Archibet, from Aalto to Zaha Hadid

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.’

Archibet is published by Laurence King.

For more reviews on books on design and art visit the Design Talks Book Club.

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Oscar Niemeyer’s Algerian adventure

Writer and photographer Jason Oddy examine the relationship between man and the built environment in his latest series ‘Concrete Spring’, exploring the Algerian work of pioneering Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer.

When Niemeyer first visited Algeria 40 years ago, he encountered an optimistic country. Following the struggle for independence from France, the socialist president Houari Boumedienne was keen for Algeria to transform itself into a modern nation. So he asked Niemeyer to design two ambitious university campuses – the University of Mentouri, Constantine and the University of Science and Technology Houari Boumedienne. The architect was also commissioned to create ‘la Coupole’, a stand-alone Olympic sports hall – all of which was conceived and built between 1969 and 1975.

Oddy spent three weeks with his 5 x 4 field camera exploring these buildings in June 2013. His photographs not only document these modernist monuments, but also ask how these buildings, designed to empower Algeria’s postcolonial generation, might be relevant today.

Following 40 years of political stagnation, crushed hopes, and a 15-year civil war, it is hard to imagine the optimistic country Niemeyer encountered in 1969. However, given the political upheaval in the region, the exhibition’s timing couldn’t be more relevant.

Concrete Spring: Jason Oddy is at Smiths Row from 25 January – 15 March

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