Edited by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 9/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Le Corbusier Le Grand
introductions by Jean-Louis Cohen and Tim Benton
New York: Phaidon Press, $200
840 pages, 2,795 illustrations (2,227 color)
Seldom do our reviews begin with a book's size and weight. But when the statistics are 13 by 16½ inches and 20 pounds, they deserve attention. Opening the box, I wondered: Is this much ado about very little? Not at all.
It's difficult not to compare this Phaidon production with the eight-volume Le Corbusier Oeuvre Complète. The earliest volume appeared in 1929, the eighth was published in 1970, five years after his death. Birkhäuser published the most recent reprinting in 2006. Some have called it the most important architecture text ever published. It was, as it says, complete, with text in three languages. And the separate volumes were immensely more reader-friendly than this new backbreaking monster. However, the earliest volumes of the Oeuvre were all black-and-white, and later additions had very few color pages. Le Grand is rich with color, a factor unusually important to this architect's work. The text in the Oeuvre was terse and factual; Le Grand gives us not only the facts but also a great many interesting letters, postcards, and telegrams; newspaper and magazine clippings; contracts and office ledgers; and a birth certificate and obituaries. The Oeuvre hewed closely to the final plans and the buildings themselves. Le Grand also shows us Le Corbusier's sketches, paintings and murals, prints, tapestries, color swatches for paint and yarn, and designs for furniture, wall covering, and an (unbuilt) automobile. Also included are spreads from the magazine L'Esprit Nouveau, which he cofounded in 1920; invitations and posters; and pages from books, notebooks, and pamphlets. In photographs from all stages of his life, he appears with family and friends, some of them famous: Albert Einstein, Jawaharlal Nehru, Pablo Picasso, Josephine Baker. We see Le Corbusier's girlfriends, his studio, his desk, and his dog.
The introductory essay is by Jean-Louis Cohen, an architectural and urban historian who teaches at New York University's Institute of Fine Arts, and chapter introductions are by Tim Benton, who lectures in art history at the Open University in Milton Keynes, U.K. All this is in the main volume. Tucked into the slipcase is another hardback of just 72 pages, offering facsimiles of all the featured documents accompanied by English translations. Unwieldy as this two-part publication may be and as trivial as some of the contents may seem, both Le Corbusier the architect and Le Corbusier the man emerge from these pages more vividly than most of us have ever seen him before.
New Garden Design: Inspiring Private Paradises
by Zahid Sardar
Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith, Publisher, $40
250 pages, 200 color illustrations
Following a frontispiece of Thomas Church's famous 1948 garden for Jean and Dewey Donnell in Sonoma, California, and a fascinating introductory history of gardens from ancient times to today, this book offers 37 excellent examples of current garden design with an emphasis on Northern California. Highlights include Hood Design's biblical garden for Herzog & De Meuron's de Young Museum in San Francisco, Roger Raiche and David McRory's hillside garden for a Bernard Maybeck cottage in Berkeley, and, at Legorreta + Legorreta's Casa Bowes in Sonoma, Roger Warner Garden Design's sea of lavender and allée of old olive trees complementing sculpture by Richard Long and Richard Serra.
The striking photography is by Marion Brenner. San Francisco Chronicle design editor Zahid Sardar, who writes for Interior Design, selected the projects and was also responsible for the informative text and the handsome graphics.