book club

‘We tell ourselves stories in order to live’
Joan Didion, The White Album

The Age of Combustion
Written by Stephen Bayley
Published: Circa

F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s rocky road trip from Connecticut to Alabama in 1920 took place in a Marmon. His account of the eight day adventure were later published in book form as The Cruise of the Rolling Junk. Zelda was less generous with the journey writing simply: ‘the joys of motoring are more-or-less fictional’. When building his 1924 Type 35, Ettore Bugatti modelled the engine first in wood to make sure the proportions were right for the car. In 1933 the racing driver Francis Turner was killed while testing Buckminster Fuller’s crazy-shaped three-wheeled Dymaxion. The architect and inventor didn’t bother too much with mastering aerodynamics and proper engineering so his prototype lifted at speed making it impossible to steer or brake as Turner was to tragically discover. The Fiat Lingotto Turin facility and its cinematic pista were the work of a naval architect by the name of Giacomo Matté-Trucco who was inspired by the theories of the Italian Futurists.

These are just some of the myriad of topics explored by Stephen Bayley in his latest book The Age of Combustion – an edited selection of his Octane columns, The Aesthete. This is a lovely book and Bayley is a natural raconteur. His writing is erudite but also light and fun and hugely engaging, forever weaving his immense pool of knowledge on architecture and design and cinema and literature and life into multiple narratives. Or to quote the industrial designer and former Ford creative director J Mays: ‘No one articulates the Theatre of Design like Stephen Bayley.’

Take a closer look here

Ultimate Collector Cars
Written by Charlotte and Peter Fiell
Published: Taschen'Ultimate Collector Cars' by TaschenThis lavish double-volume book documents history’s one-hundred most collectable cars. It features the landmark 1903 Mercedes-Simplex 40-horsepower, the evocative 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC, iconic Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa of 1957, Bertone’s supremely glorious 1973 Lamborghini Countach and the present-day McLaren Speedtail and Aston Martin Valkyrie hypercars. Expertly researched and beautifully illustrated with archive and studio photography, Taschen’s latest book is a timely ode to the motor car as we enter the new age of the automobile. Read my interview with the authors who discuss their two-year research into this project here.

Mok Wei Wei: Works by W Architects

Mok Wei Wei: Works by W Architects

Mok Wei Wei has shaped a unique identity for his Singapore boutique practice W Architects. During a career spanning over three decades, the award-winning designer and one of Asia’s leading architects has built domestic and commercial projects that offer a unique hybrid of contemporary design needs and urban sensibilities, infused with Chinese traditions and grounded within a local context. Be it designing private homes, apartment complexes, museums or community centres, Mok’s buildings are spatially daring, they are ecologically aware and, best of all, are full of fascinating creative solutions for constructing in a tropical ever-evolving dense Asian metropolis.

Mok Wei Wei: Works by W Architects charts this exceptional career. Published by Thames & Hudson, this visually-engaging and insightful book documents Mok’s designs from the 1980s to the present day to include W Architects’ most significant work – the austere rock that is Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, and the redesign for the National Museum of Singapore. Mok was raised as a Chinese cosmopolitan and schooled in architecture at the height of Postmodernism, and while Singapore forms the backdrop to most of the works featured here, his influence extends far beyond the city-state to the entire region. Written especially for the book, Mok calls for architecture to remain radical and to keep responding to the needs of our ever-evolving societies – words that feel urgent in an increasingly urbanised world.

Takenobu Igarashi: A-Z
Edited: Sakura Komiyama and Haruki Mori
Published: Thames & Hudson

Takenobu Igarashi: A-Z is edited by Sakura Komiyama and Haruki Mori and published by Thames & Hudson.

Takenobu Igarashi’s bold and brilliant three-dimensional letters introduced new ways of expressing symbols. The cult Japanese graphic artist created new forms of visual communication – design that has conceptually altered how we view the medium. A new book celebrates the work of this visionary creative. Takenobu Igarashi: A-Z is an exhaustive guide to his life’s work, his experiments with typography and his methodology. It features Igarashi’s celebrated prints as well as designs published for the first time, and archival plans, drawings and production drafts which reveal the process of thinking, creating and making.

To understand the world of Igarashi, though, is to step back in history and to Japan’s space and place in the story of design. Graphic design played a pivotal role in communicating modern Japan’s position on the world map following the defeat and devastation of World War Two. The success of events such as the 1964 Olympics Games and the 1970 Osaka Expo helped open doors for local designers and brands, who needed a unique visual expression to mark their place on the global market.

Japanese designers worked within the context of international movements, specifically modernism, but also brought to their work elements of tradition, of craft, colour application and poetic symbolism as well as references to local anime and manga. The 70s saw post-modernism enter the discussion with a new breed of graphic artists rebelling against modernism – eschewing the traditional grid pattern in favour of free forms and personal expression. It was within this scene where Igarashi began his personal typology experimentations.

Born in 1944, Igarashi’s visual world was dominated by American culture – the abundance of goods and the bold colourful graphics of Hershey chocolate bars and Lucky Strike cigarettes. He writes in the preface to the book: ‘the colourful American culture symbolised abundance and freedom. Immersing myself in the world of alphabets overlapped with dreaming of the future.’ He became fascinated by the Roman alphabet for it is ‘composed of basic geometric figures, it has a fascinatingly simple structure which makes even the most complex expression possible.’

Igarashi studied at the Tama Art University in the 1960s under the influential graphic designer Akio Kanda – his ‘Pure Graphics’ course introduced experimental methods for planar construction and spatial quality which set the foundation for his typographic practice. Later, while at UCLA, Igarashi met another mentor Mitsuru Kataoka, a pioneer of cutting-edge technology in design practice. In the US he explored the Roman alphabet further and became familiarised with Arabic numerals.

Throughout the 70s and 80s, at his independent studio in Tokyo, Igarashi set out to liberate lettering from the limits of communicative functionality. Working with the fundamental principles of graphics, he started to explore the possibilities of alphabets, using the axonometric method to draw three-dimensional letters. ‘My strong urge to free myself from conventional rules and to go beyond the drawing methods that were technically possible at that time opened up doors to a new world of creating form in infinite variations,’ he says.

Igarashi’s letters are like architecture – meticulously constructed buildings that appear three-dimensional – with the essential geometries of the alphabet, the circle, triangle and square, his building blocks. He writes: ‘The circle as a symbol of perfection is frequently used in composition for the formative nature of a circle’s centre point. The triangle serves directly as an expression of its powerful shape; and the square, with its capacity for space, is a typical framework for design.’ As he concludes in the preface to A-Z, ‘In the journey of making, there is no terminus.’

The Art of Earth Architecture
Author and editor: Jean Dethier
Published: Thames & Hudson

The city of Yazd is nestled deep in the desert in Iran’s central plain. This world heritage site is home to a mighty collection of domes – structures made entirely from local raw earth bricks and covered in kah-gel, a protective layering of earth and straw. They are intersected with ingenious wind towers too – early air-cons sending cool air into homes. Then, a clever network of wells and underground water channels, known as quanat, provide Yazdis with water collected from mountains and over long distances. There are intricate mansion homes built during the Qajar dynasty (1789-1925) too, some of which have survived the desert climate and even earthquakes. This is urban planning for people and places, with spectacular visceral impact.

We didn’t quite make it to Yazd on a recent trip to Iran – harsh desert storms kept us locked away in nearby Kashan. So, it is hugely exciting to leaf through ‘The Art of Earth Architecture’, and explore the pages dedicated to the raw beauty of Yazd. Published by Thames & Hudson, the book presents a panorama of raw earth structures from around the globe, from ancient times to the present day. And it is a fascinating voyage into an area that seems to have been largely neglected from the history of design. ‘Raw earth is the most humble, most ecological, and most accessible of all construction materials,’ writes the author Jean Dethier in his introduction. ‘It is a treasure lying beneath our feet.’

It turns that for some 10,000 years we have been building homes and schools and palaces and forts and more with raw, unbaked earth. Available in abundance, this simple material is extremely durable and ideal for construction. Often confused with cooked earth (which is treated either baked or fired), raw earth is essentially drawn from the mineral undersoil beneath the fertile land which typically grows crops. There are various forms of raw earth construction too: adobe and rammed earth, cob, wattle, and daub. Civilisations have made villages and cities from this earth, and Dethier sees the material as a means of democratising architecture.

With over 800 photographs and illustrations, the author surveys 450 sites from 75 countries across continents. Featured are the temples and palaces of Mesopotamia and Egypt, the Great Wall of China, the Alhambra in Spain, as well as vernacular heritage and historical cities such as Shibam in Yemen, Djenné in Mali and Marrakech.

Dethier observes contemporary raw earth buildings too – the work of pioneers of modern earth architecture, Francoise Cointereaux and Hassan Fathy, as well as those by celebrated architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier, Frances Kéré, Wang Su, Norman Foster and Renzo Piano.

The Art of Earth Architecture brings together archaeology and history, culture and technology with a speculative eye on how we can harness lessons learned from the ancient art of sustainable raw earth building to benefit the now and the future. Dethier is an architect himself, as well as curator, essayist, and activist who has been awarded the prestigious Grand Prix d’Architecture for his contribution to the democratisation of architectural cultures.

He believes raw earth building to be a viable, ecological alternative to current construction methods, noting that the use of this natural material requires neither industrial transformation nor high energy consumption, and it doesn’t produce harmful gases. The author says contemporary earth architecture has proved its worth in terms of relevance, reliability, and quality, making it a convincing substitute for cement and concrete for small or medium-sized buildings.

The book sets out a bold ecological manifesto with articles by renowned researchers and practitioners – including those of the CRAterre group, the research laboratory on earthen architecture founded in 1979. They provide a radical yet real argument for earth construction to play a much more pivotal role in the fight against climate deregulation. The history of raw architecture is about need, resources, and skills. Writes Dethier: ‘It is vital that we change the economic logic of the building industry, creating a new model that favours the use of local natural resources.’

Jean-Louis Cohen, Sheldon H. Solow Professor in the History of Architecture at New York University Institute of Fine Arts, says the book ‘convincingly demonstrates that the renaissance of earth architecture is no longer merely a pipe dream, but has become a tangible ecological reality – and this is very much thanks to the active militancy of its authors’.

And perhaps the incredible architectural beauty and heritage sites spread across the pages of ‘The Art of Earth Architecture’, including the Yazd that I’m destined to see one day, teach us a valuable lesson: sometimes the best solutions are to be found in the most humble, the most low-tech places. This is the history of buildings and architecture, cities and settlements, of planning spaces for people and places.

The Contemporary House
Written: Jonathan Bell and Ellie Stathaki
Published: Thames & Hudson

The Contemporary House

The Bauhaus, 100 this year, has impacted tremendously on the creative world ideologically and aesthetically. It has transformed how we design our homes, the objects we choose to live with, and urban life. Yet, the 21st century is facing its own unique and hugely urgent challenges – globalisation, rapid urbanisation and rising environmental concerns. Cities are overcrowded, new buildings must meet stringent energy requirements and negotiate a myriad of planning regulations. They need to address their surroundings; form progressive narratives with history – hopefully. Contemporary urban architecture is, therefore, a complex jigsaw-puzzle with invention, innovation and imagination as critical as ever.

The Contemporary House takes on this very theme. Written by Jonathan Bell and Ellie Stathaki, both architectural critics and editors at Wallpaper* magazine, and published by Thames & Hudson, this is an insightful study of new city living. It is organised geographically as a way of understanding regional dialogues, and features seventy of the world’s most innovative, extreme and ingenious houses. The book reviews how modern residential design is integrated into the existing urban fabric for a fascinating insight into the variety of contemporary approaches to urban design.

Some of the traditional vernacular forms such as terraced homes, townhouses and isolated villas are being questioned today, as are the repercussions of the 20th century’s suburban sprawls and their poor land use. ‘The Contemporary House’ sees new philosophies of minimalism replacing some of the more indulgent structures of the past. For instance, it refers to a new shape called ‘the stack’ – one that is compact, space-conscious and insulated. Amidst the fear of homogenisation of cities, there is a tendency for more self-expression in the contemporary homes too. Most importantly, the 21st century is defined by the urgency for thinking sustainably and imaginatively in reusing resources.

As cities become ever-congested, as we face the challenges of an ageing population and mass migration, and as we work towards a sustainable future – architects, designers and urban planners will need to continue to expand on the principals laid out by the Bauhaus members one-hundred years ago. To quote the school’s founder, Walter Gropius, ‘To have the gift of imagination is more important than all technology.’

Best of design books of 2018

Once-upon-a-time design theory was considered art history’s inferior sibling – a bit of a side-subject. When in 1989 Terence Conran and Stephen Bayley opened the doors to the cubic white Design Museum at Shad Thames, it was such a revelation. Finally, the applied arts were given a platform to talk. Some years later I recall my excitement at discovering an undergraduate course in Design History that promised to dissect and analyse the subject in the context of social history and wider ideologies.

Now, design is everywhere. The Design Museum has moved to a bigger place in Kensington, the V&A’s exhibitions challenge design in all directions, whilst the Barbican is instigating dialogues between art, design, creativity, music, dance. When I first began writing, and my work took on the motor car, discussing design in the context of the automotive world was considered novel. All this has changed, and it is a great time to be involved in analysing the world of design. To reflect the trend, publishers now offer a grand choice of design books. Some can be a touch superficial; then again, a seasoned hunter will find plenty of excellent, thought-provoking, and at times beautifully-bound books to relax the festive weeks away. Here are my recent finds.

California Captured

California Capturedpublished by Phaidon, brings together the work of the brilliant photographer Marvin Rand. Los Angeles was a kind of utopian dream in the mid-twentieth century. The sunny southern Californian city had attracted a progressive set – experimental filmmakers, independent artists, writers and patrons of design came here for it offered freedom of expression. This coupled with urban growth and industrial expansion led to a period of exceptional architectural innovation. Rand captured this spirit. Throughout the post-war period, the native Angeleno photographed the buildings of Richard Neutra, Craig Ellwood, John Lautner, Louis Kahn, Frank Lloyd Wright and Rudolph Schindler. He also played a crucial role in helping shape the mid-century Californian modern style – all of which is explored in this stylish book.

Designed in the USSR 1950-1989, Phaidon

Also by Phaidon, Designed in the USSR: 1950-1989, created in collaboration with Moscow Design Museum, is an account of life under Communist rule told through the design of everyday objects, graphics, illustration and advertising. The images here, selected largely from the Museum’s collection, tell the compelling story of design behind the Iron Curtain.

Modernist Design Complete is comprehensive study of last century’s progressive movement. Published by Thames & Hudson, this impressive hardback brings together most facets and scales of design under a single volume to present the vast breadth of towering and lesser-known figures within modernism. This lavishly-illustrated book reveals unexpected connections and aims to form new insights. Elsewhere by the same publisher, The Iconic House features over 100 of the world’s most important and influential residential homes designed and built since 1900. International in scope and wide-ranging in style, each has a unique approach that makes it radical for its time.

Then a trio of architectural books take on a more academic position. Le Corbusier: The Buildings, is a comprehensive survey of the work of the modernist pioneer. The features his vast body of work – the early Swiss villas, his mid-career buildings, his role as the first global architect to venture out to Argentina and Russia, his late contributions including the extensive civic plan of Chadigarh in India – an unforgettable place to visit. With an authoritative text by scholar and curator Jean-Louis Cohen, the book reveals the creative evolution and global breadth of a great practitioner, theorist and evangelist of modernist architecture.

Santiago Calatrava: Drawing, Building, Reflecting

Santiago Calatrava: Drawing, Building, Reflecting is an intimate publication in which the celebrated Spanish architect reflects on the nature of the his work’s imagination and reveals the breadth of his influences. The architect’s words and thoughts are extensively illustrated with photographs of his buildings and drawings from his private sketchbooks, work rarely seen outside his studio. Elsewhere, Kengo Kuma, Complete Works records the work of the acclaimed Japanese architect. It features Kuma’s thirty projects, including the brilliant V&A Dundee. There are personal and architectural reflections on each project alongside specially commissioned photography and detailed drawings. An essay by Kenneth Frampton frames Kuma’s work in the context of post-war Japan’s flourishing architecture scene.

Social Design

Social Design is a timely book – a survey of architects and designers hoping to make a positive impact on society. Published by Lars Müller, the 27 projects featured here look at cityscape and countryside, housing, education and work, production, migration, networks and the environment. They are framed by three research studies that trace the historical roots and foundations of social design and look at today’s theoretical discourse and future trends. Projects here include Fairphone, Little Sun by Olafur Eliasson and Frederik Ottesen, and Shigeru Ban’s Paper Emergency Shelters.

Radical Essex follows a similar theme. It sets out to reveal another side to the county at the edge of London that has been a victim of crude stereotyping. The book captures the raw rural beauty and the radical spirit of Essex. It features some excellent finds – the 1960s student halls at the University of Essex in Colchester, the bungalows at Silver End at Braintree, built by Francis Crittall and fitted with his famous steel frames, London Underground stations designer Charles Holden’s cottages near Maldon, and there is the brilliant white crop of International Style houses at Frinton-on-Sea.

Lastly, another relevant design book delves into the approaching age of sustainable mobility. The Current – New Wheels for the Post-Petrol Age by Gestalten takes a closer look at some of the pioneers of eco mobility, introducing a selection of the more inspired products and concepts to include vehicles with two, three or four wheels. The combination offers an interesting glimpse into what to expect from a new generation of creatives in the next decade.

Modernist Design Complete
Written: Dominic Bradbury
Published: Thames & Hudson

Modernism impacts on every aspect of our lives. This progressive aesthetic and philosophical movement, which emerged in the late 19th and early 20th century in the midst of modern industrial societies and rapid urbanisation, and the horrors of the world wars, continues to shape our lives. Modernism has set a powerful framework for how we think and create, how are homes are built and interiors decorated, and the way our cities are imagined.

Modernism, though, can be a touch complex to follow given its ever-evolving nature, and the various ideological fractions, sub-groups and sub-sub-categories that formed during the last century. World wars and mass exile, especially of the key Bauhaus members to the US and beyond, helped spread the movement worldwide, creating exciting regional responses and dialogue. And there were many diverse characters involved too, each adding their own flavour to the modernist movement.

‘Modernist Design Complete’ will help navigate the movement. Thames & Hudson’s latest book brings together most facets and scales of design under a single volume to present the vast breadth of towering and lesser-known figures within modernism. This lavishly-illustrated book (635 feature here) reveals unexpected connections and aims to form new insights too.

The format is logical and easy to follow. It is divided into two main chapters – ‘media and masters’ and ‘houses and interior’, with a final A-Z of modernist designers. The former is further divided to include furniture, lighting, ceramics and glass, industrial and product design, and graphics and posters, featuring designers who were most influential in each category – all of which are conveniently colour-coded.

There are profiles of nearly a hundred creators, including the main faces of movement – László Moholy-Nagy, Alvar Aalto, Le Corbusier, Eliel Saarinen and Walter Gropius, as well as lesser-known figures. Complete with commissioned essays by established academics and subject specialists, ‘Modernist Design Complete’ aims to be the definitive guide for those involved in the creative industries, and for anyone interested in design, design thinking and design history.

Radical Essex
Edited: Joe Hill and Hayley Dixon
Published: Focal Point Gallery/Cornerhouse Publications

‘Essex is neither part of East Anglia, nor one of the Home Counties; it contains both radical and conservative elements, and is therefore open to all possibilities,’ writes architectural critic Ken Worpole in Radical Essex. Sitting on the edge of east London, a rural refuge for much of the cockney diaspora, it certainly gets its fair share of crude stereotyping, and mockery – think The Only Way is Essex, spray tans and excessive makeup, bling cars and tacky bars.

There is, however, another Essex, one of raw rural beauty and elements of radicalism – in parts utopianism even, and Radical Essex is set to alter our views. There are the 1960s student halls at the University of Essex in Colchester, the bungalows at Silver End at Braintree, built by Francis Crittall and fitted with his famous steel frames, London Underground stations designer Charles Holden’s cottages near Maldon built in the 1920s and 30s, and there is the brilliant white crop of International Style houses at Frinton-on-Sea.

The initiative Radical Essex began two years ago with a goal to re-examine the history of the county in relation to radicalism in thought, lifestyle, politics and architecture. ‘Essex is a complex county, judged solely by more misguided stereotypes than perhaps any other,’ explains Joe Hill, director of Focal Point Gallery one of the founders of the project. She wants to ‘celebrate the extremes of this innovative and experimental county. From early modernist architectural experiments to worker colonies and pacifist communities, the county has always demonstrated its ability to be self-guided in its desires – to seek, experiment and redefine.’

A book of the same name, edited by Hill and Hayley Dixon, charts the project taking the subject further to include new writings and the photography of Catherine Hyland – featured here. This is a fascinating read that sheds light on the region’s pioneering thinking, and it certainly reveals an exciting side to Essex worth exploring.

Designed in the USSR: 1950-1989
Published: Phaidon

Soviet design at its peak between 1950 to 1989 was dynamic, different and complex. On the one side were consumer and domestic products for daily use. Then there was a rather more controlled side to design directed by the state which impacted on advertising, film posters and educational literature. The Soviet Union’s isolation helped create a bit of a design bubble, yet there was a certain image of the USSR created largely for the international scene through objects such as the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games mascot and the Saturnas vacuum cleaner – inspired by the Sputnik satellite, itself a remarkable example of space-age design.

A new book sets out to tell this untold story. Designed in the USSR: 1950-1989, published by Phaidon and created in collaboration with Moscow Design Museum, is a captivating account of life under Communist rule told through the design of everyday objects, graphics, illustration and advertising. The 350 images here, selected largely from the Museum’s collection, tell the compelling story of design behind the Iron Curtain.

The book has been broken down into three chapters – citizen, state and world – with an introductory essay by the director of the Moscow Design Museum Alexandra Sankova for an insight into the socio-political context of Soviet design. Packed with objects and ideas – from children’s toys, homewares and fashion to posters, electronics and space-race ephemera – and spanning almost four decades, this is the first publication to truly celebrate the creativity, innovation and diversity of Soviet design.

California Captured
Written: Emily Bills, Sam Lubell and Pierluigi Serraino
Published: Phaidon

California Captured

Los Angeles was a kind of utopian dream in the mid-twentieth century. The sunny southern Californian city had attracted an open-minded set – experimental filmmakers, independent artists, writers and patrons of design came here for it offered freedom of expression. This coupled with urban growth and industrial expansion led to a period of exceptional architectural innovation.

Marvin Rand was there to capture this spirit. Throughout the post-war period, the native Angeleno photographed the buildings of Richard Neutra, Craig Ellwood, John Lautner, Louis Kahn, Frank Lloyd Wright and Rudolph Schindler. He also played a crucial role in helping shape the mid-century Californian modern style, as explored in a new book by Phaidon California Captured.

Rand’s career began in advertising in the 1950s, and it was his friend the design historian Esther McCoy who encouraged him to venture into architectural photography. He enjoyed a close friendship with many of these architectural greats including Craig Ellwood. Some of Rand’s best work includes Ellwood’s most celebrated projects.

The 240 illustrations in California Captured were chosen by the authors Emily Bills, Sam Lubell and Pierluigi Serraino who spent over five years analysing some 20,000 Rand photographs. Together they tell of a photographer who is an artist with his lens. Rand created abstractions out of lines and structures. He framed the clean and clear modernist structures with striking clarity carefully staging the buildings against a backdrop of LA’s dreamy, washed out, vast, open sky, sometimes the blue ocean in the backdrop. Ellwood was fond of sports cars and Rand brilliantly includes these symbols of modernity within the frame as an extension of the architecture.

He photographed high-profile projects like the Salk Institute and LAX Theme building, but also lesser-famed architects and more modest creations such as Douglas Honnold’s drive-in Tiny Naylor, shot at night skilfully abstracting light and shadow. California Captured reveals Marvin Rand as a significant chronicler of post-war Los Angeles and some of America’s greatest mid-century modern architecture.

FuturBalla: Life Light Speed
Edited: Ester Coen
Published: Skira

FuturBalla: Life Light Speed is edited by Ester Coen and published by Skira

I have long been fascinated by the Italian futurists. Radical in its early days, the movement was fascinated by progress, speed, modernity. When researching The Life Negroni, we traveled around Italy in search of arts and ideas, of elements that make this classic cocktail so timeless and so special. We soon realised how interlinked the Negroni is with this creative movement when we came across the rich futurist archives at the homes of Campari and Martini in Milan and Piedmont – private collections bursting with rare and unseen works of art. So, I was hugely excited to receive a book dedicated to the work of one of the pioneers of this movement Giacomo Ballà.

His inventive and innovative style helped forge a fundamental link between Italian art and the classic avant-garde. Ballà was born into an exciting historical time for Italy, in Turin in 1875. His family soon moved to the new capital Rome where the young artist developed his original style rich in glowing streaks, bold contrasts of light and dark, a daring perspective and a love of detail.

Ballà was fascinated by the power and speed, the machine age and in particular cars which he saw as characteristics of modernity. In his studies between 1912 and 1924 entitled Iridescent Interpenetrations, Ballà began embracing futurism through the colourful synthesis of individual elements of light, and in Line of Speed and Abstract Speed – The Car (both 1913) he explores movement and dynamism in a rapidly evolving society. Abstract Speed – The Car hangs in the Tate Modern in London and is well worth visiting.

FuturBalla: Life Light Speed presents the work and life of Ballà. This is the most complete monograph on the artist presenting works from public and private collections, Tate Modern and Estorick Collection in London, Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo and the Israel Museum of Jerusalem. The 200 colour illustrations here are supported by insightful essays by the editor, the art historia Ester Coen and contributors Vincenzo Barone, Zelda De Lillo and Luca Francesco Ticini.

SOS Brutalism, a Global Survey
Edited: Oliver Elser, Philip Kurz and Paul Cachola Schmal
Published: Park Books

Simple block shapes made of raw concrete – this is how Brutalism has come to be defined. Yet behind these concrete buildings – some poetic and sculptural – lay a movement with strong principles. New Brutalism was controversial the moment it emerged on the architectural scene in the 1950s. It deliberately set out to be hard edged and radical. Progressive social ideals informed much of its thinking. Ironically brutalist building design is often blamed for the failure of social housing. Trellick Tower in London, a masterpiece of social housing, was once dubbed ‘the tower of terror’ and is amongst the vilified. Yet at its best, brutalism was a heroic movement with highly progressive origins.

A new book SOS Brutalism, a Global Survey sets out to preserve its legacy and many of the buildings in danger of demolition. Initiated by the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) in Frankfurt and the Wüstenrot Foundation, it studies the movement on a broader scale and within the wider context of time, ideology and location.

Brutalism’s theoretical roots were British and the term was coined by the architectural critic Reyner Bonham. His was a twist on béton brut, the French term for raw concrete and its use in design by the father of modernist architecture Le Corbusier. His 1952 Unité d’Habitation in Marseille is largely seen as a model for the new brutalism that followed. Made of roughly-cast raw concrete, the twelve levels house large apartments accessed from interior ‘streets’, which are raised up on columns replete with a roof terrace.

That same year Alison and Peter Smithson, the husband and wife team at the forefront of brutalism, translated some of these themes into their unbuilt design for the Golden Lane Estate in London. Here Le Corbusier’s internal ‘streets’ became exterior ‘street-decks’. Bonham wrote in 1955, ‘what characterises the new brutalism…is precisely its brutality, its je-m’en-foutisme, its bloody-mindedness.’

Following World War Two opinions were divided as to what should be the architectural language of the new era – a new modernism to reflect new times and help rebuild shattered communities. The responses were mixed. In the UK, cheap pre-fabricated modular buildings went up quick and fast to create much-needed schools and hospitals with the domestic scene largely dominated by two-story detached and semi ‘garden suburb’ style homes. It was within this scenario that a group of architects, dissatisfied with existing forms of modernism, made a conscious decision to create socially-responsible buildings. Brutalism was about celebrating the heroic spirit of earlier modernist architecture.

Many of the architects believed humans should be at the centre of their design themes. Whereas earlier modernists were influenced by speed and technology – by boats, the motor car – many brutalists were inspired by humans, their interactions informed the design.

As post-war austerity gave way to the confidence 60s, brutalist buildings were commissioned across the nation as concrete ‘streets in the sky’. Great examples are the Royal Festival Hall and South Bank Centre in London, as well as Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower and Smithsons’ Robin Hood Gardens – both of which were completed in 1972. Robin Hood Gardens was a summary of these ideals. Here two blocks contained both flats and maisonettes, and with the absence of cars, residents were to use the ‘streets-in-the-sky’ thus encouraging social mixing and community creation. Sadly, the 1970s were an altogether different time and soon poverty, crime and vandalism made Robin Hood and Trellick posters for the failure of brutalism.

SOS Brutalism is large, informative and lavishly-illustrated. The book identifies and analyses some of the key brutalist buildings, 102 to be precise, around the world and is therefore a fascinating study of the movement, how it ended up responding to regional voices and concerns. Its roots may have been British, yet raw concrete became a global language of architecture in the 60s and 70s with a shared vision for re-inventing modernism.

With today’s fragmented societies, displaced communities and the widening gap between rich and poor, some of the more utopian brutalist principles feel relevant. It could explain the movement’s new-found popularity. Perhaps elements of its progressive ideology will invite a set of socially committed idealists to find a new language of architecture that engages with our current wider social issues, one that could help rebuild broken communities.

A Place for All People
Written: Richard Rogers and Richard Brown
Published: Canongate Books

A Place for All People

‘A Place for All People’ begins in July of 1971. Narrated by Richard Rogers, it is a passionate tale of a young British architect and his friend and colleague Renzo Piano, and their sheer surprise at winning the Centre Pompidou  competition with their brilliantly left-field entry which had at its heart Rogers’ philosophy of adaptability, affordability and colour. It lit up and brought cultural life to an otherwise run-down Paris neighbourhood. It also gave Rogers his career break.

Up until then, Rogers had been designing minor residential buildings. He writes of that moment: ‘Ruthie and I dashed around London collecting partners and passports – we had so little work on that people weren’t coming into the office – and made it over to Paris just in time to join the celebration dinner.’

The competition had been to design a cultural centre in this neglected urban area. Rogers and Piano’s flexible structure had at its centre a public piazza. The young architects’ vision wasn’t for a ‘temple for high culture’, but rather a more utopian one. ‘A public space for all people, he writes, ‘a place driven by social and political responsibility.’

‘A Place for All People’ is part autobiography, part cultural manifesto. It is a collage of Rogers’ life, his work and crucially his ideology – his utopian vision to help forge better, fairer societies through architecture and design. He writes ‘architecture is inescapably social and political’. For many who may question this in connection to his more commercial buildings, most notably the Lloyds Building in the City of London, a stark symbol of capitalism, he has this to offer: ‘[it] was designed as a flexible machine for a financial marketplace, but also as a carefully considered expression of those activities, designed both for the user and the enjoyment of the passer-by.’

Born in Florence in 1933 to atheist Italian parents – his father a doctor, his mother a potter – Rogers was exposure to culture, travel, ideas from a young age. The family fled to London and then Surrey just before the war and; his childhood a mix harsh boarding school years, less harsh day school and exploring Europe, mainly Italy before embarking on a career in architecture.

Like him or not – and there are many who form the latter group – Rogers is one of the most interesting living architects of our time. For he is unpredictable both ideologically and stylistically – never being stylised or finding that fixed signature style in the way of other ‘starchitects’ like Frank Gehry.

Study his most famous civic and public buildings: the Pompidou Centre to the Lloyds Building, Madrid Barajas airport and Heathrow Terminal 5. They all make their own bold visual statements yet share very little else. Unlike most architects who profess to being collaborative designers, Rogers work, from the start, has been about collaboration. It is about the wider thinking of his practice. It is more about the building than the architect. It is about responding to its place and the use of space. Perhaps this explains this absence of a signature style.

Throughout the pages of this engaging book, Rogers writes passionately of architecture’s role in shaping society. ‘Architecture creates shelter and transforms the ordinary,’ he writes. ‘Good architecture civilises and humanises, bad architecture brutalises’. Once a radical thinker, even if his work may no longer reflect that, Rogers remains an idealist and an architect who has left his bold vision on the architectural map.

Legendary Authors and The Clothes They Wore
Written: Terry Newman
Published: HarperCollins Hardback

I have fully immersed myself in the brilliant world of the original punk poet Patti Smith. Having devoured Smith’s biographical M Train, I immediately moved onto her first novel Just Kids, consumed to the soundtrack of the 1975 debut album Horses. In both, Patti references her beatnik look, a look she has maintained with just a few modifications.

Smith took to writing after reading Little Women and, like many of us, Louisa May Alcott’s tomboy heroine Jo became her hero too. The young Pattie was a lost soul in Camden, New Jersey, the small-minded town of her childhood – her boyish style standing out like a sore thumb. ‘Everything awaited me,’ she writes in Just Kids of the moment she boarded a bus to New York in 1967 at the age of twenty dressed in a black turtleneck, dungarees and large grey raincoat.

Her dear friend and one-time lover, the artist Robert Mapplethorpe, shot the cover of Horses capturing Smith in an oversized man’s white shirt, her black jacket slung over her shoulders. It’s a powerful image: Smith’s piercing gaze penetrating the camera, combined with her androgynous style. It immortalised her look.

Which takes us to William Burroughs, the godfather of beat who famously disdained fashion and always wore a three-piece-suit replete with his signature fedora hat. Certain accessories can also define a writer – Zadie Smith’s exotic head-piece, James Joyce’s wire-framed glasses, Samuel Beckett’s Wallabees.

This is the premise of Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore, recently published by Harper Design. The author Terry Newman, former editor of fashion magazines i-D and Attitude, has selected 50 of her literary icons and delved into their wardrobes to unravel the sartorial stories they tell. The illustrated profiles of prominent men and women of letter, highlights their key works and signature fashion moments, what it says about the author and its impact on the wider world of fashion.

Some are more obvious choices than others. Oscar Wilde was clearly a writer with a huge appetite for clothes, an obsession he extended to his fictional characters. ‘Fashion is what one wears oneself,’ he famously wrote in 1895 in An Ideal Husband. ‘What is unfashionable is what other people wear.’

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald were huge style celebrities. What they wore and how they chose to live, their fast lifestyle, all morphed into their personal lives and the characters they created through fiction. He wore a three-piece tweed suits, a pocket handkerchief and tie; she, a southern belle having been styled by him, took to championing an effortlessly chic wardrobe by day and party dresses trimmed in sequins and fur by night.

Possibly one of the most stylish authors here is Joan Didion, who wrote for and was a regular on the pages of Vogue. ‘Her writing is infused with descriptive analysis of clothing as cultural consideration,’ writes Newman of the American writer. Didion’s essential wardrobe packing list was immortalised in her 1979 collection of essays The White Album – a list that, for years, she kept taped inside her closet door. And as a testimony to her powerful image, Juergen Teller photographed her at 81, still looking fabulous for the Céline spring 2015 fashion campaign.

What we wear says a great deal about who we are. As writers, the characters we create through clothes can also then whittle their way into our fictional characters. And visa-versa. Sometimes a strong fictional character would influence a look that sticks. Virginia Woolf would use the term ‘frock consciousness’ to refer to the way she would often employ clothing to define and change her fictional characters.

The links in Legendary Authors are sometimes a little fragile, with Newman on occasion allowing the narrative to fit the subject. Yet, this is an entertaining read for the added quotes and anecdotes on each author, as well as the brilliant archival photography. It is also hugely fun delving into the wardrobes of some of my own literary idols here. What they wear provides a glimpse into the world they inhibit and their moment in time. We are what we wear and we wear what we hope to be.

La Vita Campari
Published: Spinach

La Vita Campari © Spinach

Davide Campari was a fascinating character. In the early years of the 20th century the company heir set out to explore the potentials of art and ideas in creating a strong, global brand. Eschewing conventions, he joined Milan’s artistic circles, becoming intimately linked with the avant-garde who helped create product design such as the brilliant Campari Soda bottle, daring poster art and advertising – design that were hugely radical for their time and remain fresh today.

Federico Fellini made mini films for Campari; Marcello Nizzoli, Leonetto Cappiello, Bruno Munari, the Italian Futurists and, in particular, the brilliant Fortunato Depero all worked with the company in creating art work – Munari’s 1963 Declinazione grafica del nome Campari now hangs in the MoMA, New York. Today, Campari continues to endorse the arts, most recently working with The Great Beauty director Paolo Sorrentino for the Campari film The Killer in Red.

La Vita Campari tells the story of this pioneering brand. Written by Nargess Banks and created by Spinach with Campari, it is about a company immersed in arts and ideas – one with a unique vision to use great design, branding, advertising (and an intriguing product) to help build a global brand.

For the book, the team went to Milan, the city in which Campari was born and remains so closely linked. They took on-location photography capturing Campari in its ideal setting, within a city that is at once beautiful and brutal. At the studio in London, Spinach photographed the classic Campari cocktails – Milano Torino, Americano, Negroni, Boulevardier, Negroni Sbagliato, Milanese G&T and Campari Tonic. Elsewhere, original poster art and advertising from Galleria Campari offer a glimpse into a brand immersed in the creative world.

Futura: The Typeface
Writen: Petra Eisele, Annette Ludwig and Isabel Naegele
Published: Laurence King

Futura, the Typeface

The Nazis hated Futura. They deemed the typeface as too radical – subversive even. Members of Bauhaus embraced it for its radicalism, and it came to be associated with the movement from 1919 through to 1933, when the school was forced to close and its members dispersed around the world. Futura: the Typeface examines the fascinating story of this popular type. Published this month by Laurence King, the book taps into a new movement in exploring type as an art form, re-discovering histories that tell of a time and a place, and of its intricate craft. The stylish hardback features 500 illustrations and includes essays by design writers Steven Heller, Erik Spiekermann and Christopher Burke. Crucially, Future places type in the wider context of design history.

Futura was authored by Paul Renner, a German designer who wasn’t officially part of Bauhaus yet shared the movement’s ideology. He crafted the typeface in 1927 based on geometric sans-serif forms, and it was released in the same year by the Bauer Type Foundry. Experimenting with sans-serif types was part of a larger movement at the time, yet Futura became one of the more prominent typefaces of the period. Bauhaus leader Lazlo Maholy-Nagy was a fan as was the American Paul Rand who liked its functionality noting that it was devoid of ‘doodahs and ringlets’. Later Stanley Kubrick made use of a derivative Futura Bold in his films. Most recently for their 2017 menswear label Jijibaba, designers Jasper Morrison and Jaime Hayon featured Futura in their logo. It also found its place in history books by being the first typeface to land on the moon in 1969.

‘In this fast-moving digital world, this copycat world we live in, the importance of typography is even more felt,’ says Adam Thomas, the creative director and partner at London creative agency Spinach. ‘This includes the origins of type, the small thing that make good typography so right, elements that can so easily be overlooked. While the modern day graphic designers spin themselves of their axis trying to keep up with the latest design trends and fashions, the more traditionally-focused, admirers of strong, classical design, proportion, elegance, refinement, balance, it is those who I feel stand to gain the most.’

Magical Colouring Museum and Cats and Other Creatures
Created and illustrated: Yuko Higuchi
Published: Laurence King

Yuko Higuchi Magical Colouring Museum

‘Magical Colouring Museum’ is a beautifully-illustrated picture book of sorts – cute, dark, surreal, funny, frightening at times. ‘Cats and Other Creatures’ features 24 stand-alone illustrations. Together they explore the imaginative world of the celebrated, cult Tokyo artist Yuko Higuchi.

Higuchi is the voice behind the kawaii trend, sketching whimsical illustrations of anthropomorphised characters that fuse cute picture-book style illustrations with dark and surreal elements. In her imaginative universe, cats look like ogres and foxes transform astronauts. So, I caught up with the artist to see what inspires her wonderfully magical and at times dark world.

Your characters are at once cute and dark. What inspires you?

I can’t pin-point what would be considered cute and what would be dark in my artwork. But, I can tell you that I draw what I love (creatures, etc.) spontaneously.

What attracts you to kawaii?

I am not conscious of creating things that are kawaii. I think that the more intentionally you seek out kawaii, the more intentional your artwork becomes. And in the end, it will just look deliberate or calculated. I don’t have a high opinion on these kinds of kawaii.

Do you base your characters on reality?

Not all of them. I usually just draw as ideas pop into my head, much like how children scribble. Some of my drawings are imaginary characters, and in some cases I base those characters on reality. But, I also add a touch of my imagination to them when I draw.

And the surreal storylines, are these based on real or imaginary events?

I draw from things that pop up in my head. Sometimes an actual event can ignite my storyline, but often my imagination takes over and the story develops as I draw.

What medium do you work in?

I use pens, pencils, hemp paper and watercolours.

Your books can be appreciated by both children and adults. Who do you have in mind when creating?

When I create a book, I don’t have any target age range. Although, honestly, I feel that more adults like my books than children.

The Visual History of Type
Written: Paul McNeil
Published: Laurence King

Type has existed since the dawn of printing. Wood was used as a material for some larger fonts during the nineteenth-century, but in general fonts would be cast in lead alloys. The mechanisation of typesetting in the 1890s allowed for continuous casting, which remained widespread until the 1970s. Since, digital type has been the more dominant form.

A new book by Laurence King The Visual History of Type is exploring the history from its advent to the present day. If like me you have an interest in type design and design history, or are involved in the creative industries, then the book is a must read.

Author Paul McNeil, a graphic designer and a senior lecturer in typography at the London College of Communication, has examined every major typeface, with an emphasis on the direct, faithful representation of 320 key historical type designs presented in their original specimens.

It also makes for a brilliant coffee table book for the general reader interested in the history of communications and visual culture.

The Hard life
Published: Lars Müller

The Hard Life by Jasper Morrison

On a visit to Portugal in 2012, designer Jasper Morrison became fascinated by the display at Lisbon’s National Museum of Ethnology. The collection of everyday objects from pre-industrial rural Portugal are crafted out of local materials, the designs have been passed down from generation to generation, progressing and refining along the way. Some are purely functional, others carry a little decoration – an ode to their village or family. Captivated by what he saw, Morrison proposed to photograph the objects and, with the help of Lars Müller Publishing, create a book that allows each of these seemingly humble artefacts space to breathe.

The Hard Life celebrates the ordinary and offers us a new perspective on design – something Morrison has been keen to explore in his career. He has photographed and described each of the objects on these pages. This lovingly researched and crafted book is a homage to the beauty of ancient artefacts. Some of these objects are of the purest of designs, some are simply functional pieces serving generation after generation.

What’s fascinating is how collectively the objects on display in The Hard Life bring a slice in history to life. We see how generations, through trial and error, individual craftsmanship and an instinct to carve out the essential with the slenderest of means, made objects that made life easier, gave it meaning in pre-industrial society.

Flicking through, I am transported to a Portuguese village where a stamp was used to mark your bread or cake before baking in the communal oven so as to identify your loaf. Elsewhere, I find myself in the village square at dusk as the community gather grilling sardines and roasting chestnuts on the local barbecue. Perhaps there is music and dance… maybe a little wine.

The Hard Life speaks of a time in history, of a way of life that may seem simple to us now, but here objects had meaning, they had value, they were intimately connected with nature. And from this solid base was born a beautiful collection of objects that inspire us today.

Residents: Inside the Iconic Barbican Estate
Photography: Anton Rodriguez
Foreword: Katie Treggiden
Published: Barbican

The Barbican, that twentieth century utopian vision, and one of the most documented housing projects in the world, is taking us for an intimate tour. A select group of its residence are letting us glimpse into their homes and hear their thoughts – all of which is documented in an intriguing new book Residents: Inside the Iconic Barbican Estate.

Here photographer Anton Rodriguez – himself a resident – has captured the interiors of 22 homes for an alternative view of this iconic brutalist estate. We visit the homes of an interesting collection of people, mainly creatives, who have made the Barbican their home, and hear their stories, and their interactions with a building that feels so pivotal to their lives.

This Grade II listed mixed-use residential and arts complex is a monument to the highpoint of modernism – to a time when London urban planners had more compelling visions than simply building luxury apartments for the elite. Constructed in the 1960s and 70s in an inner city area once devastated by World War II bombings, the Barbican was conceived as an urban village of sorts to help form strong communities.

As a piece of architecture, it is a fascinating contrast of hard and soft. The thick slabs of vertical and horizontal concrete encourage a mesmerising graphical play of light, artfully captured by Rodriguez’s lens in the book.

Today over half the world’s population live in cities, predicted to grow to some 75 per cent by 2050 as rural residents are forced to flock to city centres for work. As urban growth explodes, the Barbican vision could not be more relevant.

Death Drive
Author: Stephen Bayley
Published by: Circa

Death Drive by Stephen Bayley is published by Circa

For over a century, the motor car reigned as the supreme toy, the ultimate consumer product. Sculpted and engineered with love and passion, and little concern for safety or the environment, the car was loaded with mixed emotions – love and lust, greed and shame, ego and fear, freedom and danger. The motor car was sexy; dying in one was also sexy. It helped if you held some sort of celebrity status for a brush of extra mystery. James Dean’s car crash death certainly helped immortalised the actor, aged only twenty-four.

Few contemporary mechanical objects have had such a visceral connection with humans. The motor car does ‘bravura performances in the theatre of our imagination,’ writes Stephen Bayley in his latest book Death Drive. But this is about to end, warns the author: ‘The motor car is in historical decline as the Age of Combustion nears the end of its sometimes beautiful, often tragic and always expensive journey.’

Death Drive is a love-hate note to the motor car told through twenty car crash vignettes involving a colourful mix of characters – movie stars, writers, artists, photographers, a racing driver and a motoring heir each play their part here. What’s more, the characters in this book – Jackson Pollock, Albert Camus, Isadora Duncan, Prince Aly Khan, Princess Grace of Monaco, Jean Bugatti, Helmut Newton – together they tell another sad story of the loss of brilliant eccentrics, unusual characters, unique intellectuals, the mad, the bad, the crazy talented…

Stephen Bayley is an eloquent writer, and a witty one too. Each chapter of Death Drive is packed with snippets of history, some factual, some perhaps fictional, some fantastically random – the real and imaginative histories blend for a splendid read and a vivid, almost cinematic, glimpse into a moment that feels all so long ago, when celebrities could still be classed as enigmas, before it all became all so sanitised, so dull.

Death Drive is also a note on fate – when life takes its own journey. Bayley references JG Ballard’s famous line in his 1973 novel Crash ‘Deep assignments run through all our lives; there are no coincidences’. In the chapter on James Dean, we are reminded of the actor’s line as he takes part in a US National Safety Council promo on road safety whist filming Giant. ‘Remember the life you save might be mine,’ says Dean in his Giant character Jett Rink, one that also happened to be his very last. He died soon after driving his Porsche 550 Spyder when he hit a big Ford Tudor head-on. Very eerie.

In the chapter on the existentialist writer Albert Camus, the doctor who appeared at the scene of his crash near Paris in a Facel Vega HK500 (‘gorgeously handsome … the bodywork a startling mélange of French and American culture’) was called Marcel Camus!

Death Drive is sheer pleasure to read. Some of the chapters, as with Isadora Duncan’s, ooze colour and texture. ‘She made noteworthy and energetic innovations in the matters of pop eugenics, interpretive dance, high-society socialism and cheerful lesbianism,’ he writes of the brilliantly bonkers American dancer who died when her favourite silk scarf strangled her on-board an Amilcar CGSS in Côte d’Azur.

Few people come even close to Bayley’s easy knowledge of cars. You can sense his true love of the motor car beyond the often bland delivery by other writers. For instance, in the chapter on Jackson Pollock, the death car, the Rocket 8’s ‘aggressive, pouting open grille was suggestive of jet propulsion’.

In Death Drive Bayley brings each motor car to life. They are the killers, the murderer in an old Hollywood movie, yet we are never quite sure who’s the villain here. Very HitchcockianThis is also a thoughtfully designed book where archivenewspaper clippings, retro car ads, moody black and white location shoots showing harrowing wreckages, add to the cinematic journey.

The combustion engine, Bayley writes, represented ‘the grand chaos of the high-twentieth century’ when the colourful and over-the-top characters in Death Drive were able to flourish. These heavy and dangerous, expensive objects that were sculpted as if they were a piece of art, and engineered with imagination and love, are thus symbolic of a time no longer.

The twenty characters here were betrayed by their motor cars. Bayley sees this as symbolic of our own betrayal by the promise of this object. ‘Man’s most ingenious tool has also been the most destructive,’ he writes. Ultimately, this is as much a story of glamorous car crash deaths as it is about the intimate relationship between human and machine.

Bayley ends his book on a rather sombre note as he takes us into the next life of the automobile, the nameless driverless vehicle steered by an invisible hand, Google perhaps, which promises to be as expressive as using an ATM machine.

Chairs by Architects
Edited by: Agata Toromanoff
Published by: Thames & Hudson.

Architects have a fondness for designing chairs. It stems from a long tradition – the pieces of furniture often acting as architectural manifestos, small tokens representing the ideology and style of the architect. David Adjaye says it is like a ‘testing ground for ideas that interest me’. The architect has worked with manufacturer Knoll on a number of projects including the 2013 Washington Skeleton and Washington Skin chairs. Furniture, he notes in an interview in Chairs by Architects, is a background. ‘There is something very powerful and very rewarding about that.’

This latest book by Thames & Hudson features fifty-five examples of work from the beginning of the nineteenth-century until now – chairs by early modernists Jean Prouve, Otto Wagner, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Antonio Gaudi and Walter Gropius, as well as contemporaries Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, Zaha Hadid and David Adjaye.

Each product is placed alongside an example of the architect’s building work. Visually it works as a simple way of identifying the language of design. It is also intriguing to see how these highly accomplished architects tackle a smaller object as such.

Interviews with some of the architects and designers involved helps bring the subjects to life. Chairs by Architects is a book worth exploring.

The Life Negroni
Authors: Leigh Banks, Nargess Banks
Published by: Spinach Publishing

The Life Negroni cover Image flat ©Spinach

A book I recently co-authored has been receiving some wonderful reviews from the press since its publication a few months ago, and the reviews keep coming in! The Life Negronidesigned by Spinach, is a project purely from the heart, straddling the world of spirits and mixology, of art and design, of style and fashion, of history, people and places… even cars.

Thank you to all the critics out there from design and architecture magazines, food and cocktail publications, and lifestyle blogs for your kind and imaginative words!

Here are snippets of some of the best…

The Life Negroni is a gorgeous book offering voyeuristic insights into a way of life which may never have existed anywhere other than the imagination, but one that is no less intoxicating for that…. As a publication, I was reminded of Luc Sante’s epicNo Smoking of 2004, a masterpiece of book design. It is an album, a love letter, a guide, a memoir and a rich source of graphic delight, ‘ design critic, aesthete and authorStephen Bayley wrote in The Spectator.

Like the drink, the book drips European post-war cool… and it’s just possible it might make you a little thirsty,  Teddy Jamieson printed in The Herald Magazine.

‘Be warned: this is a gripping read,’ said Time Out.

Jonathan Bell in Wallpaper* wrote: ‘Mixing up a monograph about a single cocktail seems like a tall order, but the Banks’ celebration of all things Italian, bitter and sweet offers a life history of a famous drink.’

Bar Magazine printed: ‘The revival of the classic Negroni has given it a cult status that is celebrated over more than 300 pages in a lavish new book.’

‘The Life Negroni is an ode to this cocktail, recounting the fascinating history, examining ingredients and the people, music, art and fashions it’s inspired,’ wrote Olive Magazine.

‘It’s like going on the Negroni grand tour. La dolce vita!’ Urban Junkies.

‘It explores the influence the Negroni has had on style, fashion and etiquette, as well as the part it has played in music, at and luxury hotels,’ Brummell magazine printed.

Plus Icon magazine dedicated the ‘Obsessions’ page of the July issue to The Life Negroni authors. Thank you Icon!

… and for the best of the rest Material GalleryDesign Week, Form Trends, The Spirits Business, Saucy DressingGin FuelledBoots Shoes and Fashion, Fine Dining Lovers

Plus, we have a few events planned – an exhibition of the art work coming up in September in Dubai at Cocktail Kitchen and some exciting work at Cocktail Week, but more on this later.

Min, The New Simplicity in Graphic Design
Author: Stuart Tolley
Published by: Thames & Hudson

Graphic design is having a minimalist moment. The new wave can be explained in a number of ways – minimalism offers a moment of respite in this age of volume visual consumption; perhaps it is an expression of our modest social and economic times, the post-bling society. Whatever the reason, it is a welcome trend.

Min sets out to explore the renaissance. Written and art directed by Stuart Tolley of Transmission and published by Thames & Hudson, this insightful book showcases work from around 150 contemporary designers. It also reveals the sheer complexity of this genre of graphic design.

Minimalism requires incredible restraint. Far from being simplistic, it takes a highly skilled creative to produce noteworthy minimalist graphics, and there certainly have been some striking recent examples as displayed on the pages of this book. The selection here are hugely diverse, ranging from independent magazines and album covers to corporate identity, branding and packaging.

Min analyses today’s movement in its wider historical context, tracing the evolution from the 1960s. The book also offers insightful interviews with some of the leading practitioners and proponents of minimalist design, including Jessica Svendsen, Made Thought and Eric Hu.

The World of Charles and Ray Eames
Edited: Catherine Ince and Lotte Johnson
Published: Thames & Hudson for The Barbican

World of Charles and Ray Eames © Thames and Hudson

For designers context is destiny, writes Sam Jacobs half way through The World of Charles and Ray Eames. The time and place in which the designer happens to emerge is decisive in shaping their world, he argues. And in this context Charles and Ray Eames are intimately connected with mid-century California. It would be impossible to consider one without the other.

Post war, California embodied the New World – the west coast became synonymous with a new kind of modernism. This particular interpretation of the movement had at its centre a sunnier thinking, an optimism lacking in Europe at the aftermath of two major world wars. It also benefited hugely from its geographical distance from Old World modernism, and perhaps the climate and vast beautiful coastline helped shape a very different mind-set.

Californian modernism rejected some of the more rigid dogmas whilst maintaining the core values of the movement, and arguably directing it towards modern life so that ideologies like social improvement married new sensibilities of popular culture.

Here film, music, magazines, mass-produced products joined art, architecture and design as tools for shaping our lives. Californian modernism embraced free thinking; it had a direct connection with lifestyle. It took design out of the strict codes set by the European avant-garde and set it free.

And Charles and Ray truly embodied Californian modernism. You cannot help but smile at image after image of this handsome and healthy couple working alongside other equally sunny faced artists and designers in their Eames Office. Here they collectively experimented with new material, finding new solutions for sustainable products, creating movies, stills and architectural models for living. Their energy is intoxicating, almost bouncing off the pages of this book.

European and east coast intellectuals looked over in awe, too. Jacobs writes: ‘The Eamses were ‘natives of a world that could only be glimpsed through the keyhole of media.’

The World of Charles and Ray Eames is a highly informative and visually engaging book published to accompany the exhibition held at the Barbican in London, and on until 14 February. Together they succeed in celebrating the inspiring and prolific world of this husband and wife team.

Chapters are divided into ‘life in work’, ‘at home with the Eamses’, ‘art of living’, ‘celebration of human need’ and so on to reveal their broad reach. Over 300 pages are dedicated to photographs, sketches, letters, original text and film stills, and it includes insightful text by Eames Demetrios, the couple’s grandson, art and design academics.

We also love the fact the book design also reflects the Eames workings whereby cropping, framing, design and presentation of image became central to their work, here captured through the very present grid, essential also in handling the large body of work presented.

Charles and Ray worked with product design, filmmaking, advertising; they explored folk art and an assortment of non-design objects to see how they can help shape our lives. Their multi-media architecture led them toward film and photography as tools for modelling ideas.

In Powers of Ten, a film made for IBM, for instance, they explore the relationship between design and the universe, as the film shows how nature, people, objects, books, and life can fit into a wider context.

Their design world was a collaborative one. Their ‘laboratory’ as the studio was referred to – active for four decades during the post-war period – involved such a wide selection of designers, architects, artists and engineers.

Charles and Ray took the principles of early modernism, the expressive visions of early Bauhaus, transported it to sunny California and moved it forward to be relevant for the new age. And what is most fascinating is just how relevant their work remains today. We are continuing this discourse.

Commissioned by the Indian government, they submitted their India Report in 1958 in response to the challenge the country was facing in the light of western design and philosophy. The recommendation was for a new educational model that would bridge tradition and modernity.

Read The World of Charles and Ray Eames exhibition review here.

Logo Modernism
Written by Jens Müller, R. Roger Remington
Published by Taschen

Jens Müller is fascinated by simple, reduced logos. The Düsseldorf-based graphic designer has been collecting these for some years, examining each one, delving into their past, discovering their origin and narrating their design history.

As many as 6,000 have found their way into Logo Modernism to form somewhat of an encyclopaedia of icons of graphic design. The ‘Modernism’ side, says the author, is by sheer chance – Müller just happens to be drawn to symbols that adhere to the modernist philosophy.

Logo Modernism by TaschenHow we communicate through graphics is largely a continuation of ideas introduced by the modernist movement in the late 19th and early 20th century. The thought process behind communication, its execution through graphic design, typography, logos, were one of the key areas explored by the pioneers of the movement. They sought to create clean visual concepts as a way of counterbalancing an increasingly complicated world with clarity.

Müller breaks down the rules of modernist logos: they function in black and white, that they be simple enough to be able to be hand-drawn, and that they be based on geometric forms, including letters.

Logo Modernism focuses on the period 1940–1980 with examples ranging from media outfits to retail giants, airlines and art galleries. The sweeping survey is organised into three chapters: geometric, effect, and typographic with a further 20 style categories including dots, 3D, grid and squares.

Müller feel that these logos are largely connected through their ‘attitude’ – an attitude towards simplicity and something that can be immediately recognised without a linguistic or cultural context, he says.

The book features designer profiles and instructive case studies, with a detailed look at the life and work of such luminaries as Paul Rand, Yusaku Kamekura, and Anton Stankowski, as well as projects such as Fiat, The Daiei Inc., and the Mexico Olympic Games of 1968.

Logo Modernism is a wonderful resource for graphic designers, advertisers, and branding specialists, and is equally fascinating to anyone interested in social, cultural, and corporate history, and in the sheer persuasive power of image and form.

‘One big thing about modernism is that it is, in a way, timeless,’ says Müller.

The Life Negroni
Authors: Leigh Banks, Nargess Banks
Art direction: Adam Thomas, Rebecca Thomas
Published: Spinach

The Life Negroni cover ©SpinachLast month saw the publication of a book that I’ve been working on for over a year. The Life Negroni is a labour of love. We travelled through Europe and beyond to meet almost everyone featured in this book, and it has been such an exciting and rewarding project to be involved with.

This is no ordinary cocktail book – it straddles the world of drinks, spirits, cocktails and mixology, of art, architecture and design, film, politics and poetry. The Life Negroni is ultimately an ode to the sweet life – a celebration of the pleasures of living told through a humble classic cocktail.

We go behind the scenes to meet the king of bitters Campari at its stunning modernist headquarters on the edge of Milan. Here we witness the company’s involvement with the Italian Futurists, and see one of the richest collections from this period.

We learn about Vermouth di Torino at Cocchi, and at Martini & Rossi, in an idyllic spot in the beautiful hills surrounding Turin, we see how design and branding were utilised at a time when such concepts were in their infancy.

In London we visit Beefeater, Tanqueray, Sipsmith and Sacred – craft distillers large and small who are preserving the tradition of London Dry gin, and we squeeze our way into the smallest museum dedicated to all things gin at the Ginstitute.

We sample some of the purest and adventurous Negronis at the Bulgari Hotel in Milan, and Fusion Bar and St Regis in Florence, The Connaught, Artesian, Blue Bar, Salvatore’s at the Playboy Club, Shangri-La at The Shard and Frank’s Cafe in London, the Negroni Bar in Munich, and at the Waldorf Astoria, Lincoln Centre, Parker Palm Springs in America.

Above all we meet the custodians, the guardians of the Negroni. Mixologists, bartenders, fashion designers, car designers, yacht makers, filmmakers and artists past and present who champion this simple cocktail.

Read some of the reviews here

Design: An Essential Introduction
Written: Gareth Williams
Supported: Design Museum
Published: Carlton Books

What is good design, what role does design play in society, and does design matter? These are some of the questions addressed by Design: An Essential Introduction. Here Gareth Williams, a curator of furniture at the V&A in London, breaks down the process of design, from initial brief to the complete lifecycle of products through case studies and in a simple and accessible way.

He explores the different materials and production methods available to contemporary designers, and there are examples as how these can be used to transform design ideas into products. The book also covers other relevant topics such as ergonomics, computer-aided design and manufacture, and rapid prototyping.

This is an excellent primer, a useful handbook for emerging designers, and for anyone who wants to understand the design process more comprehensively.

The Way Out is In
The Zen Calligraphy of Thich Nhat Hanh
Written and illustrated: Thich Nhat Hanh
Published: Thames & Hudson

‘In my calligraphy there is ink, tea, breathing, mindfulness, and concentration,’ observes Thich Nhat Hanh. ‘Writing calligraphy is a practice of meditation. I write the words or sentences that can remind people about the practice,’ notes the prolific author, poet, teacher, scholar, peace activist, Buddhist monk and calligrapher. Martin Luther King Jr. called him ‘an apostle of peace and non-violence’ when nominating him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967.

Thich Nhat Hanh teaches ‘mindfulness’ – the practice of staying in the present for a healthier mind, body and spirit, a philosophy that is finding much following in the West. In The Way Out is In, he uses the art of calligraphy, of drawing and illustration to distil ancient Buddhist teachings into simple phrases written in a way that will resonate with modern life. This is art, design and philosophy under one cover.

It is also a wonderfully tactile compact book. It presents a collection of some of Thich Nhat Hanh’s most poignant calligraphies printed on Asian rice paper with black ink-brushed lettering and stamped red seals. Thames & Hudson has gathered 60 unique works that together offer an uplifting read; beneath the simplicity of language is a valuable life lesson.

For more than 50 years Thich Nhat Hanh has been a pioneer of what is often referred to as engaged and applied Buddhism – relating the ancient wisdom to more contemporary concerns, including relationships, consumption, politics, peace, communities, and ethics.

Mindfulness teaches us the skills to live happily in the present moment instead of getting lost in the past or obsessing about the future. The theory is that by maintaining our thoughts in the now, by quieting down our minds and focusing our energy in the present, we can be more productive, more creative and ultimately lead happier lives.

This is no easy task given the fast pace of modern life. These short, sweet sentences are therefore meant as a set of tools and the calligraphy is a visual aid to achieving peace of mind.

One calligraphy reads: ‘Breathe and enjoy this wonderful moment’. Thich Nhat Hanh says the word ‘wonderful’ means full of wonders. ‘If you are truly there in the moment, you can recognise so many wonders in that moment.’

The Sustainable Design Book
Written: Rebecca Proctor
Published: Laurence King

Sustainability is so much more than being eco-friendly. Up until a few years ago, the restricting word green was more commonly used, which has since been replaced with sustainability, a word that embraces not just the physical product, but processes, ideologies and actions with ecological value.

In terms of design, sustainability means making goods from non-toxic, biodegradable, recycled and locally sourced materials and manufacturing them in a way that causes minimum damage to the environment.

The Sustainable Design Book takes all the above into account to be a straightforward guide to designing ecologically. The book features 265 new sustainable products from studios including Meike Meijer, Jeongwon Ji and Emiliano Godoy. We gain insight into the practice, trends, materials and techniques through interviews with some of the leading designers such as as Sebastian CoxPiet Hein Eek and Marjan van Aubel.

Sustainability should also mean creating a product, or envisaging a space, an environment that encourages a more responsible lifestyle. This can be quite challenging, although not an impossibility, when it comes to the design of something that is essentially the antithesis of ecology – as in the motor vehicle.

Reading the book reminded me of an electric car I drove a few years ago that promises a more holistic approach to sustainable mobility. The BMW i3 is manufactured as ecologically as possible, and designed to use little energy. Yet is also takes into account how its occupants relate to the environment and as a result directs calmer, more caring driver behaviour through sustainable design.

We drove through London, on an urban road trip that took us from the West End in dense mid-week traffic through some rougher neighbourhoods in the south of the city. Cocooned in the bright and airy cabin with its abundance of glass and tactile recycled materials, my response to my surroundings altered dramatically from driving my usual car – also a BMW.

I smiled at other drivers, pitied the more aggressive ones, gave way to cyclists and pedestrians – and in return they smiled back (though possibly out of curiosity given the newness of the car at the time). The i3 design had positively impacted on my behaviour.

This electric car has been on the road for a couple of years and I have made it my little private research project. Although most of the BMW i3 drivers I see around London seem as content as I was that day, I was almost run over by a rather aggressive one a few weeks ago! Alas not all behaviour can be controlled.

Achieving some degree of sustainability is achievable through intelligent design. The Sustainable Design Book acts as a handy guide to excite and inspire designers to take a more ecological approach to design in the process, product, and the afterlife of the object.

People Of Print: Innovative, Independent Design and Illustration
Written: Marcroy Smith and Andy Cook
Published: Thames & Hudson

As our world becomes more and more congested, our eyes busy digesting images, information, products… design increasingly takes centre stage directing our vision and assisting us in our consumption. This includes graphics, type and illustration.

People of Print celebrates innovative, independent design and illustration. The latest book by Thames & Hudson features over 400 artwork by 50 leading practitioners and gallerists selected from around the world who operate in the world of print.

The book pays tribute to the on-line library of the same name founded by Marcroy Smith, one of the authors, in 2008. Here he is presenting some of the work produced and championed by his community – work for corporations, charity, education and cultural institutions. Interviews with academics working in this area, and industry professionals add to an interesting global view on the subject.

Recently I was fortunate enough to work on The Life Negroni. Published by Spinach, it is an intriguing book that straddles the world of cocktails and mixology, of art and design, of liquid history.

It was fascinating to witness how the art team took my words, waved their magic wand to transform a few humble letters that coalesce in words into a sumptuous 300-plus printed book. Through thought-provoking type, juxtaposition of images and an eye for detail they transformed words into a visual narrative, a delicious journey.

Lucy Williams
Published: Roads

Lucy Williams takes mid-twentieth-century Modernist architecture as her inspiration to create softly shaded, intricate collages. Working with mixed media, the artist turns these often cold and brutal constructions into warm, human spaces. Even though they remain unoccupied, we can almost feel the presence of people in these diverse settings that include housing projects, government buildings, department stores and swimming pools.

‘I am interested in how the architecture was first imagined,’ says Williams, ‘working from grainy images, the reconstruction of the past, and in turn, the forming of a contemporary narrative, become an element of my practice.’

In Lucy Williams the British artist reveals the multiple processes involved with creating her work, displaying her collages alongside photographs of the buildings that have inspired it.

Her intricate work depict deserted scenes. Williams breathes life into these constructions – many of which are sadly no longer in existence. She’s fascinated by process, with craft, working with wool, gravel and cotton to ask us to stop and marvel at their detail and beauty.

Her work depicts the tension of the precision and masculinity of the stark utopian architecture and the painstaking and traditionally feminine domain of craft.

‘The illusion that I aim to achieve is an image that is simultaneously industrial and tactile,’ she writes of the House of Glass at Twilight collage in 2009.

The book covers the work of some of the key Modernist architects – Alvar Aalto, Philip Johnson, Adolf Loos, Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius and Eric Lyons – as well as less remembered names. In recent years her concerns have shifted to buildings constructed after the Second World War, and in particular the housing estates around the Barbican Centre in London.

Williams says she is fascinated by the utopian ideal. ‘The period of time that those buildings were made was a period of optimism and hope.’

Watch Lucy Williams talk about her work and the book.

Fornasetti, Practical Madness
Editor: Patrick Mauriès
Published: Thames & Hudson

‘I am a stickler for detail who loves uncertainty,’ wrote Piero Fornasetti. The quote opens Piero Fornasetti, Practical Madness, a glimpse into the life of this popular Italian artist and a delicious book in looks, feel and subject that begs to be opened, and the content devoured.

Fornasetti (1913-1988) was a painter, draughtsman, engraver, decorator and designer. Above all he was a purveyor of imagination, of poetry, something that he introduced with intelligence and wit to his body of work. His was a wonderful whimsical world.

He collaborated with fellow creatives such as Gio Ponti together transforming furniture into objects of art and desire. He designed chairs, desks, screens, plates, cups, candles, umbrella stands, even pianos – a whole range of objects that always represent his unique and timeless aesthetic.

Fornasetti breathed life into his objects by introducing a surreal narrative that elevates the object from its simple duty. I have a candleholder of his with a portrait of a girl with such soulful sad eyes that from each angle tell a different story. The wax has long burnt yet the container continues to live its second life.

Fornasetti’s paintings, presented here in this book, use malachite green and Pompeian red, and reveal his baroque imagination and sensibilities.

One incredible section gathers the artist’s drawings for his Themes & Variations plate designs that show hundreds of variations on the face of the operatic beauty Lina Cavalieri.

‘I was born into a family of wretched good taste and I use wretched good taste as the key to liberate the imagination,’ said Fornasetti. The book captures this very spirit.

Here art meets design meets poetry and an abundance of imagination. To quote Fornasetti one last time: ‘Salvation is in the imagination: if I were a government minister, I would set up a hundred schools of imagination in Italy.’ The world could really benefit from such schools.

The Internet has indirectly benefitted publishing. The huge influx of on-line magazines and blogs has forced the print world to buckle up, put every effort into creating books that not only offer information, but a physical experience.

We are hungry for some aspect of physicality to give extra value, and only books, beautifully crafted, thoughtfully written, artfully illustrated and designed, like this, can offer such an experience.

Author: Federico Babina
Publisher: Laurence King

A charming little book arrived here this week. Archibet is the work of the Italian architect and graphic designer Federico Babina who has set about creating an alphabet book inspired by some of the world’s most talented architects.

Designed as postcards, each of the 26 pages is dedicated to an alphabet and a corresponding creative from Alvar Aalto to Zaha Hadid. Admittedly, even though the British architect is often referred to by her first name, we did feel putting Hadid in Z is a little bit of a cheat.

Nonetheless, Babina has created a wonderful illustrative book that pays tribute to the distinct architectural style of each of the featured practitioner – all in his unique fashion.

Babina sees a close relationship between architecture, graphic design and illustration. The architect needs to express his or her vision through drawings, and the more provocative they are, the more expressive, it helps give shape and life to a project.

He explains, ‘sometimes I am an architect with a passion for illustration and others I’m an illustrator in love with architecture.’

The Afterlife of Emerson Tang
Author: Paula Champa
Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

There was so much to admire about Modernism. The art, architecture, design, the ideology of the early part of the last century informed our contemporary life. The automobile, the personal motorcar, too has been pivotal to our modern existence.

To find new ways of living in a world that is so very different to that of the last century, one with its own pressing needs, requires not only an understanding of the past but the willingness to let go. We need to learn from Modernism, admire it even, reflect on it, but not to hold onto it. You could say it is a little like dealing with grief.

This is what I learnt from The Afterlife of Emerson Tang. We normally don’t review fiction here, but Paula Champa’s debut novel straddles the world of fiction and design history – and it feels appropriate for these pages.

Her story evolves around four strangers linked in their quest to unite an engine with its body. Set in the closing years of the twentieth-century, Emerson, a dying eccentric aesthete, and Helene, an ageing artist, battle to find the original engine to a fictional 1954 Beacon. The car, we discover as the story unfolds, has significant meanings for them both.

Narrated by Emerson’s archivist Beth, the journey takes us from New York to Germany where Miguel, the grandson of the now ecological Beacon Car Company, joins the race to locate the missing engine. The colourful, and at times tense, plot travels in time to Italy and the Futurist movement; we experience the famed Mille Miglia road race and visit the Pebble Beach vintage car show in California.

The Afterlife of Emerson Tang examines what it means to live and die, and what happens to our soul once we’re gone. Here the car is the focus of grief – the author has given something as abstract as grief a physical form.

Champa reports on design and cars, and much like me she came to the latter as a novice. Being an outsider in the tightly knitted world of automotive journalism you are struck by the intense passion there is for the car, loved mainly for its past, for its speed and for its power.

The car industry began addressing environmental issues by examining alternative driving solutions in the 1990s, around the time in which the book is set. Yet as exciting as these new developments were for the likes of us, the love wasn’t much shared amongst our peers. Was it the nostalgia of the ‘golden age’ of the automobile; or was it s fear of the future, the unknown?

There may be little sexiness in sustainable transport, yet it is necessary for our survival in this increasingly populated planet. Interestingly enough new generations are less and less interested in the old formula. They don’t see the same romance in gas guzzling, polluting high speed machines.

For them, the car is a high-tech gadget, which needs to multi-task and connect to their other high-tech gadgets… ultimately be more than a mode of transport. They are excited by alternative driving solutions, by schemes that encourage shared transport.

Champa asks us to re-imagine the future through our knowledge and appreciation of the past; to love the Modernist architecture of the early century, understand avant-garde paintings, and admire the beautiful curves of the classic automobile.

The old thinkers, creators and masters thought and created for another time. Today’s world needs its own thinkers and creators.

The Afterlife of Emerson Tang celebrates the excitement of progress, of new life. Emerson and Miguel love the advances of Modernism but realise that the future needs more than the same answers.

I cannot recommend this book enough.

Dolce Via, Italy in the 1980s
Photographs: Charles H. Traub
Published: Damiani Press

Italy seduces, with its enduring pursuit of la dolce vita – the sweet life that is at once sensual and dangerous, cool and sad, bursting with pleasure… captured so wonderfully in Federico Fellini’s 1960s classic of the same name.

In Dolce Via, Italy in the 1980s, photographer Charles Traub’s lense aims for a similar feel. His sweet way is an ode of sorts to the master – playing on the name and featuring the Fontana di Trevi, the Roman fountain immortalised by the voluptuous Anita Ekberg, as a backdrop for a number of the photographs.

Here we see couples kissing, holding hands, daydreaming, splashing water… the images burst with colour – that vibrant yellow that

Traub is the chair of the photography department of the School of Visual Arts in New York. The photographs featured here have been selected from a large collection taken with his Plaubel Makina 67 on his numerous visits to the country during the decade.

Surf Craft, Design and the Culture of Board Riding
Written: Richard Kenvin
Photography Ryan Field
Published: MIT Press as part of  the Mingei International Museum, San Diego

Surfboards conjure up an exciting picture. Brilliant sun, vast blue seas, toned, tanned bodies… the sheer thrill, and of the course the danger, of riding the waves, of conquering the ocean. You cannot get much sexier. Like all good things in life, surfing too has become a victim of commercialisation, the surfboard  fighting to maintain its integrity. This is the premise of Surf Craft, Design and the Culture of Board Riding. Here author Richard Kenvin argues that the popularity of surfing has had a negative impact on this once handcrafted product.

Surfboards were traditionally made of wood and moulded by hand. The motifs, decorations, had cultural significance. That is until the 1960s when surfing became a multi-billion dollar industry when the boards became mass-production, no longer made of wood but synthetic and disposable materials.

Surfboards became moving billboards for the surfer and sponsor. It almost erased the old ritual of craftsmanship it entailed and so they began losing their real value.

Surf Craft maps the evolution of the board, examining the history of its design and craft. From the ancient Hawaiian alaia, the traditional board of the common people, to the unadorned boards designed with mathematical precision, but also built by hand, by Bob Simmons, to the store-bought longboards popularised by the 1959 surf-exploitation movie Gidget.

Kenvin views surfboard design as an exemplary model of mingei, or art of the people, and the craft philosophy of Soetsu Yanagi. Yanagi believed that a design’s true beauty and purpose are revealed when it is put to its intended use. In its purest form, the craft of board building, along with the act of surfing itself, exemplifies mingei, he argues.

With straightforward vertical portrait photography by Ryan Field that treats the boards almost like framed painting and an engaging narrative, Surf Craft is an interesting read for even some of us who only dream of one day conquering the sea whilst gracefully balancing on preferably crafted wooden surfboards.

Cape Cod Modern – Mid-Century Architecture and Community on the Outer Cape
Written: Peter McMahon and Christine Cipriani
Photographs: by Raimund Koch
Published: Metropolis Books

The story began with Walter Gropius. Finding it near impossible to further the cause for Modernism in politically volatile Europe, in 1936 the founder of Bauhaus accepted a professorship at Harvard’s new and progressive Graduate School of Design, and together with his wife Ise fled to America.

The following year they rented a holiday house not so far on Planting Island, near the base of Cape Cod. Here they began entertaining friends and fellow émigré Bauhaus members Marcel Breuer, Herbert Bayer, László Moholy-Nagy and Xanti Schawinsky.

Gropius called the Outer Cape, ‘marvellous piece of earth’ where the reunited group cooked, ate, swam and talked of the future. As they settled in America, many returned renting and buying plots of land and within a few years, the area was a hotbed of European intellectuals.

They soon began designing and building holiday homes in the woods and on the dunes. These were almost laboratories for processing their ideas. By 1977, there were some one hundred notable houses here that fused European Modernism, Bauhaus concepts with the building traditions of this region of mainly fishing towns.

This was a hybrid culture, partly American partly European that gave rise to a new vernacular so that this remote area became highly significant in the evolution of Modernism in America.

Cape Cod Modern – Mid-Century Architecture and Community on the Outer Cape tells this story in depth. Beautifully captured by the photographs of Raimund Koch and illustrations of Thomas Dalmas, what adds further texture are the archival pictures of the lives of some of the most prolific names in the history of Modern architecture. We take a peak at their normal world as they prepare lunch, play chess on the porch, talk and laugh and enjoy one another’s company in these incredible homes.

As the authors write, it was ‘a lifestyle based on communion with nature, solitary creativity, and shared festivity.’ Their lives were as much about furthering the cause of Modern architecture as of radical thought and experimenting with new ways of living.

The former Bauhaus members brought to America their take on Modernism at the same time absorbing their new homeland’s hunger for change. This was an America so very different to now; a country that encouraged intellectual growth, championed creative thinking. Cape Cod Modern is a fascinating read.

100 Ways to Create a Great Ad
Author: Tim Collins
Published: Laurence King

As we all know, a great ad – well in print format anyway – is basically the marriage of clever copywriting with strong visuals. Here author, Tim Collins, himself a copywriter with a career in advertising, identifies a hundred approaches as a way of exploring the creative process. We learn about concepts such as ‘reveal’ or ‘mash-up’ – with each of the 100 spreads dedicated to one of these approaches.

100 ways celebrates advertising as an art form. Collins breaks down the process of creating an ad into three steps: planning, concept creation and crafting so that the book provides a straightforward guide to concept creation.

100 Ideas That Changed the Web
Author: Jim Boulton
Published: Laurence King

In 100 Ideas that Changed the Web, author Jim Boulton, looks at the history of the web from its early roots in the research projects of the US government, to the interactive online world of today.

We learn of the web’s key technologies, such as hypertext and mark-up language, of the social ideas that underlie its networks, such as open source and creative commons, and key moments in its development, mainly broadband and the dotcom crash. The author also touches on social networking and the latest developments such as the cloud and the semantic web.

Boulton is the curator of Digital Archaeology, an event that celebrates the golden age of the website. What he’s created is an interesting piece of design history that maps out the relatively short, yet profound history of something that has entirely transformed our lives.

Bicycle Design, An Illustrated History
Written: Tony Hadland and Hans-Erhard Lessing
Published: MIT Press

Bicycles are having quite a renaissance especially in cities where the car is no longer seen as the most efficient form of transport. Apart from the obvious environmental, financial and health benefits, two-wheels can offer a novel way of navigating urban and rural settings. You discover so much more pedalling your way around. Gently cycling in the countryside, as I was to discover on a recent trip to a little island in the Mediterranean, allows for an immediate connection with your surrounding. The pace is slower, your senses come alive as you get to smell, feel, touch your surroundings…

The recent popularity of two-wheels has facilitated a wave of creative energy. Designers and manufacturers are interpreting classic shapes, experimenting with new materials and flirting with sustainable design. Philippe Starck, for instance, recently collaborated with Peugeot to create a cross between a bicycle and a scooter for Bordeaux’s bike sharing scheme. McLaren’s Venge is a lightweight, stiff, aerodynamics and super fast machine that utilises materials technology and manufacturing methods from Formula One. Elsewhere, French designers Claude Saos and Thierry Boltz’s WOOD.b is an urban bike concept with a unique frame system that draws functional elements from traditional bike parts packaged in a refined metal and layered wood veneer package.

Bicycle Design tells the storyof this humble machine through the scholarly work of leading historians Tony Hadland and Hans-Erhard Lessing. Generously illustrated with drawings and photographs, we learn of the early evolution of the bicycle before it achieved its most successful and enduring diamond-frame safety form. The authors trace the story of the engineers who decided to find a way of balancing on two wheels, the development of tension-spoke wheels, indirect drives and pneumatic tires. We learn of bicycles designed for racing, off-roading and portability; and of the developments of some of the key components such as the seat, brakes, lights and carriers.

We’ve clearly come a long way since the earlier bicycles of the 19th century. This seemingly simple machine has a complex history that continues today making the bicycle the revolutionary vehicle of the sustainable age – and Bicycle Design offers a thorough and enjoyable account of the story so far.

Wa: The Essence of Japanese Design
Authors: Rossella Menegazzo and Stefania Piotti
Published: Phaidon

European modernism’s simplicity pivots on rationality. Modern society demanded a change in our relationship with objects, and western modernism found new forms to express this. Here modernism fought against superfluous decorative design. The simplicity of Japanese design, however, comes from somewhere entirely different.

A quite style had begun to emerge as far back as the mid-fifteenth century in Japan, following the ten year ?nin no Ran civil war that saw enormous cultural loss with most Buddhist temples and monuments destroyed. It was also around this time when Zen Buddhism was introduced from China. The ancient Japanese believed that it is in nature that we find wisdom, and that humans must live by virtue of that natural wisdom.

All of which contributes to a unique Japanese sensibility that Wa: The Essence of Japanese Design refers to as ‘emptiness’ – an emptiness that invites a variety of interpretations from the viewer. The N? mask used in traditional Japanese musical theatre, for instance, has no expression; this depends on the context of the play. To understand Japanese design today, we need to grasp this concept of emptiness, say the authors of this new book that delves deep into the cultural history of Japan.

Written by leading scholars of Japanese art, design and culture, Rossella Menegazzo and Stefania Piotti, this is a beautifully crafted book that has set out to explore contemporary Japanese design through its complex cultural history. The title Wa refers not only to the simple form and natural material of an object, but also to an internal approach to craftsmanship, art and life in general, found at the heart of this culture. The six chapters pivot on the material used in design and architecture since it is the treatment and relationship with material that is fundamental to understanding Japanese design.

For instance in the chapter on wood the authors explore how the Japanese favour the material for construction for its lightness and impermanence as opposed to stone in the West that signifies solidity and permanence. ‘The material has shaped the country in a continuous process of construction, destruction, displacement and reconstruction,’ says Wa. New rulers would transfer central power to a different place and with it dismantle and rebuild existing temples in the new site. The grand Shino shrine in Isle, for instance, dates back some 1200 years ago but has been destroyed and rebuilt every twenty years.

Even though contemporary Japanese design has taken on a more global language, materials remain at its soul. It is respected in its every sense – sight, smell, touch, taste – as is the relationship between the object and the space around it, and the object and the user, hence this emptiness.

From Edo period lacquer, to wood Bento Boxes and Shiro Kuramata’s postmodern acrylic chairs – and from eighteenth century hand-painted silk robes to the deconstructed resin and polypropylene dresses of avant-garde fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto, Wa demonstrates that whilst diverse, at the heart of Japanese design lies the concepts of simplicity and emptiness.

Made with craft paper, featuring a cover that evokes lacquer, and bound in the traditional Japanese method, this is also a beautiful designed object in its own right, and it shows that there remains a place for the printed book in the digital age.

Speculative Everything
Authors: Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby
Published: MIT Press

Should design purely concern itself with problem solving, or the aesthetics, making objects more beautiful, more usable… or should it also act as critique, agitate even? This is the premise behind an interesting book recently published by MIT Press, Speculative Everything.

Authors Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, both professors at London’s Royal College of Art, have been proponents of ‘critical design’ – a term they coined in the mid 1990s from their frustration at the uncritical drive behind technological progress. Critical design is essentially the opposite of affirmative design – design that reinforces the status quo. It isn’t negative for the sake of it, contrary or opinionated commentary, but offers real solutions.

It thrives on the imagination and can encourage a free flow of thinking thus helping to redefine our relationship with reality. You could argue it’s about dealing with un-reality. This isn’t about trying to pin the future down, Dunne and Raby argue, but understanding the possible futures and using them as tools to better understand the present and therefore open up discourse on the future.

Speculative Everything argues that there is the need for more dialogue – to place design speculation in relation to futurology, speculative culture including literature, cinema, fine art and radical social sciences.

The argument makes complete sense in today’s world where design is often treated in a very superficial way, as styling (a term you often hear car companies use), the wrapper, the final selling point. This is a time when design is hugely commercialised and increasingly passive to technology. And it goes without saying that operating within a commercial world can limit the imagination, kill real creativity and leave little space for radical design thinking. And we need radical design thinking more than any other time.

Here the authors propose giving conceptual design more power. To elevate it to be more than a style option, more than a piece of propaganda for a company or self-promotion for a designer, which is what it essentially has become. I personally notice this very much in the world of cars, where companies often use concept cars as a way of self promoting their so called innovative side. It is often, not always of course, showy with very little substance.

Conceptual design does need to be more socially engaged, raise awareness, inspire, reflect, offer solutions rather than cover up existing issues – be a catalyst for change. ‘If something is conceptual,’ write Dunne and Raby, ‘it is only an idea, but that is missing the point. It is because it is an idea that it is important.’

Speculative Everything isn’t a passive book. The authors offer examples from emerging cultural landscapes. We look at scenarios in industrial design, architecture, fashion, fine art, cinema and photography as well as drawing on futurology, political theory, the philosophy of technology and literature, to see how freedom can enable designers to examine intriguing possibilities.

And there are plenty of really exciting projects going on around us that are addressing design in this manner. Only this week I spoke with a couple of designers who are almost inventing new sounds for electric vehicles that works in harmony with the urban environment. They are addressing something as seemingly simple as electric engine noise in a whole new manner working with musicians and practitioners from outside the automotive world with intriguing results. More on this later.

Ultimately Dunne and Raby argue that speculative design can be a catalyst for social dreaming.

Read our book review Design as Politics

Jørn Utzon: Drawings and Buildings
Published: Princeton Architectural Press

‘Understanding the inspiration that lies in humanity’s countless forms of expression; working based on our hands, eyes, feet, stomach, and our movements, and not on statistical norms and rules created according to the most-cases principle – that is the way to a varied and humane architecture,’ wrote Jørn Utzon (1918–2008). Architecture to him was neither an exact science nor free art, noting that it is ‘based on science as well as intuition’.

The visionary Danish architect rose to fame relatively early in life, when he won an international competition to design the Sydney Opera House in Australia in 1957 at the age of 38. He had never visited the city, acquiring an understanding of the place solely through representations. After years of work on the opera house, a feud with the Minister for Public Works forced Utzon to resign from the project, never to return to Australia to see the final structure.

The Sydney Opera House, with its two performance halls topped by billowing concrete shells clad in ceramic tile, has become one of the most recognisable buildings of the last century. Utzon went on to complete a large body of work and highly diverse projects around the world. Most notable are the Melli Bank in Tehran, National Assembly in Kuwait, Bagsværd Church and numerous houses in Denmark.

Jørn Utzon: Drawings and Buildings is the only book in the English language on the architect. It is a fascinating journey into the life and crucially the mind of this maverick architect. ‘It is neither the story of his life nor a chronological review of his collected works,’ explains author Michael Asgaard Andersen. ‘Going beyond these traditional forms of representation, this monograph focuses on how his projects came into being and how they function through six main themes: place, method, building culture, construction, materiality, and ways of life.’

They relate to significant aspects of Utzon’s architecture as well as nodding to key issues facing architecture today. Humanity was precisely at the core of Utzon’s work. He believed a building is made for living in and, crucially, around it – thus contributing to a complex set of shifting relationships. Utzon felt it was essential to keep this in mind throughout the creative process. His is an architecture that is ‘varied and humane’.

The building process was never too rigid, nor was it linear. The building’s function dictated creation, and completion only meant and on-going evolution of the bricks and concrete that form the building. Utzon believed that modernism need not sacrifice local character to be forward thinking. His words and work resonate more than ever at a time when some of the leading world architects seem to design more for their own ego than the environment and its people.

The Design Book
Published: Phaidon

The Design Book documents 500 of the most innovative examples of industrial design that have remained in production today. Presented chronologically in order of invention, it features works as diverse as the anonymously designed Arare Teapot of the 1700s, the design of which remains almost untouched (my daily tea is brewed in one that is almost identical), to Arne Jacobsen’s 1958 Egg Chair (pictured), works by star designers Le Corbusier, Yanagi and Eames, to the present day Apple and more.

We learn the story of the seemingly simple clothes peg, the deck chair, the corkscrew and the chopstick, which have achieved such perfection in design and functionality that they remain almost untouched and in production today. The Design Book is a historical journey through the object. It works brilliantly as a reference book, allowing the reader to understand the history of design, and the history of taste and culture.

Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing
Written: Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman
Published: Wiley

The FRAC Centre in Orleans, France plans to exhibit a slightly unusual piece of architecture next month. The 20 square-meter modern interpretation of a grotto was created from millions of grains of sand bound with a resin for a new type of sandstone. The difference is that this is a full-scale 3D printed room.

It is the work of the German computational architect, Michael Hansmeyer, and his colleague Benjamin Dillenburger who are based at the Computer-aided Architectural Design Department at the Swiss Federal Institute in Zurich. For this project the duo used algorithms to create complex architecture forms and printed their design on a huge printer from German firm Voxejet that creates moulds for machine part.

3D printing is currently all the rage with designers. Even the catwalk has been embracing the technology. Most recently fashion designer Michael Schmidt and architect Francis Bitonti made a series of 3D printed dresses for model and dancer Dita Von Teese – the printer had been programmed to take precise measurements of her contours. They are highly sculptural and reveal the possibilities of exploring the technology further.

Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing sets out to explore the technology – the printers that make all this possible. Readers will see how the printer transforms digital information into a physical object by carrying out instructions from an electronic design file. This engaging book takes the reader on a journey that explores how 3D printing will impact our lives. Fabricated is ideal if you’re interested in integrating 3D printing into your work, but are not experts in design software.

Written: Ludovic Houplain
Published by: TASCHEN

TASCHEN has a history of publishing fine, highly visual books for the design industry. Its latest, Logobook, which landed in DT’s office the other day, is no exception. In fact the TASCHEN application lends itself incredibly well to a book that promises to be the ‘ultimate logo reference guide’.

The story of Logobook began back in 2009, when the author Ludovic Houplain  – founder of H5, a multidisciplinary design studio in Paris –  co-directed the Academy Award-winning short Logorama. The animated film looks into the use of logos and brands, and examines how they came to be a point of reference for corporate culture. It tells the story of our times through the products and services that surround us on a daily basis. Logobook aims to make a similar documentation.

During his research, Houplain collected some 40,000 symbols and trademarks, forming the foundation for Logobook. Here he gathers around 7000 logo designs arranged alphabetically making this not just a fascinating read but a practical reference book.

This is a meaty book of 776 pages, each page showcasing 8-10 logos as well as information on the designers, when it first came to public view and what country it originated from. Also included is a critical essay on brand culture by French philosopher Gilles Lipovetsky. It all adds up to a very useful book for anyone interested in contemporary culture.

Author: Gerhard Richter and Dieter Schwarz
Published: Heni Publishing

Sometimes it is the simple incidents that can lead to some intriguing works of art. In the case of NovemberGerhard Richter became fascinated with the dripping patterns his black Edding marker-pen ink made on paper whilst decanting it in 2008. Using benzene, acetone and black tushe, the German artist set about experimenting with the process – thinning the materials and manipulating the patterns and colours.

The result is the November series – 54 works of art, comprising 27 individual sheets with mirror images on both sides. Heni Publishing has gathered the entire series in November – showcasing the enchanting shapes and quite colours of Richer’s work.

The Color Revolution
Written: Regina Lee Blaszczyk
Published: MIT Press

Fashion helps shape our visual landscape and, well, adds a little fun to our lives. However, behind what may seem like a frivolous world are countless brains deciding on what we wear and what colour these garments should be made available in.

The colour of the season isn’t just some fluke or flippant decision made by the editor of Vogue but the work of colour specialists who through history have directed trends based on economic forces and shifting cultural values that have in turn influenced consumers’ preferences.

Design historian Regina Lee Blaszczyk maps all this out in The Colour Revolution. The author traces the relationship of colour and commerce, from haute couture to automobile showrooms to interior design, describing the role of the colour profession in consumer culture. This is an intriguing story of how colourists have helped industry manipulate consumers.

The Colour Revolution examines the evolution of the colour profession from 1850 to 1970, telling the stories of innovators who managed the colour cornucopia that modern artificial dyes and pigments made possible. These ‘colour engineers’ helped corporations understand the art of illusion and the psychology of this medium.

With a focus on America, the book is a lively account of how individuals and industry made colour a transforming force in our culture and design. For instance, Blaszczyk describes the strategic burst of colour that took place in the 1920s, when General Motors introduced a bright blue saloon to compete with Ford’s all-black Model T and when housewares became available in a range of brilliant hues.

She explains the process of colour forecasting, and she shows how colour information flowed from the fashion houses of Paris to textile mills in New Jersey.

London Portrait of the City
Written: Reuel Golden
Published: Taschen

‘When a man is tired of London,’ English author Samuel Johnson famously said in 1777, ‘he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.’ And so begins London Portrait of the City preparing the reader for what is a sensory feast celebrating this city.

It is easy to mock London. This giant metropolis can seem unruly at times – the transport system is little shaky, the people a little unfriendly and the weather a little unpredictable which is presumably why it never seems to make the top 10 cities to live in.

Yet London is well worth celebrating in that it is in fact one of the most habitable megacities on the planet. It is relatively safe, has more parks and green patches than most large cities, and some of the best state schools in the country.

London was the first megacity – this was the first modern city to reach a million inhabitants by 1900 emerging as the imperial capital of around a third of the world. What really sets London apart from other European capital cities is that is ever changing and accommodating to modern times.

The city has assimilated the many waves of migrants that have come and continue to do so over the centuries. Much like New York City, it acts almost like a sponge, absorbing new cultures, their food, sometimes their habits, yet retaining a very unique identity.

Very few cities manage to be as versatile as London. This is a living city, a business city, a tourist city, a shopping city – it manages to be both sane and frivolous, adult and child. And it carries huge amounts of so called soft power, be it in the arts, business and technology.

Written by Reuel Golden and published by TASCHEN, London Portrait of the City is a photographic journey of the last 150 years. It has been chronologically divided into five chapters – ‘The monster city’ 1837-1901, ‘Modern times’ 1902-1938, ‘Consequences of war’ 1939-1959, ‘The party and the morning after’ 1960-1981, and finally ‘New perspectives’ from 1982 to the present day.

London’s history is told through quotations, lively essays and references from movies, books and music. Golden captures the city’s history, its architecture, its street culture, humour and unique vibe through the hundreds of photographs – some never published – sourced from a wide array of archives around the world.

The book came out before the 2012 Olympics, but all who saw that splendid show with its multicultural yet uniquely London flavour would want to revel in Golden’s delicious pictorial history.

Information Graphics
Written and edited: Sandra Rendgen, Julius Wiedemann
Published: Taschen

TASCHEN creates visually engaging books. The publisher excels at binding together paper that demonstrated the digital age should never eliminate the desire for the thoughtfully designed and engagingly written physical book.

Information Graphics does just this. Its analysis of graphic design past and present together with its rich selection of images provide a wonderful framework for this visual world that is forever evolving but remains as poignant as ever. On a daily basis we are confronted with a never-ending flow of information – a complex variety of data – and sometimes the easiest way to communicate is visually.

The book with its 200 projects and over 400 visual examples, presents a fascinating perspective on the subject, highlighting the work of the masters of the profession who have created a number of breakthroughs that have changed the way we communicate.

Information Graphics has been divided into two distinct sections. An introductory chapter gives an overview of the subject tracing graphic design back to the primitive cave painting which is seen as a way of communicating. It also features interesting essays by experts in this field including the author, art historian Sandra Rendgen, Paolo Ciuccarelli, Richard Saul Wurman, and Simon Rogers. The second part of the book is entirely dedicated to contemporary works by some of today’s most renowned professionals from around the world.

This is a book to read, or to browse. It is one to inspire not just for those in the profession but any of us who is interested in the history and practice of communicating visually.

Mid-Century Ads: Advertising from the Mad Men Era
Editor: Jim Heimann
Published: Taschen

Our fascination with the slick, sexy and at times seedy world of advertising in the 50s and 60s has been noticeably heightened with the compulsive US television series Mad Men. Watching the handsome Don Draper oozing slickness on a film set – that has most of us mid-century design lovers oozing envy – is addictive viewing.

A new book has set out to celebrate the creative work of real life Don Drapers – ad men of the age of the ‘big idea’ who set out in selling us the American Dream. They succeeded in not only repackaging this seemingly perfect world for the optimistic post-war generation, but fundamentally alter how advertising communicates with the consumer.

Magazines of the period were flooded with clever campaigns selling everything from girdles to guns – images that paint a fascinating picture of not just patterns of consumption but society as a whole, giving insight into the zeitgeist of the period. They capture the spirit of the 50s and 60s, as concerns about the Cold War gave way to the carefree booze-and-cigarettes Mad Men era.

‘Mid-Century Ads: Advertising from the Mad Men Era’ by TASCHEN is as slick and handsome as the content it carries. With thousands of images, including a wide range of significant advertising campaigns from both eras, the two-volume book is visually a treat.

One of the ads featured is a seemingly innocent one that paved the way for modern advertising.  This was ‘Think Small’, an ad campaign by agency Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) in the US for the Volkswagen Beetle. The German carmaker was finding the Beetle a tough sell across the Atlantic for the American consumers’ passion for larger, brasher cars.

Instead of bombarding consumers with endless literature about the car, DDB built a campaign that focused entirely on the Beetle’s form. A tiny image of the Beetle appeared on an empty white space to emphasise the cars size, simplicity and minimalism and it was a huge success.

For Mid-Century Ads, the original images have been digitally enhanced to bring back the vivid colours and crisp fonts used at the time. Editor Jim Heimann, himself a cultural anthropologist and graphic design historian, has added words to enhance this rich journey back in time when slick suited ad men sold us a wallet full of coloured dreams.

Project Japan, Metabolism Talks
Written: Rem Koolhaas and Hans Ulrich Obrist
Published: Taschen

Japanese minimalist architecture has had a profound impact on European building design, particularly private housing. Yet there is a complex ideology coming out of a more contemporary Japan that has been one of the most influential, yet elusive, movements in modern architecture. Japanese Metabolism is possibly the first non-western avant-garde.

This spirited movement was pioneered by a small group of young architects in the late 1950s whose utopian visions for cities of the future were characterised by mega flexible structures that symbolised organic growth and relied on modern technology. This is the last moment when architecture was a public rather than a private affair.

Rem Koolhaas is a big advocate of Metabolism. ‘Every architect carries the utopian gene,’ wrote the avant-garde Dutch architect and founder of Office of Metropolitan Architecture.

In Project Japan, Metabolism Talks, co-written with curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, Koolhaas sets out to explore this movement through a series of nine interviews conducted between 2005 and 2011 with the surviving members of the movement and those who had a crucial impact on the movement. The result is an oral and visual journey through nine chronological chapters that tells the story of Metabolism in the context of the history 20th century Japan.

Project Japan begins almost like a suspense thriller as the authors Koolhaas and Obrist in turn describe how they came to write such a concise history and analysis of Japanese Metabolism and the journey in which they entered to do so. It makes for quite an exciting opening few chapters teasing the reader to enter what promises to be an exciting journey of discovery.

Once there was a nation that went to war, but after they conquered a continent their own country was destroyed by atom bombs. For a group of apprentice architects, artists, and designers, led by a visionary, the dire situation of their country was not an obstacle but an inspiration to plan and think… after 15 years of incubation, they surprised the world with a new architecture—Metabolism—that proposed a radical makeover of the entire land,’ write Koolhaas and Obrist in the book.

Project Japan features some fascinating never-before-seen images including master plans from Manchuria to Tokyo, astonishing sci-fi urban visions and intimate snapshots of the Metabolists group.

This is an intelligently designed book by Dutch designer Irma Boom, where black-and-white images are interspersed with splashes of orange and hot pink – pages marked by pink bands on the edges represent the nine interviews.

This is an absolutely fascinating read that tells the story of 20th century Japan through its architecture, from its post-war devastation to the establishment of Metabolism, the rise of Kisho Kurokawa as the first celebrity architect, to Expo ’70 at Osaka, the tech wonderland that cemented Japan’s image as a technological utopia and marked the end of Metabolism.

Cars Now
Written: Daniel Alexander Ross

Books on cars tend to follow a simple formula – a pretty straight narrative that is either sequenced historically or by company. In this context, Intersection‘s Cars Now maintains this by guiding the reader through a selection of today’s most notable cars via alphabetically organised car companies. ‘We go make by make, model by model, to capture a snapshot of a species evolving,’ say the authors. And as a reference book, this formula works perfectly.

Founded over a decade ago, Intersection magazine set out to challenge our relation with the car and how that is communicated. The book – the first volume written by the team – retains the visual energy of the magazine with its hundreds of original photographs and illustrations. It is also surprisingly insightful to read.

Whether we choose to drive or not, it is near impossible not to interact with the automobile. The car impacts not just on the environment and how we live, but also on our landscape, visually shaping cities – something that is even more poignant with the growing number of megacities.

Cars Now has addressed the automobile in this wider context, documenting not only sexy supercars but also highlighting the latest innovations that address our dependency on fossil fuels, and all this from a global perspective.

Additionally, with some of the leading car companies, the authors have weaved in caracrchitecture. Increasingly marques like BMW are teaming up with big names in building design such as Coop Himmelb(l)au for the Welt Munich showroom and Zaha Hadid for the Leipzig factory (where the electric i cars will be built) in a bid to create stronger brand statements.

Another interesting addition is the designer Q+A that features in some of the major car companies’ chapters. Though a little superficial, it does help add a human element to an otherwise seemingly cold industry.

Cars Now is a celebration of the automobile in all its guises. To quote the authors: ‘Call it a last hurrah for the dying pleasures of smoking tires, and a deep breath of hope for the new crop of contenders trying to extend the electric frontier.’

Redesigning Leadership
By: John Maeda

Redesigning Leadership is a gem of a book, and like a genuine gem is compact, short, succinct and a pleasure to read. Since it starts with a haiku I will attempt to sum up the book with my own feeble effort.

Wisdom in bursts
Succinct, real, obvious
As all insights should

Or as author John Maeda liked to communicate with his team on twitter

@mohsenmedic.. according to media savvy Maeda it is best to lead by listening hard  preferably face-to-face and an open mind.

Maeda’s book is full of advice and experience that seemed on first encounter perfectly obvious, until I reflected that almost all the leaders and managers that I have seen in my life ignore them. All but a handful, and these remain vivid not just in my memory but in that of virtually all the students or doctors that had studied or worked under them.

When Maeda, a US born Japanese designer and computer scientist took over as the president of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design in 2008 he thought he knew how to lead. What makes him so successful as a leader was his ability to jettison all preconceived notions that did not work out in practice. In other words he was prepared to listen both to his surrounding and also to his own heart.

In this book he takes us in 80 pages through this experience. For Maeda linking and underpinning macro and micro management, art and design, leading and being led, are the same principles. His is a style of management that when faced with an employee that everyone disliked, instead of firing him he retains him because like a body an organisation ‘needs viruses … to survive and be strong’. My guess is that he also listened to the ‘virus’.

Here is a leader who tries to regularly see his team, preferably over a meal of pizzas: as he says ‘until you can serve pizza and drink over the Web, a social media portal to foster true collaboration will be so-so’.

Here is a president who emails all his students and staff individually when he can’t meet them face-to-face. Just the boss I always craved for and sometimes got.

Better to talk
eye to eye
than blog in stratosphere

Read it and re-read it if you aspire to be leader or boss that is both successful and is remembered with affection and the awe that comes from deep love.

Mohsen Shahmanesh

Contemporary Jewellers
Author: Roberta Bernabei
Published: Berg

Self-expression has always existed, whether in the form of decorating the body or using objects – so the original human act of piercing some kind of pigment or object into the body gave birth to jewellery.

Contemporary Jewellers: Interview with European Artists successfully follows the development of this art and craft throughout the ages. It charts the history of jewellery makers, and explores the important role that self-expression has played in contemporary European jewellery design.

Here the author Roberta Bernabei fully explores the various jewellers in different stages of European history and in particular the post-war development of contemporary European jewellery. She has divided the book into two major categories:  jewellery as content and jewellery as social commentary.

The first category, as the name suggests, is characterised by the meaning it encapsulates and projects. This is shown in the work of jewellers Gijs Bakker, Emmy Van and Peter Skubik.

In the second category, the jewellery has become a vehicle for the delivery of content that often relates to prevalent social conditions, politics, major world events or philosophical questions.

One of the major innovators in this area was Bruno Martinazzi, although others such as Otto Künzli and Ruudt Peters are notable contributors.

Bernabei, a professor at Loughborough University in the UK, has interviewed many of the major jewellery artists of recent years. Each interview is supported by a rich selection of photographs, detailed bibliography and an appendix that locates the jewellers’ work in galleries, museums and on line.

The book is a well-researched documentation of contemporary jewellery design, rich with photographs, drawings and illustrations of each practitioners work. It opens the door to contemporary practice and offers an essential reference for anyone interested in jewellery design.

Jaleh Parvardin

Design as Politics
Author: Tony Fry
Published: Berg

Our world is nearing a state of structural unsustainability, a truism so obvious that even global-warming deniers deny it under their breath. In Design as Politics, author Tony Frey develops his previous thesis on the role of design in preventing the coming catastrophe  somewhat further.

Sustainability (with a capital S) is to be achieved and catastrophe prevented by placing design at the heart of vital social transformations. Here Fry uses design not in its politically neutral aesthetic definition of design as taste, applied to such products as architecture, furniture and fashion, but to design as it defines our very existence, our life styles, our values and hence the very core that defines our being, our existence and our relation to the environment.

Fry’s critique of the use of design currently in operation ranges wide and introduces many useful ideas. Thus technology has been designed to render us impervious to the way we are being manipulated, and becomes internalised to our very being such that ultimately it is technology that is designing us. The tools themselves effectively design the user. Man becomes defutured through unthinking, unlimited consumption, what has been called ‘consumption as grazing’.

Instead of being the political subject, mankind is instrumentalised into becoming the object of politics. Under these circumstances liberal democracy gives the illusion of change while reproducing more of the same, conjured up to pose as a difference.

Furthermore, under democracy pluralism is seen as a collection of atomised and individualised beings as opposed to collectivities, unities or bonded communities, with communal joint interests and goals.

For Fry, Sustainment is the acceptance of plurality within one unified goal, a meta-diverse end which he identifies as fundamentally changing our behaviour in order to avoid a defutured world. In this goal he can only be lauded by any sane person. And he rightly recognises that this future is unachievable within a global liberal political structure designed to turn the entire human race into a machine for consumption, using design (and education and the media) to obscure the unsustainablity of their project.

Here democratic politics, as he says, is reduced to providing consumer satisfaction, and hence politics is presented to the consumer as another product for consumption. What we have, he says, is ‘autonomous techno-centrism’ which shows us a ‘future from which we are absent’.

Fry is clearly well read and takes us through a fascinating, though somewhat complex and at times linguistically dense, journey touching on a large number of philosophers, social scientists and thinkers.

So far so good, and not very contentious. But when Fry goes into providing what he sees as a road to solution he goes badly wrong. While recognising the enormity of the problem he separates the political from the class-productive relations that are at the roots of the unsustainability of our current level of consumption.

Moreover, despite his repeated assertion that his solution is the only one that is not utopian, the world of Design as Politics is essentially built on a series of unsupportable assumptions.

He clearly understands that the fundamental cause of the unsustainabilty of our existence is anthropocentrism that was accentuated by the introduction of the capitalist mode of production that, in his words, has no reformative other.

Moreover he spends countless pages showing the undemocratic nature of democracy but then wishes to rebuild it from the inside (see page165). He then, contradicts himself by proposing to reform capitalism. The entire Design as Politics project aims at reforming capitalism (and democracy) so that it is changed from creating a technology for consumption to one for sustainment.

Central to his thesis is that design determines our fate – hence to change that fate we must begin by changing our understanding of design, to ‘rethink and redefine and reinvent the very nature of urban and rural life,’ and at its core a, ‘design becoming more dynamic, more powerful and more able to communicate the significance of designers to society in general’ he writes.

The agency for this change is an (hopefully) ever-widening, but tight, circle of people – designers – who have woken up not just to the horrors of a defutured world (after all many of us are already there) but on the root causes of that defuturing.

And what are those root causes? It is design for consumption, or ‘consumption as grazing’. And the solution is design for sustainment. And since democracy (I guess he means parliamentary democracy although nowhere does he define it as such) is also a system designed to cloud our vision we need to go beyond it. But by going beyond democracy Fry does not mean more, and more meaningful, democracy, which he dismisses as utopian radical democracy, but less – much less.

What Fry proposes is a cabal of designers and teachers who will in what he rightly recognises as a hard and difficult road, convince global capitalism to reform itself before the entire system collapses under the mass migration induced by global warming; and for the rest of us to consume for survival not for pleasure.

They, and we, will do so through teaching and persuasion, turning ‘knowing into the service of economic ends’. The hoped for outcome: a self-imposed ‘dictatorship of Sustainment’, or if people won’t, by imposition from above by an ‘adaptive design directorate’.

And if that change cannot rely on agreement it must ‘aim with material force’. Marx’s dictatorship of the proletariat, which was his shorthand for the democratic control of the majority on society, becomes the dictatorship of a committee or at best an idea – ‘thought itself as redirective practice’, as Fry puts it or ‘designed and managed interventions’ to impose ‘unfreedoms’.

His main foe is democracy with its laisser-faire attitude to the rampages of technology gone wild. His heroes are Martin Heidegger and Carl Schmitt, both neo-romantic critiques of democracy and philosophers of authoritarianism. His effectors are a clique of educators – in the form of enlightened designers educating (read imposing) a new form of design that safeguards our future by taming the rampages that capitalist profit motive has sown on our planet. A modern version of Plato’s philosopher king transposed to twenty-first century globalised world.

Somewhere among his solution both the real effectors of unsustainability, capitalism, and its dictatorship imposed through apparent parliamentary democracy is lost. Here Fry not only misses the real critique of Heidegger of the roots of technology, but aims to reform capitalism by educating it to respect the future of the human race by ceasing to be so anthropocentric – a socialised capitalism, so to speak.

It is like educating the thief to patrol the neighbourhood. Marx had identified commodity fetishism as central to capitalist relations. By placing design at the centre of the futuring of the planet, Fry is demonstrating the most extreme form of commodity fetishism to defetishise commodities. No wonder Marx barely gets a mention in these pages.

Fry rejects utopian solutions but opts for the impossible. To ‘induce a being otherwise’ by design begs the question of who is the designer, chosen by whom and answerable to whom.

Dictatorship of sustainment will become just that – an imposed unfreedom imposed by unelected designers, answerable to no one but that very global capital (where ‘the capitalist commodity sphere was constituted as a world of desire’) that presumably employs the designers.

It is not entirely accidental that the word profit does not appear anywhere in this book. Does Fry imagine a capitalism without profit. Without it would they be persuaded to create a world where ‘to live is to suffer’ reigns eternal?

Mohsen Shahmanesh

Tony Fry is a director of the sustainment consultancy Team D/E/S and adjunct professor of design at Griffith University, Queensland College of Art, Australia. Among his publication is A New Design Philosophy: an Introduction to Defuturing, and Design, Futuring: Sustainability, Ethics and New Practice.

Hella Jongerius: Misfit
Written: Louise Schouwenberg
Contributors Alice Rawsthorn and Paola Antonelli

Hella Jongerius: Misfit is a handsome book, its design, by fellow Dutch designer Irma Boom, reflecting the imaginative work of the maverick product designer.

Born in 1963, Jongerius graduated in industrial design from the Eindhoven Design Academy in The Netherlands coming to prominence in the early 90s with a series of designs for the influential Dutch conceptual design collective Droog Design.

Jongerius set up her own Rotterdam-based practice Jongeriuslab around the same time, relocating to Berlin in 2008, collaborating with the likes of Vitra, Royal Tichelaar Makkum and Swarovski. Her own work is held in the collections of MoMA, the Stedelijk Museum and London’s Design Museum.

Hella Jongerius: Misfit aims to capture the designer’s juxtaposition of seemingly opposite ideologies and practices: fusing industrial and craft, traditional and contemporary to create work that is tactile, a little unpolished – almost handmade – and always created with a sense of humour.

Jongerius is interested in old and new technologies, and the process itself. Thus her creations, be it a sofa or a simple vase, carry an intriguing narrative.

Jongerius is also keen to bring individuality to the manufactured object. Her B-Set of porcelain crockery, for instance, is fired at too high a temperature during the manufacturing process, so that the clay deforms slightly, giving each set a completely unique shape.

At the very core of the designer’s beliefs is that it is only in the misfit objects (hence the book’s title) that quality craftsmanship is present and that the imperfections of these products show the process and reveal the maker. Colour is pivotal to her work and so the book features over 300 images of Jongerius’s work arranged by colour.

Robin Hood Gardens Re-Visions
Edited: Alan Powers
Contributions: Richard Rogers, Zaha Hadid and Dan Cruikshank
Photographed: Sandra Lousada and Ioana Marinescu
Published: The Twentieth Century Society

Robin Hood Gardens – a housing estate on the fringes of Poplar in East London – is an example of mid twentieth-century architecture on the brink of extinction.

Much love has been shown to the Alison + Peter Smithson-designed project over the last few years, spurred on by a campaign for listing spearheaded by UK magazine Building Design which collected over 1,000 signatures from across the world.

Architects including Zaha Hadid and Richard Rogers tell of the influence the building and the prolific couple have over them, while one of the most compelling arguments on why the estate should be kept comes from Dickon Robinson’s evidence compiled on behalf of the The Twentieth Century Society‘s submission for a review of the listing decision.

Completed in 1972, Robin Hood Gardens is a design very much of the era – incorporating the then much lauded ‘streets in the sky’ concept, with wide landings where people living on higher floors could socialise as if on their doorsteps on the ground.

There are two main blocks, both with a long, linear shape, built from pre-cast concrete and home to 213 flats. The lower block is seven storeys high, the taller ten. Between the two buildings is a landscaped grassy area, designed as a recreation and rest area for residents, built using the rubble of the houses demolished for the project.

Robin Hood Gardens – Re-Visions collates a series of photographs, essays and a conversation between the Smithsons detailing the full history of the estate.

The original sketch drawings and plans, complete with hand-drawn sun compasses, show their skills as designers to the full, and deserve their place at the start of the book.

The old, colour photographs show a housing estate that was clearly a place enjoyed by its first inhabitants and one gets the distinct impression that it was the council’s neglect of the buildings that have led to the current situation.

Finally, a collection of Ioana Marinescu’s more recent photographs – previously the subject of an exhibition at the Royal Institute of British Architects – look very nice indeed, but display a faux-nostalgia for buildings that deserve to be photographed in a contemporary way.

The book has been published on the eve of local London council Tower Hamlet’s decision of which developer will get the privilege of razing the estate, which received its death knell from the previous Labour government when it granted it immunity from listing for five years from 2009.

It is a worthy totem of appreciation to a visionary housing project admired by thousands in its lifetime.

Andrea Klettner

Voiture Minimum: Le Corbusier and the Automobile
Written: Antonio Amado
Published: MIT Press

Voiture Minimum Le Corbusier and the Automobile, MIT Press, Book Cover © The MIT Press

‘If houses were built industrially, mass-produced like chassis,’ proclaimed Le Corbusier in his manifesto Towards an Architecture, ‘an aesthetic would be formed with surprising precision.’ The Swiss architect was famously obsessed with the automobile – almost in love with what he called the perfect machine. To him, and many progressive thinkers of the time, the automobile was a symbol of modernity and a focal point in his visions for futuristic utopias.’

Voiture Minimum, Le Corbusier and the Automobile explores the architect’s involvement with the automobile, designing in 1936 ‘a minimalist vehicle for maximum functionality’ which he called Voiture Minimum.

An engaging read by Antonio Amado, a Spanish architect and a professor at the University of La Coruna, the book is almost an exploration of ideas on cars and mobility at this junction in history. Amado is a fluid writer, creating a charming narrative, chapter after chapter building up to the climax that is the story of the car itself.

This includes a brief history of the French manufacturer Voisin and the impact founder Gabriel Voisin had on Le Corbusier. An architecture enthusiast he came up with the idea of prefab housing of which subsequently Le Corbusier wrote about in this in his magazine L’Esprit Nuveau.

By the 1930s Voisin was no longer able to make the luxury cars he made in the 1920s, mainly due to the American depression and the popularity of more affordable automobiles created by the likes of Ford. Instead under his new consultancy he designed the Biscooter (double scooter) prototype – a minimalist lightweight vehicle for two to three occupants. The car proved to be quite popular in post civil war Spain, manufactured there under the name Biscuter-Voisin and surviving almost ten years.

We also learn of other key architects of the time’s involvement with the automobile in the context of both town planning ideas and automotive design  – from Adolf Loos, Walter Gropius, to Jean Prouvé and the American Frank Lloyd Wright.

The author even dedicates time to car design between the wars, exploring key trends in automobile design crucially, the impact of aerodynamics and the American aesthetic, as well as the story of Volkswagen’s ‘people’s car’, the Beetle.

Incidentally, Le Corbusier claimed his Voiture Minimum had been the inspiration for this car. He went as far as saying the car, designed for the 1936 SIA competition, had originated in 1928, before the Beetle. Here Amado, after extensive examination of archival and source materials, disproves this. In fact, he hints that the influence may have gone the other way.

It is almost half way through the book when we are introduced to Voiture Minimum., designed in collaboration with Le Corbusier’s cousin Pierre Jeanneret. This is a detailed account, highlighted with copies of original letters written by the architect to various car manufacturers, proposal after proposal, and endless sketches that ultimately lead to the final design.

Sadly, Voiture Minimum was never to be made into a production car. A full-scale model, though, was sculpted in 1987 by the Italian car designer Giorgio Giugiaro to exhibit at L’Aventure Le Corbusier: 1887-1965 at the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Two years later a similar prototype was created to mark the opening of the Design Museum in London.

The Porsche Book
Edited: Frank Orel
Published: teNeues

Love or loath cars, most of us would agree that Porsche builds beautiful automobiles that are thrilling to drive. From the timeless sculptural form of the 911 – so perfect in proportions that the designers find it hard to improve upon – to the Cayman, Boxter and the many derivatives, the Stuttgart marque simply creates emotionally charges vehicles that cause a visceral reaction in most of us.

In recent years the company that was founded by Austrian engineer Ferdinand Porsche back in 1931, has had to expand on its model range to include the four-door Panamera, the Cayenne sports utility vehicle and the just announced Cajun small sports utility (still in concept stage) – in the process offending some Porsche purists – yet it has never lost its global emotional appeal.

The Porsche Book aims to capture this. And with 173 photographs and images, this is very much a visual adventure. Written clearly for lovers of the marque, the 24 chapters have been designed to somehow race the reader in a nostalgic, image-packed journey through Porsche’s rich engineering and design history.

Providing text in English, German, French, Chinese and Russian, this elegant hardback captures the essence of Porsche: timeless design, speed and the promise of freedom.

The Furniture of Carlo Mollino
Authors: Napoleone Ferrari and Fulvio Ferrari
Published: Phaidon

Carlo Mollino (1905-73), the maverick Italian designer, created site specific and commissioned pieces that are considered works of art – a 1948 table sold for around $4m at an auction recently setting a world record for a piece of twentieth-century furniture.

The son of a prominent Turin engineer, Mollino joined his father’s firm after graduating from Turin’s Royal School of Architecture in 1931, leaving soon after to pursue his own career as a designer and architect. He was involved with the avant-garde futurist and the surrealist movements of the time – evident in his highly expressive and sculptural work that contains an almost surreal narrative.

Mollino worked in numerous creative areas including furniture design, architecture, automobile design, theatre, photography, even town planning. He based his furniture on organic shapes such as animal bones, tree branches and the human body – the female body is very much a dominant theme. Mollino was also keen on researching new materials and technology to create these complex structures.

For instance he developed a complex construction technique so that the structure seems liberated by the weight of the material as seen on the glass and bentwood Arabesque table (1949), still in production by Italian industrial design firm Zanotta.

Amongst his most notable architectural work is the Società Ippica Torinese headquarters (1935-9) and the Teatro Regio Torinese (1966) both in Turin. He also designed the interiors. Experimenting with fabric and lighting, sometimes even creating his own murals, they were often quite theatrical.

The Furniture of Carlo Mollino presents his complete furniture and interior design. A collaborative effort with the Museo Casa Mollino, and written by the museum’s curators Napoleone Ferrari and Fulvio Ferrari, this extensive and original monograph emphasises the contemporary significance of Mollino’s pioneering work.

Leafing through the pages of this informative and beautifully illustrated book, you can’t help being overwhelmed by how much pure original thought and artistic expression has gone into his every design and every creation. The result is that his furniture pieces are not just well executed but sensual, evocative and completely timeless.

Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century
Authors: William J Mitchell, Christopher E Borroni-Bird and Lawrence D Burns
Published: MIT Press

We live in exciting times. The world is moving towards mass urbanisation, the countryside is being swallowed up by sprawling cities creating vast mega-cities – a recent UN report suggesting that over 70% of the world’s population will inhabit these dense urban landscapes by 2050.

Mobility, it seems, is still stuck in the era of the ‘horseless carriage’. The template is essentially that of the Ford Model T, which was good for the first 100 years of the automobile, but not necessarily a viable solution for our mobility needs now, and certainly not for the future.

Reinventing the Automobile argues that essentially we need to change the DNA of the car, as we know, by basing it on electric drive and wireless communication rather than on petroleum, the internal combustion engine and individual operation. The car, the authors argue, needs to become lighter and smarter by linking to other vehicles and a larger network, as in a ‘mobility internet’, to be able to collect and share data effectively.

The highly qualified authors of this easy-to-follow – albeit academic – 198-page book includes William Mitchell director of MIT’s Smart Cities research group and two of General Motor’s biggest brains Lawrence Burns and Christopher Borroni-Bird, director of advanced technology vehicle concepts.

The authors believe that personal mobility is a viable solution if we reinvent the car. They propose a number of vehicle concepts that are small, light and cheap enough to produce for mass use. These include the CityCar, a concept GM has developed with Smart Cities that adopts a standard four-wheel configuration with each wheel independently and digitally controlled to allow for a wider range of manoeuvres. These cars can execute sideways or crablike motions for parallel parking thanks to the wheel motors that provide various four-wheel steering capabilities.

The other proposition is the Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility (PUMA), a compact two-seater, front entry/exit cars with in-wheel motors. The rear wheels have been removed thanks to technology provided by the Segway Personal Transporter (PT), a vehicle that demonstrated the feasibility of maintaining balance electronically, in this case extended to a larger vehicle.

Laced with drawings explaining these concepts and their functionality step-by-step, and numerous graphs, Reinventing the Automobile is a thorough examination of these concepts and the network that needs to be implemented to support such sustainable urban mobility. It is a great research tool at a time when almost all car manufacturers are re-examining their role for the urban mobility in 2030 and beyond.

Unleashed: Contemporary art from Turkey
Editor: Hossein Amirsadeghi – Executive editor: Maryam Eisler
Published: Thames & Hudson and TransGlobe Publishing

The art word is always on the lookout for new territories to explore and invest in. India, China, Russia and to some extent Iran have grabbed recent headlines (and gallery space) and now, it seems, the world is shifting its attention in the direction of Turkey. A new book on the subject Unleashed: Contemporary art from Turkey, sets out to document this vibrant scene.

Istanbul is at the heart of this explosion in creativity. Ankara, and other major cities like Izmir and Diyarbakir are contributing to this movement, but Istanbul (crowned the 2010 European cultural capital) is the public face of a country eager to define itself as a liberal Muslim democracy facing Europe.

The city boasts around 250 mostly private art galleries. Ten years ago there would have only been a handful. ‘Turkey is undergoing almost a cultural explosion,’ says London based art patron Maryam Eisler. As executive editor of Unleashed, Eisler and her team have spent the last year exploring the country’s art scene, meeting with unknown artists as well as art patrons so as to document the scene.

From their findings, the majority of contemporary artists are responding to Turkey’s current social and political tension. There is also a strong dialogue emerging between the local artists and the Turkish diaspora.

Eisler notes that there is no censorship in Turkey, which is interesting given the country’s conflict with its current social liberalism, globalisation and entering the European Union – as well as the rise of Islamic ideology. Not to mention the historical battle it faces with cultural chauvinism and a reluctance to fully listen to regional voices be is Kurdish or Armenian.

Some of the artists featured in Unleashed, the likes of Taner Ceylan, are creating highly provocative homoerotic photorealist paintings. Others such as Hale Tenger deal with issues of immigration.

Hossein Amirsadeghi, the brainchild of Unleashed as well as two recent books on contemporary art in the Middle East and the Arab world, notes that in societies like Turkey, art can often be a powerful catalyst for change.

Different Sames: New Perspectives in Contemporary Iranian Art
Editor: Hossein Amirsadeghi
Published: Thames & Hudson and TransGlobe Publishing

Iran has a rich artistic and cultural narrative fused with a turbulent political history past and present. It is therefore not surprising that contemporary Iranian artists are eager to form their own visual language.

Thanks to recent exhibitions held in London, New York and the UAE, an array of publications and a thriving market for Iranian art, contemporary artists in and outside of the country are gaining much exposure.

‘Different Sames: New Perspectives in Contemporary Iranian Art’ is a comprehensive documentation of the movement, past and present.

Read the full book review in Wallpaper*.