"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.
Phaidon, a London-based publisher of sumptuous books on architecture and art, was recently sold and one can only hope that the new owner will preserve its integrity at a time when other publishers are dumbing down. Phaidon’s latest atlas of 20th Century World Architecture ($200) — a blockbuster in the same format as two previous surveys of contemporary work—chronicles 750 exemplary modern buildings of the 20th century. Classics are juxtaposed with unfamiliar projects, and the committees that produced this mammoth tome have striven for a geographical balance. Each project gets a full page of images, drawings and a succinct factual description, which facilitates comparisons. It’s a great work of reference, but you may prefer to wait a couple of years to buy the compact and inexpensive travel edition. Meanwhile, you can browse the entries, country by country, and plan future voyages of discovery. And, as further stimulus, the travel edition of The Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture has just appeared.
The A+D Museum is flourishing as a hub of activity, raising public awareness of architecture and design. Its current exhibition, Eero Saarinen: a Reputation for Innovation, is on display through January 3rd, and it provides a good introduction to the varied work of this American master. Here are the classic achievements—the St Louis Arch, the TWA Terminal at JFK and Dulles Airport in Virginia—all completed after his premature death in 1961 at age 51. How many more masterpieces might there have been if he had lived as long as his father, the Finnish master Eliel Saarinen? Here, too, are examples of the furniture Eero created for Knoll: the Grasshopper and Womb chairs, and the Tulip chairs and tables that banished what he called “the slum of legs.” A revelation of the A+D show is the 1939 competition-winning design for the Smithsonian Gallery of Art, which was intended to complement, in its architecture and emphasis on contemporary work, John Russell Pope’s National Gallery of Art, then under construction on the north side of the Washington Mall. It’s an accomplished work for a 29-year-old, who was beginning to emerge from the long shadow of his father.