READING Archives - The General Aesthete

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Kenzō Tange: Architecture for the World

Inspired by Le Corbusier, a young student named Kenzō Tange studied architecture at University of Tokyo in the 1930s; he proceeded to become one of the preeminent architects of the twentieth-century, designing major buildings on five continents. Tange’s unique approach to interpreting traditional Japanese styles through modernism resulted in him being considered the first non-Western architect whose works would be embraced as universal in their value.

Assembled and edited by Seng Kuan and Yukio Lippit, in cooperation with Harvard University Graduate School of Design, this book, Kenzō Tange: Architecture for the World, is a comprehensive study of Tange’s philosophy and contributions to the history of architecture. Archival drawings, period photographs, essays, and case studies explore the diversity and influence of Tange’s work. The book chronicles his most celebrated projects, as well as his collaborations that extended to allied fields such as engineering, furniture design, and photography. In addition to illustrating the great diversity of Tange’s career, the book paints a picture of the progression of architecture and urbanism that took place in postwar Japan.

There is no question that Tange, who continued to work into his later years, and died in 2005, helped define Japan’s post-WWII emergence into modernism. The architect gained international attention as an urban planner in 1949 when his design for the Hiroshima Peace Center and Memorial Park was selected as part of the country’s plan to rebuild Hiroshima. Throughout the 1950s, Tange worked in the field of urban planning, his Plan for Tokyo 1960 reconsidered urban structures as Japan knew them, and was hugely influential to the Metabolist movement. For the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Tange designed the Yoyogi National Gymnasium, for which he won a Pritzker Prize; the citation describing the gymnasium as “among the most beautiful buildings of the twentieth century.”

Available at: Lars Müller

Encyclopedia of Flowers

Makoto Azuma is an artist that works in the medium of plant life and flowers. His installations, where plant form is experimented, have been very well received in the art community. Additionally, his Tokyo shop, Jardin des Fleurs, where he stands as “haute couturier” of flowers, produces arrangements of variable scale and function. With Shunsuke Shiinoki behind the lens, Azuma has produced an extraordinary book, Encyclopedia of Flowers.

Don’t let the name fool you, this is no standard reference book with stock images, rather, a stunning visual guide to over two thousand species, indexed scientifically, and ordered into five sections: Whole, Flock, Coexistence, Hybrid, and Appearance. The composition and photography is outstanding, and in many cases, the richness of colour on the page is striking. Use of unexpected (or unknown) plants, with parts of the plant you don’t typically see integrated into the arrangement, make for fascinating visuals.

This remarkable “encyclopedia” is equally at home with a lover of nature, art, flowers, or photography; but by opening it up, you’ll certainly appreciate the combination of all of these aspects.

$85, available at Lars Müller Publishers

Oak by Stephen Taylor

Oak is artist Stephen Taylor’s three year study of a single, 250-year-old oak tree that stands in Essex, England. Shortly after the deaths of his mother and close friend, Taylor focused on producing multiple paintings of this oak tree over a three year period, in as many conditions as nature provided, changing seasons, and changing light. Not only is this an elegant project in observation and contemplation, but Taylor’s words and images leave the reader with a sense of appreciation for nature and its strength, as well as the artist’s process.

It’s also worth noting that Oak includes a forward by the brilliant Alain de Botton, with whom Taylor worked on The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work.

Woodcut by Bryan Nash Gill

Bryan Nash Gill is a Connecticut-based artist who creates relief prints from cross sections of fallen or damaged wood, as well as tree’s burls, knots, and branches. In his book Woodcut, Gill’s large-scale prints are reproduced in a more humble format, on handsome matte-finish paper. The detailed prints are not only mesmerizing, but serve as a recorded history of each tree’s life. As children, we often find trees fascinating, from their grandeur to the science of their rings; in this book, the poignancy of a tree’s story is revisited and honored through the artist’s craft.

In addition to an eloquent introduction by Verlyn Klinkenborg, the book also allows Gill to describe the labor-intensive, often difficult printmaking process he employs.

More at: Bryan Nash Gill

Wilder Quarterly

Wilder Quarterly is a new print publication that explores the modern world of gardening, amateur to expert, it is a celebration of plants, soil, food, and everything surrounding the horticulturally inclined community. From renegade growers (think rooftop gardening), to Norway’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault, the magazine’s features are as varied as they are niche. Printed seasonally, this journal is not a throwaway; beautifully composed, Wilder Quarterly also stands for the value of print, and the authenticity of tactile word and image.

A one-year subscription is available for $60 (a portion of which is donated to the Fresh Air Fund), newsstand price is $19.

Current issue, subscriptions, and a lovely blog at: Wilder Quarterly

Port Magazine

PORT is a recently launched men’s quarterly, that, in just three issues, has secured a solid spot amongst the best of highbrow publications, as well as a dedicated shelf in my collection. Influenced by sixties magazine style, PORT offers in-depth material presented in a very smart package. With thoroughly considered art direction, the magazine has accomplished a rare feat of coinciding its style and identity with the quality of its content. Though the approach may be old-school, or simple in format, it is a modern idea in relation to genre-similar publications, which seem to be in competition for how glossy, disposable, and pedestrian they can be. PORT shows restraint in all the right places, and it is clear that the team behind it have applied their backgrounds and design strengths to create a thoroughly polished final product.

PORT is not backed by a major publisher, allowing creative freedom in terms of content and opinion. The composition consists of a range of pieces, from essays and interviews, to short stories and perfectly arranged photography. Subjects, such as fashion, politics, technology, and the arts, cover the bases without reaching beyond the scope of reader’s interest. Contributors have included art critic Robert Hughes, Margaret Howell, Martin Amis, Daniel Day-Lewis, Jon Snow, and ex-Time editor Don Morrison, this collection speaks to the dignified voice PORT offers.

PORT is edited and art directed in London by Dan Crowe, Kuchar Swara, and Matt Willey.