Adolf Krischanitz has long been recognised as one of the leading Viennese architects currently practising, and Birkhauser's new comprehensive presentation will no doubt spark renewed international interest in his systematic yet very personal body of work.
The book gives a dense graphical presentation of just under 50 of his built and unbuilt projects, thematically arranged, followed by a full illustrated chronology and a thorough bibliography. Each project is portrayed by a set of precise drawings and full-colour photographs or computer renderings, and accompanied by a descriptive text in German and English.
Though one might wish that more space had been given to the beautiful images than to the unattributed and rather ambitious texts, the book nonetheless succeeds in giving an insight into an impressingly consistent series of projects, ranging from furniture to urban planning. The project presentations are framed by two longer essays which give the work a theoretical context.
The first, 'Puzzle, language, unique piece' by Klaus Jurgen Bauer, explains the tactical aspects of Krischanitz' development. Bauer starts with a definition of the avant-garde from its origins in the Napoleonic wars, and claims Krischanitz for the architectural avant-garde through his 'courage to refuse' in the face of the limitless possibilities open to contemporary architects. Though the military metaphor does not always come to his rescue, and J Roderick O'Donovan's translation only just hangs on to the convolutions of the German original, what emerges as a key to the understanding of Krischanitz' architecture is his conception of context - which differs both from Post-Modern eclecticism and from the more recent minimalism which inspires other Austrian architects.
The more fluent 'Pavilions and regulated fields', by Markus Grob, looks at the work of Krischanitz as a continuous activity rather than as separate designs. This may seem an obvious angle given the remarkable consistency of the projects but, as his title suggests, Grob differentiates between two main lines of development. He explains Krischanitz' work as the relationship between generalities (architectonic elements) and specifics (site conditions), between dismissal and invitation, individual and public. The pavilions, such as the Austrian pavilion for the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1995, are lone objects, new and dramatic public presences acting on their own in defiance of or in relation to their given sites. The larger urban planning projects are structural and geometric games, temporal sequences where 'form is discovered in the course of play', as an accumulation of building acts over time, rather than a predefined whole.
The book presents Krischanitz' development as something consistent, traceable, suggesting a fixed trajectory: indeed Bauer makes the comparison promised by the linen hardback cover, and the identical proportions of the book, to Le Corbusier's Oeuvre Complet. There is a smell of determinism, of closure, about such an approach, even if this is only the first volume of an impressive oeuvre still under construction. The book is nonetheless impressive as a concise document of an important contribution to contemporary architecture.Ingerid Helsing Almaas is an architect in London