The Images of Architects
By Valerio Olgiati

August 06, 2013 /
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Images_Cover(Perspektive).jpg"The Images of Architects" by Swiss architect Valerio Olgiati. Cover. Image courtesy of Quart Publishers.

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.  Seite224-225-_ChristianKerez.jpgFrom the musée imaginaire of Christian Kerez. "The Images of Architects" by Swiss architect Valerio Olgiati. Image courtesy of Quart Publishers.

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). 

Seite122-123-_SouFujimoto.jpgFrom the musée imaginaire of Sou Fujimoto. "The Images of Architects" by Swiss architect Valerio Olgiati. Image courtesy of Quart Publishers

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.

Seite288-289-_JohnPawson.jpgFrom the musée imaginaire of John Pawson. "The Images of Architects" by Swiss architect Valerio Olgiati. Image courtesy of Quart Publishers.

Seite348-349-_AlvaroSizaVieira.jpgFrom the musée imaginaire of Alvaro Siza Vieira. "The Images of Architects" by Swiss architect Valerio Olgiati. Image courtesy of Quart Publishers.

Seite112-113-_RogerDiener.jpgFrom the musée imaginaire of Roger Diener. "The Images of Architects" by Swiss architect Valerio Olgiati. Image courtesy of Quart Publishers.

Buy from Amazon UK



Quart Publishers


Valerio Olgiati






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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