Sunday, 11 April 2021

The secret's out

The author explores the way the design of houses during the last and this century percolated down from custom-designed structures by world-famous architects to homes we live in today. It's an interesting story divided into nineteen thematic sections from the Arts and Crafts Movement to 21st Century Vernacular. Each considers the work of significant architects for each theme, for example, California Dreaming looks at  Schindler, Neutra, Eames, Koenig, Elwood and Lautner or Houses of the Future with Deaton, Foster, Berglund and Lovag. 

Most of the ninety houses (pictured) in the book were custom designed but many of the ideas in these homes influenced mass-market builders like Span estates in Britain and Eichler Homes in California. On Chicago's Lake Shore Drive Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed two stunning apartment blocks and the author rightly says there is a connection between these one-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments in the two blocks and the famous Farnsworth House designed by Mies in 1951. He explored the idea of open-plan living which is an accepted format in lots of today's housing.

The book is a departure from the author's usual architectural surveys which are heavy on photos, here he writes in an easy conversational style about the creative use of past living space and its influence on the houses we live in today. The back pages have a handy glossary, bibliography and index. 

Friday, 2 April 2021

Silver on Danish

his seems to be a rather obscure seventy-four page book (or should that read rare?) published in 1984 by Georg Jensen & Wendel in Denmark. It's a translation from the original Danish version authored by Walter Schwartz. He writes about the life of Jensen, his childhood, years and the origins of the Jensen silversmithy where he created all those wonderful products made out of silver. It's illustrated with lots of mono photos and nicely the captions include the company number assigned to the products. On page sixty-eight there is a photo of a beautiful chalice (number 721) made for an English church in 1933, it was the last piece Jensen made.

The book's back pages include details of the companies silver marks and a chronology of Jensen's life. If you collect his silver and housewares the book is worth searching out if you want to know about his family and early life. Look inside the book at Westread Book Reviews then click 2021 and April.

Lines on a map

THIS IS NOT A SPREAD IN THE BOOK. It's my idea to get the map as big as possible by turning it sideways and make the words readable.. 

I wish the editors of this book had put some more thought into its contents. It's really pages of excellent graphic illustrations by Emiliano Ponzi that sort of reveal the problems designer Vignelli faced when designing the 1970 subway map. The story through the pages will take you only a few minutes to read.

My idea for the book would include a copy of the map, in a pocket inside the back cover, that could be removed and unfolded (it actually looks good enough to frame if you are a designer) the map is reproduced on page thirty-two and too small to read any of the words, far better to have turned the book sideways and run the map over the two pages. There could have been some pages with an illustrated essay with more detail about the map and how, eventually, the Transit Authority decided the map was too modern (or complex?) for their customers and had an entirely different subway map designed based more on geography. Rochester Institute of Technology published 'Vignelli transit maps' in 2012, it's mentioned on page thirty-four. 

The book is really an opportunity to enjoy Ponzi's wonderful illustrations with a bit of background about Vignelli's map. 

Monday, 29 March 2021

Fowl facts

What a delightful book about chickens for young readers. The text is packed with facts and nicely it's written in a light-hearted style that's easy to understand but what I really liked about the book are the easy on the eye graphic illustrations by Camilo Pintonato (and she designed the pages, as well). Though the illustrations might look rather casual they are correct when detail requires it, pages five and six showing various chicken breeds or the meaning of feather colors on pages sixteen and seventeen. Other illustrations, for example, a henhouse, the natural world, people or food all have a light touch and color that children should enjoy.

The book's subtitle: 'The ultimate encyclopaedia' is true. A huge amount of information is packed into the seventy-four pages. Who knew that a Jersey Giant can be almost three feet tall, chickens often stand on one leg to relax, they can count up to four, the Vietnamese drink egg coffee or that hen therapy works for children and the elderly.  The last eight pages have a series of lovely large one to a page pictures of breeds shown in a very graphic style and details of eight breeds.

The publishers have a similar book called Pigology coming out in the autumn, illustrated by Camilla Pintonato, I would add to that an 'ology' on sheep, cows and horses.