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Michael Webb
writes on modern architecture, design, and travel. He is the author of 26 books, most recently Modernist Paradise: Niemeyer House, Boyd Collection (Rizzoli) and Venice CA: Art +Architecture in a Maverick Community (Abrams). He travels widely in search of new and classic modern architecture and contributes to magazines around the world. Michael lives in the Neutra apartment that Charles and Ray Eames once called home.

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« Exhibition Review: Underwhelmed by the Venice Biennale | Main | Book Review: At the Intersection of Old and New »
Monday
Apr282014

Book Review: Light Work

Nordic Light: Modern Scandinavian Architecture. Henry Plummer. Thames & Hudson, $40.

First published in hard cover in 2012, this paperback edition is a great bargain, for the author's 500 photographs capture the sensual beauty and bracing simplicity of architecture that enshrines light as a precious commodity. These are buildings that, like hardy plants, are adapted to long dark winters, and brief but brilliant summers. And they've found an ideal chronicler, for Plummer, Professor Emeritus of Architecture at the University of Illinois, studied light-art with György Kepes and apprenticed to photographer Minor White. Light is his passion and this new study rivals his earlier book, The Architecture of Natural Light.

As one would expect, churches have a strong presence, for Lutheranism swept away the bondieuseries that clutter and distract in Catholic shrines, stripping the naves to pure line and surface modeled in light. Alvar Aalto, Jørn Utson and Juha Leiviskä excelled in this form. Museums are also prominently featured, including Kiasma and Heart from Steven Holl (an honorary Scandinavian) and the Norwegian master Sverre Fehn. So inclusive is the theme, that this survey includes much of the important postwar architecture from Denmark and Finland, and a few examples from Norway and Sweden. It's an inspiring collection for everyone who cherishes the interplay of architecture and nature, and there's even a chapter on darkness.

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