Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 8/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Coop Himmelb(l)au: Beyond the Blue
edited by Peter Noever
Munich: Prestel Verlag, $60 paperbound
192 pages, 150 illustrations (120 color)
Vienna is traditionally the city of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the river Danube, Josef Hoffmann, Gustav Klimt, and mmmm pastries. More recently, the city has become home to Haus-Rucker-Co., Atelier Hollein, and Coop Himmelb(l)au, an architecture firm responsible for buildings that are often as radically unconventional as that spelling. The firm was founded in 1968 by Wolf D. Prix and Helmut Swiczinsky with Rainer Michael Holzer, who resigned shortly thereafter. The name plays with the German words for blue sky and building, but a founding statement—made before the parentheses were added—said, "Coop Himmelblau is not a color but an idea, of creating architecture with fantasy, as buoyant and variable as clouds. . . . Our architecture has no physical ground plan, but a psychic one. Walls no longer exist. Our spaces are pulsating balloons. Our heartbeat becomes space; our face is the facade." Such a manifesto is obviously impossible to put into practice, but Prix and Swiczinsky come remarkably close.
From 40 years of work, this book shows 26 buildings and other projects. They range chronologically from a 1968 "organism for living," called the Cloud, to the 2007 Zorlu Gateway Center, a mixed-use complex for Istanbul. Of the built designs, impressive ones include the UFA Kinopalast in Dresden, Germany, where an opaque concrete block of theaters interlocks with a transparent glass foyer, and Ohio's Akron Art Museum, sheltered by a dramatically hovering roof. Most impressive of all is BMW Welt, a Munich complex that resulted from winning an international open competition in which 275 designers and firms participated. The building is a sweeping sculptural assemblage of glass and stainless steel, with suspended bridges interconnecting components named Forum, Tower, Double Cone, Lounge, Premiere, and Marina. Not exactly pulsating balloons. But maybe better.
Collecting by Design: Silver & Metalwork of the 20th Century From the Margo Grant Walsh Collection
by Timothy A. O'Brien and Margo Grant Walsh
Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, distributed by Yale University Press, $25 paperbound
152 pages, 166 illustrations (126 color)
Many in the interiors field know Margo Grant Walsh as the vice chairman and managing principal of Gensler and a member of this magazine's Hall of Fame. Since her retirement from Gensler and the death of her husband, John Walsh, she has focused her legendary energy and drive, along with her practiced eye, on her longtime hobby of collecting fine silver objects, particularly those by architects. Her collection has now grown to more than 800 pieces. The first public exhibition of selections took place at Oregon's Portland Art Museum in 2002, and a larger selection appeared at the San Francisco Airport Museums last year.
This book, the first to document the collection, accompanies an exhibition closing in August at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Besides being a very handsome book, it shows us—more than is usual—how the objects were actually displayed in the show. Pieces are not only organized by their origins, such as "English Arts and Crafts," "Scandinavian Style," and "Mexican and American Indian Silver," but also presented vitrine by vitrine. This is important for, as San Francisco Airport Museums director and chief curator Blake Summers writes in the foreword, the pieces are best seen "grouped or paired to afford new insights, reveal diverse influences, and, at times, invite conjecture" as well as demonstrating the "interconnection of designers and craftsmen from different parts of the world and across several generations." Summers adds that the collection is "refreshingly different from others. There is an organic nature to it that is clearly the result of someone who delights in the process of identifying significant pieces of superior design."
What They're Reading...
Owner of the Max Protetch Gallery
by William Gibson
New York: Penguin Group, $14
by William Gibson
New York: Penguin Group, $8
Already a respected art dealer, Max Protetch branched out into architectural drawings, prototypes, and other objects in 1978. Since that time, his championship of design has yielded exhibitions on the likes of Eliel and Eero Saarinen, Louis Kahn, Aldo Rossi, Samuel Mockbee, and Rem Koolhaas. "I'm always looking for meaningful ways of contextualizing objects," says Protetch—whose taste in fiction keeps him coming back to cyberpunk idol William Gibson. "He's managed to capture something that parallels what's going on in the art world." Just as Gibson's fluid realities mesh the past and present, the electronic and organic, Protetch must unite enduring doctrine with unfamiliar visions. "To paraphrase Frank Lloyd Wright, creative people are always accused of being futurists," he says. "Really, we're living in our own time, and everyone else is living in the past." —Deborah Wilk