March 1, 2008
New and notable books on architecture, culture, and design
Peter Bialobrzeski: Lost in Transition
PHOTOS By Peter Bialobrzeski
TEXT By Michael Glasmeier
Hatje Cantz, 128 pp., $60
Bialobrzeski visited 28 cities on four continents for this book—his fourth—which focuses on transitional spaces on the edges of urban developments: parking lots, construction sites, and highway overpasses. The German photographer declines to identify the locations of individual photos, perhaps to highlight how eerily identical these spaces look, whether they’re in Abu Dhabi, Auckland, or Zurich. His method emphasizes the similarities: all the photographs appear to have been taken at dusk, just as the graying skies and glowing streetlamps combine to create a charged, electric quality. Long exposures heighten the effect and give even the most banal office park a tinge of unreality.
Who’s Your City?
By Richard Florida
Basic Books, 334 pp., $26
Florida received heaps of publicity for his 2002 book, The Rise of the Creative Class, which argued that high concentrations of arty types and gay men help spur economic development and urban regeneration. Regardless of your feelings about that book—and many criticized it—there was at least a provocative idea at its core. Florida’s new book, by contrast, spins 16 chapters out of a very flimsy premise: that where we choose to live makes a big difference in the quality of our lives. Well, duh. While this may run counter to some world-is-flat economic theories, it never contradicts common sense, and his pop-economist prose—cluttered with coinages like “the spiky world”—rarely delves much deeper than the book’s explanatory subtitle.
Outdoors: The Garden Design Book
for the Twenty-first Century
By Diarmuid Gavin and Terence Conran
Monacelli Press, 271 pp., $60
This is a big book, and there’s a lot of information here—about planting techniques, garden boundaries, views, wildlife, water, light-ing, furniture, and even outdoor entertainment centers. The authors are not particularly concerned with practical details; nowhere are you told how to tend to a seedling, what kind of fertilizer to buy, or how to build a greenhouse. And the writing occasionally lapses into ridiculous generalizations. (“The nature of gardening is changing in quite a radical way for all sorts of reasons, mostly to do with contemporary living.”) No matter: the focus here is inspiration, and the 350 color photographs should provide more than enough for anyone who has the urge (and the real estate) to create his or her own backyard Eden.
Christian Lacroix on Fashion
By Christian Lacroix, Patrick Mauriès,
and Olivier Saillard
Thames & Hudson, 240 pp., $65
The French designer mined the archives of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, in Paris, for this quirky personal history of fashion. Most of the 26 chapters present a theme—from stripes and plaids to lamé, cobwebs, and more amorphous ideas like “The Forgotten Couturier”—and then trace its incarnation in women’s clothing from the seventeenth century to the present. (Lacroix’s own designs are included too; they are always the wildest.) For fashion students and enthusiasts, it’s an entertaining tour of the history of haute couture as well as a revealing glimpse into the inspiration for Lacroix’s exuberantly flamboyant creations.