In the context of the hysteria currently surrounding all things old-fashioned and handmade, it makes a certain sense to mount an examination of architecture’s low-tech roots: those hand-rendered sketches and schematics that still tend to quietly precede even the most digitally advanced structures. It’s debatable whether the practice as a whole is consciously returning to those roots, as the new book Architects’ Sketchbooks argues, but when the architects who find joy in committing their thoughts to paper open their notepads for all to see, the appeal runs deeper than any cultural trend. “For me, the process is often more fascinating than the end result, and at the heart of architecture, which is part of the process of building worlds, lies the language of drawing,” writes Narinder Sagoo of Foster + Partners in the book’s foreword.
As author Will Jones sees it, two simple factors push architects back and forth along the spectrum of science and art: need and enjoyment. Those who sketch may view the process as an indispensable, practical method both for generating ideas and for communicating them to others — “such drafting and redrafting remains the lifeblood and backbone of an entire industry,” writes Jones — or they may use it as a kind of creative release. “In a professional world that is laden with costs, constraints and client pressure, the chance to escape reality even for a few moments is priceless,” he suggests. The excerpt at right cherrypicks the most unexpected of the featured sketchbook images, paired with portions of the essays written about them, and thus leans heavily towards the latter proposition, but the submissions of the book’s 85 contributors run the gamut from the technical to the cartoonish to the painterly. Jones quotes Louis Kahn on what ultimately unites all these endeavors: “A great building must begin with the unmeasurable, must go through measurable means when it is being designed, and yet in the end must be unmeasurable.”
It’s possible you’ve spent hours foraging flea markets, wondering how a Russel Wright pitcher or an Eames shell chair or a Jens Risom credenza might fit into your home décor. But did you ever stop to wonder how those pieces may have figured into the homes of their own makers? Leslie Williamson, a San Francisco–based photographer, did — and the result is Handcrafted Modern, a new book that offers an intimate glimpse inside the houses of 14 of America’s most beloved mid-century designers.
Julien Carretero's work invites metaphor the way cheese fries beg to be eaten — make a bench that's perfectly shaped in front and slowly morphs into chaos in back, and suddenly it could be about anything: humans' ultimate lack of control over the universe, politics, the pressure to succeed, mullets. For the Paris-born, Eindhoven-based designer, though, it's mostly just about one thing.
There's a certain taboo attached to pop stars who attempt to forge acting careers, and vice versa. Painters aren't normally supposed to take up fashion design, and just because you're a great photographer doesn't mean you'll make a great chef. But here at Sight Unseen, where we attempt to travel to the very heart of creativity, we delight in any and all cross-disciplinary meanderings, which is why our ears perked up when we heard about American Fashion Designers at Home, by Rima Suqi. Even if some of the more than 100 CFDA members featured in the book hired professionals to craft their spaces, the translation of their aesthetics from one genre to the other is an endless source of curiosity.