Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Cold outside but always warm inside

Dominic Bradbury, in his latest book, looks at houses in Scandinavia, though most are in Norway or Sweden. The four chapters: Rural cabins; Coastal retreats; Townhouses; Country homes, considers forty-three houses (with over four hundred photos) and they all share a common theme of warmth. In these weather-beaten countries heating is important and in many of the photos there is a lit fire, an obvious focal point for the inhabitants. Another common element is the use of local products, basically wood, in the construction, this fits in beautifully with a desire for sustainability apparent in many of these homes.

Each house starts with a few hundred words introduction followed by photos of the exterior and interior. As one would expect from Scandinavians the interiors reveal a simplicity of style in the open plan living and with the absence of fitted carpets does this mean that under floor heating is the norm? Costal retreats reveals houses with extensive window areas to enjoy the outlook. One featured home, in Notteroy, Norway, breaks with the tradition of wood construction and uses sea-water resistant aluminium which, externally, has a mirror effect with the immediate environment.

I thought the Rural cabins chapter had the most interesting buildings. (Perhaps cabins is not strictly accurate as some of the twelve featured could be classed as small, single story houses.) The architects have offered their clients pragmatic solutions to the reduced living space. In the case of a cabin in Etne, Norway this is one room with a roof that gently slopes into the ground. It looks remarkably cosy but is completely covered in snow during the long winter. The Arctic Treehouse Hotel in Rovaniemi, Finland has thirty-two cabins on stilts and a photo on page sixty-nine shows a bed facing a floor to ceiling window looking out to a snowy woods.

One slight annoyance with the book is that all the floor plans are in the back pages, mostly they fill about half a page and could easily have been accommodated with each relevant house and avoided a lot of page flipping.

The book is an excellent look at living solutions in a fairly hostile environment yet the various architects have created houses that complement the landscape and satisfy the owners.



Monday, 19 August 2019

Introducing Whistler

An interesting paperback which gave me an appreciation of Whistler's creativity. Divided into three chapters: Etchings; Portraits and Interiors; Landscapes and nocturnes, each with a reasonable selection of work. I thought his etchings had some wonderful examples, his 1858 'The unsafe tenement' and the 1879 'The doorway' show how he had mastered the technique of working on metal. The portrait section obviously includes his most famous work usually referred to as 'Whistler's mother' but it's actually called 'Arrangement in grey and black number 1: Portrait of the artist's mother' and painted in 1871. Another interesting painting full of detail is 'Wapping' (part of it is used on the book's cover) the caption says it was painted between 1860 and 1864.

I don't care for Whistler's nocturnes but there's no doubt they capture the atmospheric feel of London's docklands during twilight. His famous 'Nocturne: blue and gold--old Battersea Bridge' is included and an other work that took some years to complete, from 1872 to 1876.

The book is a handy square format with each picture captioned and a nice touch for several pictures is a blue panel with the words THE STORY BEHIND THIS PAINTING and mini essay pointing out interesting facts about the work. Overall I thought the book was a worthwhile introduction to the work of this famous America artist who spent most of his creative life in London.


Sunday, 18 August 2019

With Mike's posters it's standard not to use Helvetica

Mike Joyce hit on a unique way of presenting the flamboyant, vibrant yet stunningly amateurish punk music posters from the seventies to the nineties by turning to the complete opposite, the very controlled minimalist posters of Swiss designers from the fifties and sixties. In particular Josef Muller-Brockmann's work for the Zurich concert hall 'musica viva' series of musical events was a heavy inspiration. These posters were always in lower case and only used Berthold's Anzidenz Grotesk (or Standard Medium to the rest of the world). More inspiration came from the graphic design excellence of Armin Hofmann, Karl Gerstner, Richard Paul Lohse and others.

Joyce sticks to his theme and refuses to deviate from all lower case and the sans type face which is fine though I thought several of these posters seemed to playing about with colored shapes and huge or angled type but this throws up many that are really wonderful to look at. There are just under two hundred in the book which is impressively large (fourteen inches deep) and nicely all the pages have a perforation so you can easily remove your favorites to display on a wall.