'Rem Koolhaas called architecture a mixture of impotence and omnipotence'
How right Rem Koolhaas was when he described architecture as a mixture of impotence and omnipotence. One has only to glance through the current literary offerings of our leading architectural publishers to see exactly what he meant. Consider this shortlist of what's coming your way this summer.
A House for my Woolman, Eliza Michelin, 192 pages, 150 high-quality duotone prints (black and white to you), £29.99, June 1999.
Designing for the International Society of Woolmen has been the way many architects began their careers. Whether developed to showcase an experimental idea or simply to honour woolmen, their buildings reveal a subtle knitting together of farms, wool and club-class seating. It is from books like this that we gain a clear insight into the unfairness of life, the universe and everything. 'Essential reading for woolmen and anyone contemplating a career in architecture.'
Architects in the Service of Reproduction Fees, Erno Digitizer, 492 pages, 1500 high-quality prints. £129.99. June 1999.
This new series profiles forgotten modern buildings via hundreds of photographs taken by forgotten photographers 40 years ago. A library in itself, each book in the series will focus on buildings the day after completion - with period furnishings and fashions to match - so that one sees the projects as the architects wanted them to be seen, before they suffered the inevitable overuse, alteration and timely demolition.
The first set of four volumes includes 20 original gpo telephone exchanges by Morton Basil; 100 ribbon-development council houses by Roscoe Alan; 230 Evans Outsize shops by Cecil Alfred, and six shopping centres by Bernard Angles. This is an invaluable series for anyone interested in architecture, photography, local history, fashion, or just big books.
Blowing up Balloons and Street Fighting, H P De Sauce, 144 pages, 50 high-quality duotone prints. £19.99. July 1999.
Nineteen sixty-eight was a turbulent year for many students throughout the Western World. Alternative lifestyles were being tried on and thrown away like baseball caps, and counter-culture movements were forming everywhere. In Paris, at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, a group of architecture students banded together and called themselves the Can't Catch Me group. For them the concept of the balloon held promise of mobility, movement, energy and escape. Seeking to overturn the inertia and oppression that they were later to realise they had mistakenly believed to characterise mainstream architecture, the group designed a series of balloon buildings. Their work was influenced by Leonardo da Vinci, the Montgolfier brothers, Fernandel, Carlos the jackal and Richard Branson.
Blowing up Balloons documents a fascinating moment in history, presenting a complete, annotated catalogue of the designs of the Can't Catch Me group alongside more typically dull and uninteresting structures from the period. This is an invaluable text for anyone interested in architecture, France, photography, the numbers 1, 9, 6 and 8, arcane knowledge and students.
H P De Sauce, a Paris-based architectural historian, is author of Manipulations, and contributes to the Fortean Times.
Call me Schwitters, Montgomery Rider, 192 pages, 180 high-quality duotone prints. £18.85. May 1999.
Montgomery Rider's experimental projects owe as much to Jack the Ripper for their frenetic and intense energy as they do to Piranesi for their ability to use simple hand tools to create near-atomic destruction. These fantastical projects - a mix of architecture, museum installation and landfill - often involving the reuse of obsolete clocks and boulders on either side of an international date line to encourage the export of environmental arts between political ideologies in the interest of world peace.
Montgomery Rider is editor in chief of Kaosk magazine and adjunct professor of nonsense at Belarus State University. He is very popular with students.