Pullman chose to replace the provocative original subtitle, Visual Adventures in a World God Never Made. Even so, they've served all designers well in giving new life to this delightful, insightful book.
by David Cathers
New York: Phaidon Press, $70
240 pages, 300 illustrations (100 color)
Gustav Stickley was best known for furniture, but he and his four brothers were also leaders in every phase of America's austere Arts and Crafts movement, designing metalwork, textiles, interiors, and entire houses. His namesake furniture company, in business from 1900 to 1915, dominated the production of so-called Mission-style furniture—a popular term that Stickley hated. His Craftsman magazine, published 1901 through 1916, served as the Arts and Crafts movement's chief record and conscience, the first issue devoted to William Morris and the second to John Ruskin.
This handsomely illustrated book is the best authority we have on the chief figure in an enormously influential movement.
What They're Reading...
A partner in Lehman-Smith + McLeish and member of the Interior Design Hall of Fame
Eero Saarinen: An Architecture of Multiplicity
by Antonio Román
New York: Princeton Architectural Press, $60
240 pages, 180 illustrations
More than two decades have passed since the first critical evaluation of Eero Saarinen, and Antonio Román now spans the architect's diverse career via technical notes and lavishly reproduced drawings, models, built works, and furniture. Lehman-Smith finds much to admire in his constant innovation and his "capacity to respond to each new project in a uniquely appropriate way." She adds that, for her, "Saarinen's multiplicity is both inspiring and humbling."