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Bolles + Wilson: Recent Buildings and Projects

Birkhauser, 1997. 128pp. £39 approx. (Distributor 0181 542 2465)

Munster-based architect Bolles + Wilson documents 'the second generation' of its work, undertaken since the 1993 opening of Munster's New City Library, writes Isabel Allen. The most intriguing aspect of these recent schemes is their response to 'Eurolandschaft', a term which is used to describe 'the network of infrastructure, transport, out-of-town shopping nodes, wasteland, green fields, and confetti-like sprinkling of housing tracts' which characterises much of modern Europe and is the 'peripheral shadow of the traditionally geographically fixed, concentric, historically-layered European city'.

Bolles + Wilson seems rather fond of this new landscape, finding in its apparent chaos an order 'conditioned more by the logistics of delivery and invisible information flows than the fixed forms of traditional planning', and recognising positive implications for architecture.

True, this sprawl reflects a world where 'the field of social interaction is no longer place-specific. Television and Internet are today's piazza'; but, the practice argues, this actually places an increased value on the mass and immobility of architecture which 'gives measure to its immediate context, to the comings and goings of daily use. It can never be totally disconnected from the scale and imprint of the human body'. Its bulk becomes a welcome anchor amongst 'the dematerialised projectors of cinema, video and media'.

Bolles + Wilson's Medical Service Centre (left) is a typical 'Euro-Land event', built in 1996 for a budget so low 'as to preclude formal or material expression': an investor-led box with a grid of standard windows, except that alternate windows are rotated by ninety degrees - a no-cost intervention which produces the far-from-standard impression of a woven facade. By establishing a pattern which could be continuous, and affixing it to a self-contained box, the architect has created a non-site-specific architecture: a response to a rambling landscape, where objects are casually strewn.

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