reviewed by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 8/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
The Elements of Classical Architecture
by Georges Gromort, edited and with an introduction by Henry Hope Reed;
H. Stafford Bryant, project editor
New York: W. W. Norton
254 pages, 200 black and white illustrations, $45.
The classical orders are with us still, even when they are not overtly visible. They persist in our window spacings, our wall panelings, our cabinetwork, and our chair legs. However modern or radical our work, it is likely still to be haunted by Greek and Roman antecedents. Georges Gromort's systematic treatise on classical form, proportion, and ornament, published a century ago, is therefore still a timely refresher course on basic principles of composition. Added to that continuing validity are the pleasures of precise and skillful line drawings and the introductory essays by Henry Hope Reed, Richard Franklin Sammons, and Steven W. Semes.
New York: Clarkson Potter
224 pages, many color illustrations, $45.
Clodagh is a member of this magazine's Hall of Fame, an interior designer of international stature, a champion of interior craftspeople and decorative artists, and a woman of uncommon charisma: warm, communicative, honest, direct, and sensuous. In short, I'm crazy about her. I'm also delighted that at last her work, much of which has been seen in this magazine's pages, is the subject of a book. I'm slightly less fond, however, of the way that work is presented in the book, which is under the rubric of what we might call Clodagh's catchwords: "Contemplate, Cleanse, Clarify, and Create." Encountered alone or in some other context, these might seem cute, corny, contrived, or even cloying. Happily, they are met here in the context of Clodagh's own design and, because that design is so often brilliant, all is forgiven.
The professional reader may regret that there are no plans provided and seldom any sense of whole installations; instead we see single rooms, vignettes, and photomontages of uncaptioned objects, textures, patterns, and colors. These partial views and montages, however, are effective and evocative, full of personality. It might also be regretted that, aside from a trade fair pavilion for a textile manufacturer and an office corridor, none of Clodagh's fine nonresidential work is seen. But the professional is not the intended audience for this book, which speaks directly to the homeowner, whether a potential client or a do-it-yourself type. As in Clodagh's design, there is both poetry and pragmatism here, and the book ends with a no-nonsense "Workbook" section of intelligent questions, checklists, and even legal advice. In summary, the design shown is excellent; the illustrations (mostly by Daniel Aubry and Keith Scott Morton) are excellent; the book design is excellent; and most parts of the text are excellent. It may not be the perfect Clodagh book, and it certainly won't be the last, but it's a very welcome beginning.
The Destruction of Penn Station
photography by Peter Moore
New York: D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers
128 pages, one color and 140 duotone illustrations, $40.
This is one of the saddest, most poignant books I've ever seen, and I recommend you grab a box of Kleenex and read it at once. It is photojournalist Peter Moore's previously unpublished record of the destruction of New York's Pennsylvania Station between 1962 and 1966. Watching McKim, Mead & White's 1910 monument disappear, page by page, is an incredible experience, sweetened only slightly by the awareness that this act of corporate vandalism gave a tremendous boost to the historic preservation movement. There is an introduction by Moore's widow, Barbara Moore, an essay by Eric Nash, and a chronology by Lorraine B. Diehl.
Lancaster House: London's Greatest Town House
by James Yorke
London: Merrell; distributed in the U.S. by Rizzoli through St. Martin's Press, New York
192 pages, 100 illustrations, 50 in color, $75.
Built as York House in 1825, renamed Stafford House two years later, and called Lancaster House since 1914, the city mansion at the end of London's Green Park is well worth a book of its own. When Queen Victoria visited there in its Stafford House period, she is said to have remarked to the Duchess of Sutherland, who lived there, "I come from my house to your palace." Robert Smirke was the original architect, but he was replaced by Benjamin Wyatt, who was largely responsible for the design as built. Wyatt was then joined by his brother Philip, Smirke was recalled to supervise the addition of a third floor, and Charles Barry was hired for new interior designs in 1838. Also contributing to the interiors were the upholsterer Desiré Dellier, the firms of George Morant & Son and Morel & Seddon, and many other designers and artisans. The house's central staircase hall is 80 feet square and 120 feet high, but the house is even more notable for its elegance of finish than for its scale. It popularized what was then known in London as the Louis XIV style, but which today might be called "tous-les-Louis," mingling both baroque and rococo elements. Here it all is, in a handsome book with a splendid largesse of interior views, details, and drawings. The author is an assistant curator in the Department of Furniture and Woodwork at London's Victoria and Albert Museum.