edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 6/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
Art + Architecture: The Ebsworth Collection + Residence
edited by Dung Ngo, essay by Franklin Kelly
San Francisco: William Stout Publishers, $65
128 pages, 75 color illustrations
It's difficult enough, we all know, for a house's exterior and interior to appear unified. So when an entire house, its remarkable natural setting, and the owner's impressive art collection cohere in perfect harmony, that deserves a book. The subject here is the bay-front Seattle home of businessman Barney Ebsworth. The architecture is by Jim Olson of Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects; the quietly sympathetic interiors are by Terry Hunziker; and the landscape architecture is by Allworth Nussbaum. The result is a well integrated composition of concrete, limestone, and natural woods, with long enfilades leading to views of the splendid green setting. All work together to give a starring role to the art, part of which was shown at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in 2000. As the book's editor, graphic designer Dung Ngo, says in his introduction, the owner can "dine with [Edward] Hopper and [Wayne] Thiebaud, read with [David] Hockney and [Alexander] Calder, and bathe with [Charles] Sheeler and [Ellsworth] Kelly."
Happily, this impressive design accomplishment extends to the book itself—the work of its editor's Ngo Studio. The pages offer full-bleed images by Paul Warchol, among other photographers; a floor plan; and several detail drawings.
New Chairs: Innovations in Design, Technology, and Materials
by Mel Byars
San Francisco: Chronicle Books, $25
160 pages, 400 color illustrations
Mel Byars is one of our most knowledgeable and prolific design writers, his accomplishments including the impressively comprehensive Design Encyclopedia, out in 2004. Now he brings us 67 recent chairs from 17 countries. Only a few designs qualify as art furniture; in most cases, the designers hope for mass production. Materials range from hay and woven Thai rattan to stacks of plastic drinking straws, strings of quarters, and something called polyethylene terephtalate.
Established designers are well represented—Frank Gehry, Massimo and Lella Vignelli, Tom Dixon, Marcel Wanders—while one designer, Shira Drach, is an Israeli said to be only 11 years old. This makes for pretty fascinating reading. Still, do we discover a budding Marcel Breuer or Charles and Ray Eames here? Not to these eyes.
Phaidon Design Classics
New York: Phaidon Press, $175
three volumes, 3,300 pages, 3,500 color illustrations
This monumental publishing venture, a three-volume set, presents not quite 1,000 objects of all sorts, arranged chronologically. They range from Chinese 17th-century scissors and 18th-century Windsor chairs to the Apple iMac G5 and BarberOsgerby's Lunar bath accessories. In between, we find Swiss Army knives, Michael Thonet's bentwood chairs, cast-iron pots, teddy bears, the Volkswagen Beetle, and much more, each given two to six pages of text and images. All this would be of doubtful worth if it were not well indexed, but in that regard the project is exemplary. Each of the three volumes has an index not only for itself but also for the other two. Furthermore, the chosen objects have been indexed by designer, product category, and product name. There are also lists of the 58 contributing essayists and of the 607 photography sources.
Who chose the 999 objects? We're told only that the selection committee comprised "designers, architects, auction-house experts, critics, curators, journalists, and academics." The only other drawback to this enterprise is the insanely awkward plastic contraption in which the volumes are packaged—and from which they are nearly impossible to extricate. Once you get them out, however, they're priceless—destined to replace whole shelves of reference books.
What They're Reading...
Hansy Better Barraza, Principal of Studio Luz Architects
Eladio Dieste: Innovation in Structural Art edited by Stanford Anderson
New York: Princeton Architectural Press, $60
264 pages, 262 illustrations (104 color)
For Barraza, who is as keen on spreading the word about important South American buildings as she is on inspiring her students at the Rhode Island School of Design, this Uruguayan architect was "an artist." The book records four decades of churches, bus terminals, factories, shopping centers, and grain silos, all simple shell forms of reinforced masonry. "Even his most mundane spaces are spiritual," Barraza adds. "A gas station can feel like a church."