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Composition, Contrast, Complexity: Francine Houben / Mecanoo Architects

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Birkhauser, 2001. 256pp. £32

It was university architecture - the Faculty of Economics and Management at Utrecht with its kasbah allusions; the grass-roofed Delft Technical University Library with its light-gathering cone (see picture) - that brought international attention to the Delft-based practice Mecanoo Architects, founded in 1984. This monograph, published for an exhibition at the Netherlands Architecture Institute earlier this year, presents some 20 of the practice's projects - mostly built ones. They are interspersed with a staccato text (scattered paragraph-length fragments of description or 'philosophy', each with its own heading) by founding partner Francine Houben, and as no other critical perspective is brought to bear, the package seems rather selfserving. But it is beautifully put together, in a way that distinguishes it from the usual run of monographs, and the work - often bold in its formal gestures and use of colour and alert to the role of landscape - suggests that each commission is truly thought anew and cliche kept at bay.

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