The Images of Architects
By Valerio Olgiati
By Morten Wilhelm Scholz
"The Images of Architects" by Swiss architect Valerio
Olgiati is a mapping of the landscape of creativity and artistic
heritage of contemporary architects. It is a collection of the
images that appear before the mind's eye of leading architects when
they think of architecture.
Swiss architect Valerio Olgiati (born 1958) - the author of this book - has sat out on a mission to map the mindscape of contemporary architecture armed with a seemingly simple questions to his fellow architects.
Quoted from the first page of The Images of Architects:
I asked architecs to send me important images that show the basis of their work. Images that are in their head when they think. Images that show the origin of their architecture./Valerio Olgiati, The Images of Architecture
Valerio Olgiati continues to define his book as a collection of
44 individual "musées imaginaires". Though not stated in Olgiati's
text the musée imaginaire (often translated as "the museum without
walls" or simply "the imaginary museum") is a reference to the
French author and art theorist André Malraux (1901-1976), and his
concept of the musée imaginaire as the ideal personal art museum
that each of us carries around in our minds; it is our own
selection - the works that mean the most to each of us, the works
we truly admire.
In Malraux original concept and in Olgiati's use thereof lies an understanding of the value of dialogue. Dialogue between individual works of art. Dialogue between the musée imaginaires and the architects that carry them in their head. In the largest possible context this dialogue is going on between the world and architecture itself.
In Olgiati's own words:
As individual collections, they present a personal view of an individual world, while as a whole they provide a universal view of the perceptible origin of contemporary architecture./Valerio Olgiati, The Images of Architecture
The Images of Architects is a book of images. Except from the extremely short preface, short biographies of the contributing architects and a register, the book only contains images. The format is quite small, the book tall and chunky, leaving just enough space for the images - displaced one per page centered on the upper half - to act as icons.
The publication works it magic on quite a few levels despite the deceivingly simple approach. First a sneak preview inside the creative minds of some of the leading architects in the world. Second a manifest to the power of influences and dialogue. Third - this part is really fun and challenging - a quiz in architecture and art history (using the credits list is definitely cheating). Fourth a reminder that different minds run on different fuel.
The images chosen by the participating architects rage from the obvious: buildings, details, plans, and sketches (quite a few done by the architects themselves) to the utterly abstract: portraits, graphics, collages, works of art, and metaphors. Most administer their musée imaginaire as seemingly individual images connected by some kind of (more or less visible) inner logic (e.g. Steven Holl whose collection span all the arts but placed together somehow still make perfect sense). Other logics are easier to spot (e.g. Jürgen Meyer who is all about pattern recognition, Sou Fujimoto who contrast cityscapes with jungles). A few are very strict (Winy Mass of MVRDV shows only one gray page, Preston Scott Cohen shows the same derelict steel bridge shot in ten slightly different perspectives).
In the end one image is left behind from the 44 musées
imaginaires. The image of how unique the human brain is.
"The Images of Architects" is not a book of answers, but a book of questions. Therein lies its strength.
10.5 x 19.4 cm, 335 colour and b/w illustrations, thread-stitched cloth binding
You can buy the book here.
Last updated: December 19, 2013
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