reviewed by Stanley Abercrombie -- Interior Design, 2/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
The Country Houses of David Adler
by Stephen M. Salny
New York: W.W. Norton, $60
220 pages, 150 illustrations (black and white)
Richard Pratt's 1970 monograph of David Adler has become an expensive classicist cult item, so Stephen Salny has done us a great favor in lovingly and carefully compiling a new comprehensive survey. Adler was the Chicago elite's most prominent residential architect in the early 20th century. Born in 1882 and trained at Princeton University and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, he was well equipped with the knowledge of orders and embellishments that his clients demanded. His sister, Frances Elkins, traveled with him through Europe, became equally prominent in the field of interior design, and founded her own firm in California in 1918. Seven of the 19 Adler residences that Salny shows us in generous detail have Elkins interiors, and they are handsome indeed. An introduction by Franz Schulze, familiar as a biographer of Mies van der Rohe, puts Adler's work—and that of such contemporaneous traditionalists as Daniel Burnham, Howard Van Doren Shaw (for whom Adler worked in 1911), and the firm of Delano & Aldrich—into the context of their modernist peers. Adler's houses, Schulze concludes, "feature a unique blend of beauty and recognizability," qualities perhaps more appreciated today than in the decades immediately following Adler's death in 1949.
Lightbook: The Practice of Lighting Design
by Ulrike Brandi and Christoph Geissmar-Brandi
Basel: Birkhäuser, distributed by Princeton Architectural Press, New York, $80
256 pages, 430 illustrations (many in color), CD-ROM
This may be the most useful lighting book I've ever read. Certainly it is the most handsome, the layout credited to Muriel Comby of Basel. One coauthor is the managing director of the Ulrike Brandi Licht lighting-design firm in Hamburg; the other is a curator and art historian. Together they start by going back to the most basic characteristics of daylight and candlelight, then consider how lighting for buildings, rooms, and exterior spaces can be described in drawings, graphs, models, and computer simulations. Layouts, window shapes, lamp types and placements, and luminaires are all presented clearly. The bulk of the book, however, is devoted to well illustrated and explained case studies, including the lighting of spaces by Rafael Viñoly, Toyo Ito, James Stirling, Richard Rogers, Norman Foster, Renzo Piano, and many others. Elsewhere, we see lighting on the facade of the Louvre and sunlight through the oculus of the Roman Pantheon. The 32-page glossary gives unusually detailed definitions to lighting terms: The entry for "moonlight" consists of a poem by Longfellow. A CD-ROM inside the back cover offers a 30-day free trial of light-planning software called LEOS (Light, Energy Optimization, and Service).
Van Day Truex, The Man Who Defined Twentieth-Century Taste and Style
by Adam Lewis
New York: Viking Studio, $40
262 pages, 130 illustrations (34 in color)
As head of the Parsons School of Design, Van Day Truex was one of the last century's most influential design educators. Later, as design director of Tiffany's, he was one of the chief tastemakers. The depth of his influence is made clear by a very partial list of the students, protégés, and friends to whom Adam Lewis introduces us: Albert Hadley, who provides this book's graceful foreword, Joseph Braswell, Melvin Dwork, Stanley Barrows, Thomas Britt, Angelo Donghia, Betty Sherrill, Robert Bray, Michael Schaible. To say that Truex "defined 20th-century taste and style," however, may be hyperbolic.
Lewis's well researched, highly readable account of a fascinating life shows us Truex's apartments in New York and houses in Provence, the china patterns he commissioned for Tiffany's, a pull-up chair for Harry Hinson, and skillful watercolors and ink washes. He also shows us Truex as handsome, poised, charming, and impeccably dressed and gives us glimpses of Europe on the brink of World War II, maligned Jews, closeted homosexuals, the birth of the interior-design profession as we know it, and the rift between conservatism and modernism. Missing, however, is analysis of Truex's academic career. (What exactly was he teaching his flocks of brilliant students all those years?) Present in excess are obsessive lists of the very famous, very privileged, and very rich with whom Truex hobnobbed. More classroom notes and fewer social ones would have produced a book more relevant to his real importance.
by Elisabeth Vedrenne and Anne-Marie Fevre
Paris: Editions Dis Voir, distributed by Distributed Art Publishers, $24
128 pages, 70 illustrations
This attractive little monograph is part of a new series devoted to contemporary furniture and product designers. (Other subjects include Jasper Morrison, Ron Arad, Roger Tallon, Andrea Branzi, and Elizabeth Garouste and Mattia Bonetti.) Paulin, born in Paris in 1927, is best known for his sinuous Ribbon, Mushroom, and Tongue upholstered seating. His biographers—or their translators—display a penchant for poetic phrase: "flesh on the air," "aerial periods of calm." The text is further spiced with picturesque spellings, but there are plenty of facts, too, including a chronology of major events and exhibitions in Paulin's career. A welcome book in a welcome series.