Monday, November 15, 2010


BOLLES+WILSON: A Handful of Productive Paradigms by Julia Bolles-Wilson and Peter Wilson
Münster 2009
Hardcover, 296 pages

Architects Julia Bolles-Wilson and Peter Wilson have been practicing together since the late 1980s. Their competition-winning central library for their home base of Münster, Germany catapulted them into the international architectural spotlight a few years later, thanks to a book-length study on the building and of course the library's design itself, a sort of urban microcosm. In BOLLES+WILSON's new monograph, featuring 25 years worth of buildings and projects, that library is acknowledged as "a base reference for subsequent projects." While later projects may not embody the library's structural expression, they extend its intelligent urbanism; their designs carefully respond to context, melding form and function with a diversity of urban conditions. This week's dose, the New City Library in Helmond (NL) is a good case in point; its facade is determined by the internal functions, which are influenced by their surroundings as much as their functions.

The importance of thinking about the urban public space that their projects are inserted into and modify comes across in two essays included in this monograph, one by each partner. Julia Bolles-Wilson touches upon just about every aspect of contemporary public space in her essay, and Peter Wilson discusses "lifestyle modernism" in an Australian context, coming at the end of a chapter presenting "elsewhere projects." The other chapters presenting their projects framed by the productive paradigms (mass / shadow / tectonic) include: Homebase (recent Münster buildings), Urban Choreography (everything from furniture to master plans), Floating Signifiers (pavilions and small buildings), Reading Places - Reading Architecture (libraries), and Rooms at the Hotel New York (Rotterdam development). Besides the separation between chapters--highlighted by light blue pages countering the brown cover--the projects run together seamlessly; only a box with titles and page numbers located in the upper left corner of each even-numbered page gives an indication of what project is being looked at. By grouping similar projects together, it is sometimes difficult to recognize the change from one project to another.

Quibbles with the book are minor but understandable, mainly that more length is given to recent buildings and projects than older ones. Therefore the Münster City Library receives only two pages, but ones that find their way onto people's radar via blogs and other publications in today's media-rich digital/print environments (e.g. Spuimarkt, Kaldewei) get at least thrice that. As well I'm not sure if the seamlessness of the presentation is intentional, but any confusion can obviously be alleviated by either a close-and-careful reading or as a succession of images; the first reading would benefit in places from more explanation in the text and captions, but visually one couldn't ask for more.