15 November 2018 § Leave a comment
For the launch of this spectacular new publication from Phaidon we were kindly invited on a tour of some of London’s major Brutalist landmarks. Starting at the Barbican on the Southbank and proceeding via a series of impressive landmarks like Centre Point and The London College of Physicians it was pointed out by our insightful guide that much contemporary architecture, almost inevitably, runs through a love/hate/love cycle.
Brutalism is an architecture that has perhaps suffered more, on this roller coaster of critical opinion, than many others. Surely most styles have never been quite so universally hated? Was it this passionately deep dislike from many quarters that has also ultimately pushed others to an equally heart-felt passion?
It seems to be only in the last decade or so that there has been a largely universal recognition of the quality and values of Brutalism as a unique style that is worth preserving and enjoying. A cautionary word that the task is not yet complete is provided by the book’s list of properties scheduled for demolition – of which appallingly half are in the UK.
In this context is is perhaps remarkable that so much great Brutalist architecture has still survived but it is also necessary to recognise the great buildings that have not. Phaidon’s Atlas of Brutalist Architecture features all of them – lost or otherwise and is undoubtedly the most complete and wide-ranging survey of this still controversial movement.
Proving that the style was truly international, the volume records 850 buildings from more than 100 countries and these are organised in to nine continental regions. Each building is illustrated with black and white (what else?) images, succinctly described and categorised by use (used/abandoned), status (listed listed or scheduled for demolition) and condition.
Within this list not only contains a who’s who of twentieth century architecture – masters like: Marcel Breuer, Le Corbusier, Carlo Scarpa, Ernö Goldfinger, Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Kahn and Oscar Niemeyer – but also those lesser known or simply galvanised by the style.
Interestingly, for a movement that many would allocate to a specific period now past the authors argue that the origins of Brutalism lie much earlier that the traditionally accepted period from 1950 to mid 1970’s and feature for example Erich Mendelsohn’s Hat Factory in Germany built in 1923.
Similarly, the conventional end date of the mid 1970’s has been considerably extended, helped along by the widespread international use of structural concrete. Architects like Herzog & de Meuron with the Signal Box in Basle, Switzerland from 1994 and Stephen Hall at M.I.T in 2002 show that inspiration gained from the movement has continued up to the present day, and undoubtedly will continue and evolve in the future.
Phaidon must be praised for their commitment with this substantial book which in style, size and weight is also deliberately evocative of a Brutalist object. As they headline the book on their website: Big. Bold. Brutal. The cover is both embossed and roughly textured, bold black lettering emerges from a montage of iconic Brutalist buildings whilst the spine text too large and proud to be confined, wraps itself round on to the covers.
The Atlas of Brutalist Architecture not only successfully records Brutalism as a movement, but expands its scope, develops our understanding and inspires further evaluation. A definite must for any architecture or concrete-lovers (well built) coffee table.
To purchase visit www.phaidon.com
This post was also published at CELLOPHANELAND*
Size: 340 x 240 mm (13 3/8 x 9 1/2 in)
Pages: 560 pp
Illustrations: 1000 illustrations
11 November 2018 § Leave a comment
Mid century modern is one of today’s most prominent design trends – especially in California. Cruise around say, Los Angeles or Palm Springs and you will find no end of shops and businesses offering original, reproduction or imitation mid century furnishing. Around the world decor, design and architecture reflect a renewed interest in the period.
With this significant revival comes a desire to look in more detail at this era and perhaps re-assess the major figures. Phaidon’s latest publication, California Captured is therefore a very welcome look at the pioneering architectural photography of Marvin Rand.
His stylish and precise photography perfectly captured the aesthetic of the era but Rand was much more than simply an observer – an intrinsic part of the movement he worked hand in glove with some of the period’s major movers and shakers.
Helping to shape developments in architecture from within his imagery was vital in a period where Angelenos sought a new and modern style within an optimistic and expanding city. A circle of photographers, magazines and architects brought the latest designs, themselves enabled by the latest technologies, to an eager public. The new architecture boomed and along with Rand the associated trades flourished.
Born in downtown LA he enrolled at Art Center College of Design joining a circle of avant-garde artists and designers, including Saul Bass, Lou Danziger and Charles and Ray Eames. Through this he met Esther McCoy, an influential LA architectural historian, who would help launch his career.
Rand worked with many of today’s cutting-edge architects through the key decades of the fifties and sixties, his client list a who’s who of architects past and present, including the likes of Eames, Louis I. Kahn, Craig Ellwood and Frank Gehry.
But not only was Rand active in photographing the new but he eagerly recorded the rapidly disappearing architecture of LA. He helped in restoration and preservation, spending time photographing distinguished buildings threatened with destruction.
Rand always insisted that the architecture spoke for itself. He photographed with a light hand eschewing artifice and unnatural lighting. His skill lay in spotting unseen angles and capturing the essence of any building. Unlike most of his peers he often worked alone whilst insisting on doing all of his own darkroom work which he considered of equal importance to the quality of the original image.
Remarkably it was only as recently as 2012 that his archive of some 50,000 images was ‘re-discovered’. Having been carefully organised by Rand before his death in 2009 it had remained stored away within family possessions.
Rand was amongst a small group of photographers who worked to record and promote the architecture of the period. Julius Shulman is usually the pre-eminent name but this book elevates Marvin Rand to a significant position within the group and is an essential addition to any collection of architectural photography.
California Captured by Marvin Rand is available via this link at www.phaidon.com
This post was also published at CELLOPHANELAND*
240 colour illustrations
290 x 250mm
ISBN 97807 1487 6115
9 January 2016 § Leave a comment
Our historic – and largely still current – curatorial approach to archaeological and artistic objects has been to divide and classify, to separate and categorise. This has its advantages, but those institutions like the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford where form is privileged over origin, and Tate Modern where there is a thematic approach, show that alternative strategies can be worthwhile.
By listing artworks without prejudice to civilisations, geographical location, art movements or other artificial categories it takes away the inherent divisiveness of categorisation to allow some remarkable comparisons and invites us to consider links where we had not seen them previously.
30,000 Years of Art does note a basic classification, e.g. Post-impressionism or Nasca Culture plus a geographical location, but these play second fiddle to a straightforward chronological listing. We therefore find that sharing double page spreads may be Arabic scripts and Chinese brush paintings, the Venus de Milo and a Mayan mural or a Mexican mask and an Ethiopian stele.
It is in this removal of all art historical classifications and hierarchies that to us is 30,000 Years of Art main achievement. By presenting a thousand masterworks in chronological order it shows what was being created all over the globe at approximately the same time.
The result is a remarkable insight into the interrelationships between seemingly unrelated cultures and civilisations as well as celebrating the diversity between those that may be considered similar. The resulting timeline of works leads to compelling browsing with the juxtapositions offering intellectual pleasure and a sense of wonder and discovery.
This is a book that can be a real coffee table book to be dipped in to and enjoyed at leisure, the entries simply and clearly written and easily understood. It can be usefully read chronologically or utilised as a vital reference book taking the reader on a global and historical journey, as a Chinese Shang urn stands next to a Mycenaean vase, and Michelangelo’s Slave is followed by a contemporaneous male sculpture from Nigeria.
As a research or reference book it would also be useful alongside more comprehensive texts with the arrangement responding to such questions as what were artists creating in China or Africa while Rembrandt was painting self-portraits in Leyden? How were similar subjects – the female form, landscapes, religious scenes – manipulated by artists in Han China or Medieval Europe?
Although the sequence is chronological, the selection of entries for an individual culture comprises an abbreviated history of the art of that people. Thus, while artworks from ancient Greece or the European Renaissance or pre-Columbian Americas are interspersed with contemporaneous works created in Africa, India or Japan, an extraction of the Greek or Renaissance or American works could stand alone as an essential summary of the finest art of that period or culture.
This is a volume that will deserve repeated use and surely is a compelling addition to any collection – or coffee table. Highly recommended.
For more information visit www.phaidon.com
- 30,0000 Years of Art
- 297 x 297 mm, 11 3/4 x 11 3/4 in
- 1064 pp
- 1,000 colour illustrations
- ISBN-13: 9780714847894