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Monday, June 13, 2011

Book Review: Rafael Moneo: Remarks on 21 Works

Rafael Moneo: Remarks on 21 Works by Rafael Moneo, with photographs by Michael Moran, edited by Laura Martínez de Guereñu
The Monacelli Press, 2010
Softcover, 668 pages

In the preface to José Rafael Moneo's book highlighting 21 of his completed buildings from 1973-2007, the Spanish architect asserts that "it is a chronicle of the theoretical concerns of the discipline at the time these projects were built." This approach, which makes this book less a traditional monograph and more a reflection on architecture in a larger context, links the book to Moneo's earlier Theoretical Anxiety and Design Strategies in the Work of Eight Contemporary Architects. The insight he levied upon architects like Rem Koolhaas, Aldo Rossi, and Alvaro Siza are now turned inward to the inspirations, the design process, and the issues influencing his architecture. The essays are more than insightful; they are honest, intelligent, and varied in what they say, each catered to the projects as carefully as the buildings are crafted to their unique sites and circumstances. For a sampling see this week's dose, featuring five projects by Moneo.

The 21 projects are treated consistently throughout the book: a front page highlights the principle addressed in the project (the National Museum of Roman Art, for example, is "Building over what was built."); 10-30 pages follow with Moneo's essay alternating with relevant illustrations (drawings, photos, archival images); specially commissioned color photographs by Michael Moran round out each project. The last contributes to the consistency of the book and elevates the beauty of the book considerably. The book's structure also reads on the edges of the paper, a striping that combines with the orange linen cover to create a handsome volume. This structure also gives equal weight to each project; arranged chronologically no single project stands out above the rest as the best or most important. Therefore the principles that Moneo uses to preface each project become extremely important, helping readers navigate the issues spanning four decades. These principles also show the care in thought Moneo gives in this book, evident in his architecture as well as the way he presents it.

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