Most Americans lost their faith in the future in the 1960s and are unlikely to regain it any time soon. That makes this handsome survey of work by a great American designer a time capsule of a vanished era, for it chronicles the decades, from the 1920s through the 1950s, when the US was a beacon of hope and progress for the rest of the world. This is the companion book for an exhibition that will soon be on view at the Museum of the City of New York.
Geddes (1893-1958) shaped the future, and the context of contemporary living. Albrecht describes him as a visionary and a pragmatist; a self-taught polymath of unfettered imagination, “who was equally comfortable in the realms of fact and fantasy.” All of his concerns—for architecture and urban planning, automobiles and new technologies—came together in his Futurama exhibit for the General Motors Pavilion at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair. Drawing on his experience of designing immersive theater productions, Geddes put spectators into moving sound cars that glided through a vast model of America and its cities as he imagined they might be in 1960. His vision has been realized in part; sadly it doesn’t provide the effortless mobility he anticipated.
Other expert essays and a plethora of imagery explore his designs for stage and screen, homes and offices, transportation and advertising. Like his contemporaries, Raymond Loewy and Henry Dreyfuss, Geddes was a giant who deserves to be remembered, for his achievements and his dreams.
"The Iconic Interior: Private Spaces of Leading Artists, Architects, and Designers" is a gorgeous indulgence for the holidays and a source of inspiration for architects and designers, for it includes nearly all the luminaries of the past century, from Adolph Loos and Jean-Michel Frank to John Pawson and David Mlinaric. That quarter indicates the range of the selection, which veers from minimalism to decorative excess and includes many that are one-of-a-kind, notably Michael Boyd’s fusion of art and design in the house that Oscar Niemeyer designed in Santa Monica. Author Dominic Bradbury has made a thoughtful choice and his descriptions are a pleasure to read. Richard Powers’ images capture the spirit and detail of these varied interiors, as he did for architecture in "The Iconic House", a previous collaboration. Each house and apartment is well documented, and a gazetteer provides contact details for the 18 properties that are open to the public. All credit to Thames & Hudson for commissioning this book and its predecessor, which Abrams are distributing in the U.S.. One could wish American publishers showed as much imagination in this field. The only problem is the title. One can call architectural masterworks iconic, but interiors are far more ephemeral and shaped by passing fashion or an owner’s whims.
Taschen and its house author have been constantly updating their monograph on Tadao Ando, and the latest edition, "Ando: Complete Works 1975-2012", is four times as long as the one that appeared in 1999. It features 42 buildings plus 16 projects that were not realized or are now under construction, mostly in the Middle East and East Asia. The title is misleading: this is a selection of Ando’s best designs—even the checklist at the end is far from complete—but it represents the body of work for which the architect wants to be known. One could wish that other prolific practitioners were equally self-critical. Page for page, it’s a terrific bargain. Philip Jodidio provides a helpful introduction, keyed to specific buildings, along with a biographical note and a selective bibliography, though one wishes the type had been set at a readable size. Like most contemporary monographs, it’s designed not for reading, but browsing; flipping the pages from one beguiling photo spread to the next. The plans, expressive sketches and details draw one into Ando’s structures. A self-taught master of concrete and wood, of mass and void, and, above all, of light, this architect—who once built only in Japan—is now at home in every part of the world and in every type of building.