edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 2/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
by Gordon Bruce
New York: Phaidon Press, $75
240 pages, 550 illustrations (350 color)
This thorough study of the life and work of architect Eliot Noyes is long overdue. To gain an appreciation of his impeccable designs, we travel to Hobe Sound, Florida—where he completed his Bubble Houses, made of concrete sprayed on inflated membranes, in 1954—and to New Canaan, Connecticut, where his 1955 family home features living and sleeping wings separated by a fieldstone-walled courtyard. We also revisit his mid-'60s Mobil gas stations, with cylindrical pumps beneath circular sunshades, his lectures on television's Omnibus program in the '50s, and his exhibitions at New York's Museum of Modern Art, where he served as the first director of the industrial-design department: 1940's "Useful Objects of American Design Under $10" and the following year's "Organic Design in Home Furnishings" among them. Perhaps most impressive of all is his decades-long work as design director for IBM, for which he produced the 1961 Selectric typewriter as well as packaging, a logo and other graphics, buildings, and more.
But this welcome biography offers more than just interesting information—presented with appropriate understatement by the book's designer, Jan Schweizer. Author Gordon Bruce, who worked for Noyes during the decade before his death in 1977, also provides an interesting overview of the key design issues and thinkers of the time, many of them with personal connections to Noyes. George Nelson, Edgar Kaufmann, Jr., Charles and Ray Eames, Alexander Calder, and Isamu Noguchi were all collaborators at IBM. Marcel Breuer, who started out as Noyes's influential teacher at Harvard University, later became a collaborator and a friend. And another Harvard professor, Walter Gropius, is said to have credited Noyes with being the single individual who most effectively extended the teachings of the Bauhaus into industrial design and the corporate world.
Alan Fletcher: Picturing and Poeting
by Alan Fletcher
New York: Phaidon Press, $40
384 pages, 312 illustrations (272 color)
Alan Fletcher, who died last September, was a founding partner of the international design consultancy Pentagram, which opened in London in 1972. This handsome, spirited grab bag of sketches, calligraphy, graphics, collages, photographs, and visual puns draws on his extensive notebooks and diaries. Published to accompany the recent exhibition "Alan Fletcher: 50 Years of Graphic Work (and Play)," at London's Design Museum, the book will delight anyone with an eye for design. As curator Emily King states in her introduction, "Although much. . . seems to be the work of an instant, it is, of course, the product of a lifetime."
The Arts and Crafts Movement
by Rosalind P. Blakesley
New York: Phaidon Press, $70
272 pages, 251 illustrations (197 color)
In this beautifully illustrated survey, the arts and crafts movement is interpreted more broadly than usual. The author, a senior lecturer and fellow at the University of Cambridge's Pembroke College, of course considers the work of the movement's acknowledged masters, William Morris, Philip Webb, Gustav Stickley, Greene & Greene, and C.F.A. Voysey. However, she also includes Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Josef Hoffmann, Joseph Maria Olbrich, Eliel Saarinen, Carl Larsson, Frank Lloyd Wright, and even Alvar Aalto in the service of establishing that the movement was defined by a shared attitude toward better living through design, a preference for the handmade, and an interest in singularity. Likewise, she goes far beyond the movement's central realm of influence in the U.K. and U.S. to bring in relevant material from Poland, Finland, and Russia. Supporting all this are copious notes, an extensive bibliography, a chronology of design developments from 1845 through 1998, and a time line of contextual sociopolitical events from 1809 through 1964. Whether or not one accepts such an inclusive definition of the subject, this book offers much to consider and enjoy.
What They're Reading . . .
Principal of Joel Sanders Architect
The Land and Natural Development (LAND) Code: Guidelines for Sustainable Land Development
by Diana Balmori and Gaboury Benoit
Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, $70
To find out what Joel Sanders has been reading recently, we caught up with him on the commuter rail, en route to New Haven. As an associate professor of architecture at Yale University, he's pursuing the question of whether ecological thinking can generate a new wave of buildings and landscapes. This collection of methodologies, out in March, is already being referred to simply as The Land Code. It was cowritten by one of his faculty colleagues. Most books on the subject, he says, "tend to be a laundry list of techniques and materials. But this one presents guidelines to help a student or lay person think sustainably—and seriously—about the interface between buildings and their environment." —Deborah Wilk