EP Vol. 1 - The Italian Avant-Garde: 1968-1976 by Alex Coles, Professor of Transdisciplinary Studies, School of Art, Design and Architecture, University of Huddersfield and Catharine Rossi, Senior Lecturer in Design History at Kingston University.

Available on amazon UK and USA.

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Publisher Sternberg Press describes the book: EP is the first critically underpinned series of publications that fluidly move between art, design, and architecture. The series creates a discursive platform between popular magazines ("single play") and academic journals ("long play") by introducing the notion of the "extended play" into publishing: with thematically edited pocket books as median.

The first volume is devoted to the activities of the Italian avant-garde between 1968 and 1976. While emphasizing the multiple correspondences between collectives and groups like Arte Povera, Archizoom, Superstudio, and figures such as Ettore Sottsass and Alessandro Mendini, The Italian Avant-Garde: 1968-1976 also highlights previously overlooked spaces, works, and performances generated by Zoo, Gruppo 9999, and Cavart. Newly commissioned interviews and essays by historians and curators shed light on the era, while contemporary practitioners discuss its complex legacy.

With contributions by Paola Antonelli, Pier Vittorio Aureli, Andrea Branzi, Carlo Caldini, Alison J. Clarke, Experimental Jetset, Verina Gfader, Martino Gamper, Joseph Grima, Alessandro Mendini, Antonio Negri, Paola Nicolin, Michaelangelo Pistoletto, Catharine Rossi, Vera Sacchetti, Libby Sellers, Studio Formafantasma, and Ettore Vitale
Design by Experimental Jetset

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Ettore Vitale's 1° Maggio,1973, poster 
for the Partito Socialista Italiano

I've reviewed or simply read my fair share of books about the work of Archigram, Ant Farm and Haus-Rucker-Co.. It was high time i'd read more about the Italian avant-garde in architecture and design because the 1960s and 1970s in Italy is a creative period that needs to get more attention outside of the country.

The key events and concepts covered in the book are never dull. The designers and architects of the Italian avant-garde had bite and sometimes they also had humour. Intellectuals and artists were protesting about the conservative model of the Venice biennial and calling for its restructuration (which gave way to the Architecture Biennial!) Ettore Sottsass was putting tiny tv sets in nature 'for night butterflies'. Ettore Vitale was designing posters reminding of the dangers of fascism. Radical architects were holding seminars on a disused railway bridge. Gruppo 9999 were creating the Space Electronic discotheque in Florence as a 'progressive multimedia environment.'

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Cavart, Progettarsi Addosso seminar, held on a disused railway bridge in Colze, Vicenza, September 27, 1975. Courtesy of Archivio Michele De Lucchi (via Domus)

The book compiles commissioned essays and interviews. By people who were questioning and shaking up design, architecture and art then and by people who, today, are analyzing and discussing the impact of those avant-garde ideas and realizations.

EP Vol. 1 - The Italian Avant-Garde: 1968-1976 lays the solid basis for a deeper and more critical reflection on a key moment in the history of architecture, design and art in Italy. I would recommend the book not only for its historical perspective but also for the way it echoes some of today's interests and preoccupations. The architects and designers of the time too were raising environmentalist concerns for alternative sources of energy. They were already questioning the rule of the objects and the role of an art biennial. They too were exploring more powerful uses of 'new media' while looking for a more meaningful relationship between man and technology. And believe it or not, they were already inventing designs driven by concepts and encouraging 'non-professionals' to build 'spontaneous structures' and participate in ongoing debates. Surely there are lessons there that we could all make use of.

I think that the book would have benefited from a clearer presentation of the socio-economic and political climate in that time and place. But other than that, i'd say this is one of the most exciting and eye-opening books designers and architects could lay their hands on these days.

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S. Elena/Giardini, Pier Paolo Pasolini during the protest at the Biennale. On the right: Ninetto Davoli and Cesare Zavattini, 1968. Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche

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Berengo Gardin, Venezia 1968, contestazione alla Biennale d'arte


Views inside the book (more images at Experimental Jetset):

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Corridor8 has an interview with Prof. Alex Coles and Dr. Catharine Rossi. Rossi also published a general introduction to the Italian avant-garde in Disegno Daily.

Previously: A Guide to Archigram 1961-74 , Inner World / Innen Welt: The Projects of Haus-Rucker-Co., 1967-1992, The Sky's the Limit: Applying Radical Architecture, Clip/Stamp/Fold - The Radical Architecture of Little Magazines 196X-197X, Book Review: Ant Farm - Living Archive 7, Casa Per Tutti, Other Space Odysseys, Ant Farm retrospective in Sevilla, Pioneers of conceptual architecture, etc.

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Going Public - Public Architecture, Urbanism and Interventions, edited by Robert Klanten, Sven Ehmann, Sofia Borges and Lukas Feireiss.

Available on amazon USA and UK.

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Publisher Gestalten writes: Going Public showcases the creative revival of public space in our urban and rural landscapes. The book's compelling selection of formal and informal interventions, reclamations, and architecture illustrates the current scope and interest in refashioning and repurposing our built environment for public use. The objectives of the featured examples are as diverse as the projects themselves and range from inspiring communication and community experience to devising new means of gathering in and connecting to nature.

Ranging from bold to subtle and from temporary to permanent, the architecture and urban design featured in Going Public offers inspiring and surprising interpretations of our public surroundings and natural landscapes.

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Joost Goudriaan, Chesterfield Park Bench, 2010

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Gaëlle Villedary, Tapis Rouge (Red Carpet), 2011 (Jaujac, France)

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Kurt Perschke, RedBall Project, ongoing

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Heike Mutter and Ulrich Genth, Tiger and Turtle - Magic Mountain, 2011

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Kielder Art and Architecture, Freya and Robin, 2009 (Northumberland, UK). Photograph © Peter Sharpe

I might think (probably foolishly) that i get the contemporary art world pretty well covered but each time i open one of Gestalent's book dedicated to graphic design, architecture, street art or illustration, it feels like i've spent too many years lying torpid in my shack at the back of the tundra. So many jaw-dropping ideas, images, projects and initiatives i had no idea existed multiply in quick succession as i flip through the pages of the books.

Going Public - Public Architecture, Urbanism and Interventions didn't disappoint in that respect. In pure Gestalten style, word is as scarce as it is efficient, the layout and typeface are faultless and the selection of works is constantly engaging. At least for people like me who have been hibernating for so long.

The book also offers a breath of fresh air to someone living in a country where newspapers regularly denounce a privatization of public spaces that favours business over community.

Most of the projects presented in Going Public are small interventions aimed at opening up urban or rural space to the broad public and acting as catalysts for social, cultural and political exchanges. Because many of them are lightweight and temporary, they give young talents a space for expression and investigation. And i'm always happy when a publisher, curator or institution looks beyond the usual suspects.

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Fattinger, Orso, Rieper, BELLEVUE. Das gelbe Haus, Linz (Austria), 2009

The book is divided into 6 areas of investigation. Chapter one, Gimme Shelter, is about providing an umbrella for public programs and activities. Chapter 2, Constant Gardener, has a self-explanatory title. Then comes Walk With Me, a series of projects which takes you on a stroll around a city or scenery. Benchmarks introduced me to urban furniture with a sense of humour. Chapter 5 Between a Rock and a Hard Place shows how non-places are rehabilitated. The book closes on Why Don't We Do it on the Road? tat explores how overlooked places can be revamped and used for activities that range from organizing carpentry workshops to hosting a temporary open-air museum.

Many of the projects, however, would fit well in several categories. Here are some of my favourite:

Florentijn Hofman (he of the giant yellow duck)'s 13 meter high rabbit invites the inhabitants and visitors of Orebro (Sweden) to examine the space both with the bunny, and then again after its removal.

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Florentijn Hofman, Big Yellow Rabbit, 2011. Image © Lasse Person

A bunker sliced in two, opening a walking path for sightseers to admire the mass of the building and the lake. Bunker 599 is a pilot project that attempts to make The Netherlands' military landscape publicly accessible .

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Rietveld Landscape + Atelier de Lyon, Bunker 599


Bunker 599 [the making of]

Noun 1. Unavailability - The Quality of not Being Available When Needed is a mobile fisherman's shelter made with a foldable wooden frame and walls that, when filled with water, solidify into ice that protects the fisherman from the weather.

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Gartnerfuglen, Noun 1. Unavailability - The Quality of not Being Available When Needed, 2012 (Telemark, Norway)

The ever-brilliant EXYZT collaborated with Ewa Rudnicka to install an UFO (Unexpected Fountain Occupation) on a disused fountain in Warsaw city centre. The space performed as a bar, hostel, film venue, flea market, concert hall for 2 months.

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EXYZT with Ewa Rudnicka, UFO (Unexpected Fountain Occupation), 2011 (Warsaw, Poland)

Using only blackboards, chalk and an abandoned building, Candy Chang gave passersby in New Orleans --and soon other cities across the world-- the opportunity to share their personal dreams and aspirations in public space.

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Candy Chang and the Civic Center, Before i Die, New Orleans, 2011

Three swings for up to twenty passengers are suspended from Mmabatho Stadium's outer frame. Facing each other, and dangling from a height of twelve meters, the swings require the passengers to negotiate with one another about how to achieve optimum path and speed.

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REFUNC, Gravity Passengers, Mafikeng, South Africa, 201o

Gravalosdimonte Arquitectos's estonoesunsolar" ('this-is-not-a-plot) cleaned up abandoned plots around the historical area of Zaragoza, Spain and turned the spaces into temporary open squares for the public to meet and play.

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Gravalosdimonte Arquitectos (Patrizia Di Monte & Ignacio Gravalos), estonoesunsolar, 2009 (Zaragoza, Spain)

Views inside the book:

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The Art of Walking: A field guide. Edited by David Evans and published by Black Dog Publishing.

0atheartof aw.jpgAvailable on amazon USA and UK.

Book description: The Art of Walking: a field guide is the first extensive survey of walking in contemporary art. Combining short texts on the subject with a variety of artists work, The Art of Walking provides a new way of looking at this everyday subject.

The introduction relates peripatetic art now to a wide range of historic precedents, and is followed by a series of visually led 'Walks' dealing with seven overlapping themes: footprints and lines; writers and philosophers; marches and processions; aliens, dandies and drifters; slapstick; studios, museums and biennales; and dog walkers.

The guide includes newly commissioned art and writing, and many artists have been actively involved in the design of their respective pages.

This overview of artworks dealing with walking completely took me by surprise. I was expecting psychogeography, peripatetics, geolocation and theory. But The Art of Walking: A Field Guide is not only light on words, it also follows themes that range from aliens to slapstick to dog walking.

The way the content is illustrated is worth a mention too. There are the usual photos that document performances of course but also letters, preparatory drawings, souvenir programme, etc. The succession of images for each artwork allows the reader to fill in the dots, complete the short presentation text and create their own narrative. The author even asked some of the artists to participate in the editorial process. For example, The Art of Walking opens on a series of proposals that artist Peter Liversidge wrote down on his old typewriter for the author of the book, for himself or for the reader. He invites you to put down the book and go outside, for example. And following his suggestion, the book closes on 5 empty pages for you to write down notes.

The book was thus nothing i expected. And that's never a bad thing.

Special mention for the format and design of the book. Soft cover. Thick, glossy pages but not too glossy (if you know what i mean.) Round corners.

And now for the traditional tour of some of the works presented in the book:

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Regina José Galindo, ¿Quien Peude Borrar Las Huellas? A Walk from the Court Of Constitutionality to the National Palace of Guatemala, leaving a trail of footprints in memory of the victims of armed conflict in Guatemala, 2003

In 2003, Regina José Galindo walked from the Congress of Guatemala building to the National Palace, dipping her bare feet in a basin filled with human blood, leaving red footprints behind as a protest against the presidential candidacy of Guatemala's former dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt whose military regime committed widespread human rights abuses.

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Francis Alÿs, The Collector, Mexico City 1991-2006. In collaboration with Felipe Sanabria

In 1991, Francis Alÿs dragged a magnetic toy dog on wheels through Mexico City until it became covered entirely in coins, bits of old tin cans and other street debris.

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Marcus Coates, Stoat, 1999. Photo: © Andy Keate

In the 1999 video performance 'Stoat', Marcus Coates is staggering on wooden platforms, in a pitiful attempt to recreate the animal's gait.


Simon Faithfull, 0.00° Navigation, 2009

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Simon Faithfull, 0º00 Navigation, 2009

GPS device in hand, Simon Faithfull walked along the Greenwich Meridian from Peace Haven in Hampshire to Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire. Following the exact line of longitude involved climbing through windows and up fences, crossing private properties, swimming through streams and crawling through hedges.

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Simon Faithfull, Going Nowhere, 2011 (video still)

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Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Marches - A sonic mapping of London, February 2008 - May 2009

Marches by Lawrence Abu Hamdan is an audio recording, booklet and map documenting two performances on 23 May 2008.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan choreographed two marches in the Queen's Walk and Tower Hill areas of London. The marchers stomped wearing footwear created by local cobblers for greater sonic effect.

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And While London Burns, An operatic audio tour across The City

And While London Burns is the soundtrack for the era of climate change, set amongst the skyscrapers of the most powerful financial district on Earth, London's Square Mile. An opera for one, it takes the listener, equipped with an mp3 player on a walking audio adventure through the streets and alleyways of our city.

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Keith Arnatt from the series: Walking the Dog, 1976-9

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Keith Arnatt from the series: Walking the Dog, 1976-9

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Keith Arnatt from the series: Walking the Dog, 1976-9

Between 1976 and 1979, Keith Arnatt photographed dogs and their owners out for walks near his home in South Wales. The artist went to great lengths to ensure that the owner and his pet are looking at the camera at the same time.

"Where the photographic act is concerned, a dog's attention span is extremely short. When, for example, calling a dog's name fails to attract its attention, I am forced to resort to more extreme measures."

"My barking and growling are quite effective, though such antics tend also to affect the owner's own response. And though a fair number of pictures do show the dog making the required response, they are marred by showing the owner peering down to see whether they are doing so."

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Catherine Yass, High Wire, 2008. Photo: Angie Catlin. Commissioned and produced by Artangel

In 2007 high wire artist Didier Pasquette attempted to walk between three of Glasgow's Red Road high rise tower blocks. Unfortunately, high winds forced Pasquette to retrace his path. The performance was used by artist Catherine Yass as the basis of a reflection on the urban environment.

Also by David Evans: Critical Dictionary.

Unpleasant Design by Gordan Savicic and Selena Savic. Publisher: G.L.O.R.I.A (Belgrade.)

Available on Amazon USA. Sorry, I couldn't find it on amazon UK.

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Book Description: The "Unpleasant Design" book is a collection of different research approaches to a phenomenon experienced by all of us. Unpleasant design is a global fashion with many examples to be found across cities worldwide, manifested in the form of "silent agents" that take care of behaviour in public space, without the explicit presence of authorities. Photographs, essays and case studies of unpleasant urban spaces, urban furniture and communication strategies reveal this pervasive phenomenon. With contributions by Adam Rothstein, Francesco Morace and Heather Stewart Feldman, Vladan Jeremic, Dan Lockton, Yasmine Abbas, Gilles Paté, Adam Harvey and many others, the book is in an attempt to recognise this nascent discipline within contemporary design taxonomies.

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Re-enactment of Fakir's Rest in Rotterdam on a so-called Leaning Bench, Rotterdam 2011

Unpleasant Design landed on my doorsteps a few days ago. I opened the envelope, grabbed the book and uttered a loud "Who's the idiot who designed this?!?" because the sleeve around the cover was made of sandpaper. Sandpaper!

I then read the title of the book and had to admit that it was a very clever idea.

Each of us has met examples of unpleasant design as we go through the city. The bench that is uncomfortable to sit on for more than 10 minutes, the trash can specially designed so that you can't sit on it nor stuff big bag of garbage inside, the anti-sticker coating on lamp posts, etc. I guess most of us don't really pay attention but they do coerce us to use the city in a prescribed, restricted way. And then there's unpleasant design for the unhappy few: benches with armrests in the middle so that the homeless can't lay down and sleep on it, blue lights in bathrooms and tunnels preventing drug users to spot their veins, an aluminium bar with spikes on it found in corners of buildings and alleys that is angled so that pee would end on your feet (a popular design in The Netherlands apparently), structures to remind pigeons that they are not welcome in town, or CCTV cameras that target specific race and age groups. And of course, there's that notorious mosquito device.

Unpleasant Design dresses the portraits of bullying urban furniture, looks at the specific strategies behind its design, comments on the use and control of public and semi-public spaces. After having had the book in your sandpapered hands, you won't look at your city with the same eyes, i'm sure.

The book documents and casts a critical eye on design motivated by policies of exclusion but, and that's what makes the book such an inspiring lecture, it also looks at how individuals, artists, activists are responding to urban unpleasantness.

Authors Gordan Savicic and Selena Savic have spent over a year researching forms of social unpleasantness, taking photos wherever they went, writing down ideas and talking with people who are also denouncing and resisting unpleasant design. The resulting essays and interviews are enclosed in the book. Among my favourite are: Survival Group's photos and comments about Anti-Sites (the spaces designed to prevent homeless people or simply weary passersby to sit down and have a rest), Vladan Jeremic's look at the hidden politics of garbage removal in Belgrade, an interview with the insightful and witty urban hacktivist Florian Rivière, a discussion with 'neo-nomad' Yasmine Abbas, another one with Dan Lockton of Design with Intent, the interview with Gilles Paté, the 'fakir' of urban spaces, etc. Add to that, plenty of case studies, examples of artistic devices and ideas that create and fight unpleasant design but also the outcome of a competition about unpleasant design.

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Blue lights in a public toilet at Bonn central station. Photo: Jurjen van Enter

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Florian Rivière, Don't pay, play!, 2011

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Florian Rivière, Juicer, 2012

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Sarah Ross, Archisuits, 2008

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Sarah Ross, Archisuits, 2008

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Fabian Brunsing, Pay & Sit - the Private Bench, 2008

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Survival Group, Anti-Sites, a collection of anti-homeless urban designs

Two of the winning projects of the Unpleasant Design competition:

A maze lock for public toilets, bars and restaurants to avoid drunkards entering the toilet and passing out or damaging the property.

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Ankita Thaker, Maze door lock

SI8DO is a social-integration urban furniture designed to improve the working conditions of immigrants who work at the traffic lights selling tissues.

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(bau)m_arquitectura, SI 8 DO - Social integration furniture Sevilla

Jeremy Deller: Social Surrealism, by Brigade Commerz, Audio Arts Archives.

(available on amazon UK and USA.)

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Publisher Verlag für moderne Kunst writes: In 2004 Jeremy Deller was awarded the Turner Prize for his multimedia installation 'Memory Bucket'. His signature work 'The Battle of orgreave' (2001) focuses on a critical moment of the international trade union movement, inviting us to a subtly differentiated examination of history. It forms only one part of a growing catalogue of projects that can be read as an ongoing processional body of work which examines, reflects upon and influences our society. Since his 'Manchester Procession' Deller uses the Term 'Social Surrealism' to describe his practise: 'It's going back to the original idea of carnival and procession, which is about inverting reality and changing reality if only for a day or a week and changing how you look at the world.'

Verlag für moderne Kunst has launched a collection of art audio CDs. I'm coveting the Jake and Dinos Chapman, the David Lynch one and crying my eyes out because the Jonathan Meese is in german only (although i did enjoy listening to the audio snippet in which he talks about stuff that are metabolisch and pornografisch.)

The one i had to get right here right now is the audio CD of conversation excerpts with Jeremy Deller. This is basically an audio book with extracts of conversations with Jeremy Deller and it is charming and fascinating. He has a good voice, a clear accent. He is passionate, at times provocative and he sounds like a fun guy to be around.

The files are fairly short, from 1 to 6 minutes. Each one is dedicated to a theme (political art, glam rock) or a particular work. The information and anecdotes come fast: organizing a procession of blind people with blind dogs that refuse to walk on the road, showing folk archives inside a museum and being misunderstood by art critics in the process, the art funding in Britain, the art world as a 'very middle class place', Jordan aka Katie Price, the annual "wanker of the year" contest, making art without making products, his meeting with Andy Warhol, his dealings with the 'image controlling' music industry while filming his documentary about the fans of Depeche Mode, bats eating moths, Acid Brass, etc. My favourite moment was when Deller talks about a project he had of making a poster for the Labour party that would say "Vote Conservative" and show the face of Rupert Murdoch.

Jeremy Deller: Social Surrealism! Best 45 minutes i've spent this year.

Now i hadn't held an audio CD in my hands for ages. it did feel weird and already retro. It does however have advantages over an MP3 file: the CD comes in a hard paper that you can keep as if it were a book on your library shelf. And there's always the possibility to transfer the files on your MP3 player if you wish.

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Jeremy Deller, Procession, 2009. Manchester International Festival. Photo by Ruth Clark

Just because i love that work so much, i'm going to end with a video of Jeremy Deller talking about Acid Brass, the raves, the connections with 1987 minors strike, and taking a trip to Manchester where we witness the brass band getting to grips to a musical genre they are not used to play.

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Jeremy Deller, The History of the World 1998

0cov191087517.jpgArchitectural Inventions Visionary Drawings, by Matt Bua and Maximilian Goldfarb.

(available on amazon USA and UK.)

Publisher Laurence King writes: Born out of the drawingbuilding.org online archive, Architectural Inventions presents a stunning visual study of impossible or speculative structures that exist only on paper. Soliciting the work of architects, designers, and artists of renown -as well as emerging talents from all over the world -Maximilian Goldfarb and Matt Bua have gathered an array of works that convey architectural alternatives, through products, expansions, or critiques of our inhabited environments.

From abstract and conceptual visual interpretations of structures to more traditional architectural renderings, the featured work is divided into thematic chapters, ranging from 'Adapt/Reuse' to 'Clandestine'' 'Mobile'' 'Radical Lifestyle', 'Techno-Sustainable', and 'Worship'. Along with arresting and awe-inspiring illustrated content, every chapter also features an essay exploring its respective themes.

Highlighting visions that exist outside of established channels of production and conventions of design, Architectural Inventions showcases a wide scope in concept and vision, fantasy and innovation.

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David Jacob, Simulated dwelling for a family of five, 1970 (photo)

Architectural Inventions offers an exciting trip to a place you may or may never want to go: inside the head of architects. While a few projects are fairly well documented (for example, The House that Herman built), the majority of the drawings have never been published, not even on the websites of their authors. Which is thrilling but also frustrating when you want to know more about the memorial for the space shuttle Columbia, the extravagant Tesla coil show, the helicopter archipelago, the missile houses, the static desert viking ship, the temple for a moon cult, the artificial planet put into orbit around the sun, the robotic terrorism defense system (i thought that one was already around?!?), aerial suburbs, intricate subterranean networks of garbage disposal, etc. Sometimes the images are accompanied by a short text written in cursive (a real pain to read) and sometimes there's just a title.

The drawings section is introduced by a series of essays by architects, visionaries, installation artists and other people who have interesting thoughts about the impact of the Alexander technique on the built space, time machines, utopia and doomsday. Yes, doomsday because the images and essays might be whimsical and compelling, they never completely lose touch with the dark reality of our time.

Views inside the book:

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