Published  10/04/2010

Book review: A Year in Architecture

A Year in Architecture

Compiled by Claudia Stauble and Jonathan Lee Fox
Prestel, London and New York, 2009


This is an exceptional publication unique as such in the architectural lists and part of a series of interesting books that celebrate books per se, the object that can be treasured and touched, referred back to over a period of time. Yearbooks like diaries establish a degree of commitment between the owner and the notion that each day represented throughout the year should be equally pleasing and rewarding. A Year in Architecture is not disappointing, and not limited to one calendar year. Made up of a picture and captions for each day of the year, they are inventive and informative.

Most architectural publishers would not entertain such an ambitious and superlative book project. The buildings selected for 365 days of the year are a significant revelation, and as well covered in every case by a single detail as by a full view. In a very clever embellishment each day also has on page a quotation, historical or contemporary. For each deeply focussed detail of carving, rustication or construction the photographers draw out the poetry in every case. This ranges from the elaborate Gothic roof structure of the Hotel de Cluny (1485) to the immaculate elevation of the riveted zinc-clad Jewish Museum, Berlin, by Daniel Libeskind (1996), glowing alive in the evening sun. The beautiful full West elevation of the Romanesque Monastery Church of Santa Maria del Patire at Rossano, Italy, is cleverly scaled and conveyed by the seemingly casual presence of a single chair from the choir. For every such diaristic day of the year this standard of excellence is maintained.

The buildings represented run from Castel del Monte (accompanied by a quotation from the late mediaeval Sir Francis Bacon), to Rem Koolhaas’ China Central Television Headquarters, Beijing (2007-2008); to Norman Foster’s Wembley Stadium exterior by night; to Zaha Hadid’s tempting double room commission at the Hotel Puerta America, Madrid. Then there are both the late twin towers of the World Trade Center, New York, and the sublime scheme by Daniel Libeskind for the Freedom Towers project (unbuilt) to replace these. There is Eric Mendelssohn’s Potsdam Einstein Tower (1917–1922), and as a relief from Rudolf Steiner’s dream there, the idyllic Casa Malaparte, on its island off Capri, by Adalberto Libera (1938–1943), The contemporary Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, by Steven Holl with Juhani Pallasmaa shows its best face (1992). From St Moritz, there is Norman Foster’s modern baroque apartment block Chesa Futura (2002). For the last word on the present causes of economic recession, Frank Gehry’s atrium for the DZ Bank Pariser Platz, Berlin, seems provides a hint of Hades with its reddening glow, right on cue for 2010

This masterly publication cannot be faulted. The selection of works is both original and scholarly to a skilfully matched set of quotations So many might buy it as a present for an exceptional friend, or to persuade a client, or someone with an obsession for architecture itself (not necessarily an architect); and then on further thought, keep it for themselves.

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