New and notable books on architecture, culture, and design.

Industrial Design Techniques and Materials
Edited by Raymond Guidot
Éditions Flammarion, 352 pp., $39.95

Consumer products differ from sausages in one important respect: learning about their production actually heightens our appreciation of them. The authors of this volume on the nitty-gritty of industrial design include a mathematician, a professor, and an engineer, but they largely eschew textbook wonkery for compelling condensed histories of the elements of our material world, from simple ceramics to injection-molded fiber-reinforced polyurethane foam. Although the final chapter rightly emphasizes that the future of industrial design lies with sustainability, the book’s form belies the point with a plasticized paper serigraph cover that emits a heady chemical smell along with glitter that transfers from the page edges onto readers’ thumbs.

Poul Kjærholm: Furniture Architect
By Michael Sheridan
Designed by Michael Jensen
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 224 pp., $50

“Furniture architect” sounds slightly preposterous, but it is a fitting description of Danish designer Poul Kjærholm, whose now-iconic chairs and tables were crafted with a keen interest in the dialogue between furniture and the spaces it occupies. This catalog for a major retrospective at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art reveals his working methods through sketches, photos, and six insightful essays. “Kjærholm sought to create nothing less than archetypes, pieces of furniture that were reduced to their essential form,” Sheridan writes. This required not just purity of vision but an intense commitment to craftsmanship and materials.

Sustainable Living: 25 International Examples
By Dominique Gauzin-Müller
Designed by Isabel Gautray and
Christine Dodos-Ungerer
Birkhäuser, 160 pp., $65

The author celebrates the diversity of the ecological home with 25 case studies of international residences organized around sustainable concepts. But it’s the importance of building locally that plays out most in each of her selections. Lavish ­photographs illustrate houses that are beautifully situated in their local environs, whether a historic neighborhood or a limestone plateau, and show the use of some surprising materials such as straw bales and sandbags. Gauzin-Müller includes a checklist of recommendations for building a sustainable home as well as a list of print and Web resources.

History Images
Photography and design by Sze Tsung Leong
Steidl, 144 pp., $90

The sky is always gray in Leong’s new monograph—­his first—which collects 131 photographs of Chinese cities taken between 2002 and 2005. Often a thin fog floats amid the bland residential complexes, rubble-strewn slums, and ghostly construction sites that are his favored subjects—unsettling visions of a new China shouldering aside the old. “The underlying dynamic is not one of evolution but of radical fracture,” Stephen Shore writes in the epilogue. Yet the photos feel paused, hesitant, even funereal. People are rarely glimpsed, and when they are they look vague and unreal next to the crisp white towers rising from the fog.

Ten Shades of Green: Architecture and the Natural World
By Peter Buchanan
Designed by Asya Palatova
Architectural League of New York, 128 pp., $24.95

A companion volume to Buchanan’s 2000 exhibition, this book reinforces the devastating impact of building on the environment and the immediate need for innovative sol-utions. The author delineates ten essential elements to eco-building—the “shades of green”—by documenting examples of outstanding sustainable architecture and charting their correspondence to his criteria. By internationally renowned and up-and-coming firms, these buildings demonstrate sustainability’s potential to infuse architecture with a new creative vigor while preserving the planet for future generations.

UN Studio: Design Models—Architecture Urbanism Infrastructure
By Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos
Designed by Bloemendaal & Dekkers
Rizzoli International, 400 pp., $75

With an ambitious new museum for Mercedes-Benz under its belt, UN Studio is due for a reappraisal. Instead of a straightforward chronology, this monograph organizes projects from the husband-and-wife team’s first 17 years into five design-method categories. The firm’s best-known work—Rotterdam’s harplike Erasmus Bridge and the looping concrete and glass of the Möbius House—remains compelling today, and its unrealized projects reflect a rigorous approach to digitally designed architecture. A charming series of “positive notes” softens the opaque language of the two framing essays, offering advice like, “Architecture does take up a lot of space, so the least you can do is to say something.”

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