Ten books on architecture and design issued in 2023

interior, salonemilano

"Bauhaus Style", published by Assouline - Ph. Mark R. Madonna

Monographs, illustrated volumes, essays for all design and architecture enthusiasts: a selection of (must-have) titles published this year

Here are the recent months’ most interesting books: from biographies and writings by pioneers of women’s design to an account of the “Bauhaus style”, an exploration of Brutalist Italy and an investigation of the emotional relationship between people and space conducted by two award-winning documentary filmmakers

salonemilano, libri, baldini castoldi

“I luoghi del design in Italia” by Antonella Galli and Pierluigi Masini, published by Baldini + Castoldi

The work of Antonella Galli and Pierluigi Masini, both long-time journalists, starts from an observation: Italy is the world’s largest design museum, a huge multi-site gallery in which coexist exhibition spaces, whether public or corporate, studio homes of famous designers and emblematic projects. In an essay that reads like a novel, the two authors accompany the curious reader to discover the roots of Italian creativity through fourteen stages, from the Parco dei Principi hotel in Sorrento designed by Gio Ponti in 1960 to the ADI Design Museum in Milan, where the winners of the Compasso d’Oro dialogue with the present.


aino e alvar aalto, heikki aalto-alanen, salonemilano

“Aino + Alvar Aalto: A Life Together” by Heikki Aalto-Alanen, published by Phaidon

Rivers of ink have already been written about Alvar Aalto and his architecture. And for some years now his wife Aino Marsio, an architect and designer herself and one of the founders of Artek with her husband and friends Maire Gullichsen and Nils-Gustav Hahl, has also begun to receive the editorial attention she deserves. This volume, however, edited by the couple’s grandson Heikki Aalto-Alanen, has the merit of focusing on the more private aspect of their partnership and recounting it through their voices. At the center of the story is a collection of private letters found in a trunk in the attic of Riihitie House, the Aaltos’ celebrated studio-home in Helsinki.

libri, brutalismo, salonemilano

“Brutalist Italy” by Roberto Conte and Stefano Perego, published by FUEL

There is a postcard Italy, dotted with Greco-Roman ruins and Renaissance and Baroque architecture with a reassuring charm. And then there is another Italy, that of the “washing machines” of the Pegli 3 housing complex, Kenzo Tange’s block-shaped buildings and other experimental reinforced concrete structures from the second half of the 20th century in the four corners of the Peninsula. Interesting structurally, they are more difficult to pigeonhole in the categories of “beautiful” and “ugly”. Architectural photographers Roberto Conte and Stefano Perego traveled over 20,000 kilometers, from north to south, and their black and white shots document some eighty examples of Italian Brutalism: a movement with different features from its North European counterparts, from its duration embracing the eighties to the incorporation of elements of the past.

ila beka, louise lemoine, libri, salonemilano

“The Emotional Power of Space” by Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine, published by Bêka & Partners

Bêka and Lemoine’s work moves on the boundary between cinema and architecture and deals with the use of public space (for example in the cities of the world, at the center of their investigation in the Homo Urbanus cycle) and private space (in houses designed by great architects such as Rem Koolhaas’ Villa Lemoine or Ryue Nishizawa’s Moriyama House). For the first time, the documentary duo presents not so much their projects as their vision, in a book produced and marketed directly, without relying on a publisher. The Emotional Power of Space brings together twelve conversations with twelve architects interested in architecture and the relation between people and the environment, from Álvaro Siza to Jacques Herzog, via Bijoy Jain and Anne Holtrop.

bauhaus, salonemilano, libri

“Bauhaus Style” by Mateo Kries, published by Assouline

It has passed the hundred-year mark but it is still very modern, and its influence on contemporary design and culture remains tangible. The Bauhaus, the movement founded by Walter Gropius and associated with the school of applied arts of the same name, set out to “strive for, conceive and create the new building of the future that will unite every discipline – architecture, sculpture and painting” (the words used by Gropius himself in the 1919 Manifesto). A revolutionary approach that was destined to be spread worldwide by the diaspora of teachers and students fleeing from Nazism. This colorful coffee-table book issued by the London-based publisher Assouline weighs up the “Bauhaus style” with texts by Mateo Kries, curator of the Vitra Design Museum, and a wealth of illustration.

salonemilano, libri, anni albers

“Sul design” by Anni Albers, published by Johan & Levi

The artistic and design career of Annelise Else Frieda Fleischmann began in the lecture rooms of the Bauhaus in Weimar. Better known as Anni Albers, she is remembered for her role as a pioneer of textile design. Johan & Levi here brings together in a volume, for the first time in Italian, fifteen essays written by her on different occasions using her own method, which closely resembled weaving. She composed sentences and paragraphs on a manual typewriter, on individual sheets of paper that she then glued together to form a continuous roll, free from the breaks typical of printed books

libri, 24 ore cultura, salonemilano

“Pattern & Design” curated by Anna Mainoli and Alessandra Coppa, published by 24 ORE Cultura

“Pattern” is an English term that derives from the Latin patronus or model, and indicates the repetition of a graphic element for decorative purposes. This impressive book, edited by Anna Mainoli and Alessandra Coppa, brings together for the first time the most significant examples of modern and contemporary design, from the rigorous textile geometries created by Anni Albers and Günta Stolz in the Bauhaus workshops to the eccentric patterns launched by Memphis in the eighties. The result is both a sort of handbook of forms, which may prove useful to today’s professionals, and a reinterpretation of the history of design as a continuous oscillation between minimalism and aesthetic maximalism.

libri, electa, salonemilano

Feminine, plural: the “Oilà” series edited by Chiara Alessi, published by Electa

Anna Castelli Ferrieri, Lica Covo Steiner, Lora Lamm... Women designers of the 20th century had to make their way in professions designed for men and made to their measure, struggling against social conventions and deep-seated prejudices. To them, and the other women who have distinguished themselves in the so-called creative professions, are dedicated these handy monographic volumes (they can be read in about 45 minutes) of the Oilà series, launched by the publisher Electa on 8 March and edited by Chiara Alessi. All the stories open with an image of an emblematic moment in the lives of these professionals or with a significant anecdote, and then delve into their biographies by drawing on their correspondence and diaries preserved in the archives.

einaudi, saloenmilano, libri

“L’architettura islamica” by Eric Broug, published by Einaudi

“If you want to know us, look at our buildings”: this is the text of a medieval inscription that Eric Broug, a passionate lover of Islamic geometric design, quotes at the start of his powerful photographic book, and which sounds rather like a declaration of intent. With its more than 300 illustrations, the book reminds us that the architecture of Islam is much more than majestic domes and minarets soaring skywards. By documenting the existence of a great variety of styles and reviewing a multitude of constructional devices adopted even outside the belt between the Maghreb and Central Asia, he gives us an image far from monolithic of the Islamic world and its culture.

salonemilano, libri, audrey large

Audrey Large. Metamorphosis Signals” by Barbara Brondi and Marco Rainò, published by Quodlibet

Amid so many legendary figures, there is also room for a designer who is young yet already established and highly appreciated internationally. Born in 1994 and a graduate of the Design Academy Eindhoven, Audrey Large independently creates physical 3D printed objects that look digital, with their geometries verging on the limits of the plausible and iridescent appearance. Constantly poised between the real and the immaterial, they trigger reflection on how deceptive perception can be, and how the myriads of virtual images in our society influence the way we approach what is actually entirely tangible. The monograph that Barbara Brondi and Marco Rainò, architects and curators, have devoted to the designer is bound up with her participation in the IN Residence creative residency program. A second volume, also published by Quodlibet, explores the work of the Norwegian Sigve Knutson.

15 November 2023