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Book review: Nanotecture

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A pocket-sized dictionary exploring architecture’s latest portmanteau features cat houses, bus stops and eggs, finds Rupert Bickersteth

Buildings cost lots of money, take lots of time, need to perform complex tasks and function effectively for its users in the long term. Phaidon’s new book Nanotecture - curated by Rebecca Roke - displays a rich catalogue of small built works free from the aforementioned constraints. Roke convincingly argues in the introduction that ’modestly sized works [have the] ability to make an impact far greater than might be expected from their actual size’. Nanotecture shows the reader the wild possibilities that pavilions, shelters, follies, kiosks and even structures for cats, birds and dogs present. As Roke says, ’Size is no barrier to architectural creativity’.

From the light-hearted (see multiple examples of cat architecture) to the problem-solving - such as the Abod Shelter by BSB Design, created as a response to chronic shortages in stable housing affecting 32 percent of the world’s population - Nanotecture covers a varied gamut of diminutive construction. Among the 300 structures profiled there are truly nano projects - almost furniture - such as Space International’s Cat Chalet, and also more substantial projects like StudioMama’s Beach House in addition to a wealth of meditation huts, tree houses and half-a-dozen ‘eggs’.

A bus stop is an example of ‘nanotecture’ with which we might engage on a more regular basis than exhibition pavilions or animal housing, and several of the bus stops that were designed and built for the BUS:STOP Project in Krumbach, Austria feature in Nanotecture. The Bränden bus stop by Sou Fujimoto and the Zwing Bus Stop by Smiljan Radić make it in - and you can see images of these in the Getting Things Done exhibition, currently in Cardiff.

Each of the 300 entries is accompanied by a mostly interesting and informative explanatory paragraph, and Roke has developed a punchy key with colourful and patterned swatches to identify the materials used. Nanotecture has been published in an appropriately miniature format and is fun to flick through. The words Roke uses to describe small-scale architecture can also be used for the book she has produced: ’inspiring, surprising and delightful’.

Nanotecture: Tiny Built Things by Rebecca Roke is published by Phaidon and costs £14.95 in hardback

Nanotecture: Tiny Built Things by Phaidon

Nanotecture: Tiny Built Things by Phaidon


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