Books with Holes

Think of books with holes cut through the pages -- not children's books, mind you -- and probably nothing comes to mind. But I couldn't help trying to recall other books with holes after seeing Columbia GSAPP's Abstract 2010-11. While I'm boggled by the potato gracing the cover, it's clear that three differently sized circles are cut through the entire book, cover to cover.

[Abstract 2010-11 | image source]

The first book that came to mind, one I actually used to own, is Chora L Works, which documents Peter Eisenman and Jacques Derrida's competition entry for Parc de la Villette in Paris. Square holes are cut through the book until it's midway point, where full pages create color backdrops for the cutouts. The diagonal grid of red squares are those cutouts. It's a frustrating book, since the cutouts don't relate to the page layout (minus some of the drawings), so words are missing from the already difficult text. No wonder I got rid of it, and no wonder the average Amazon rating is 1.5 stars.

[Chora L Works | image source]

Another title that comes to mind is a forthcoming book by ORO Editions that I saw a mock-up of at the AIA Convention in May: Hour 25: HKU Architecture Papers. The book is quite a bit more complex in how it cuts through the book's pages. Two semi-circles are cut into each page about a thickened line that is rotated a few degrees relative to the previous and succeeding page. The cover below makes it clear how this line then rotates clockwise a full 360 degrees from front to back. But the sample pages to the right indicate that the semi-circles were taken into account in the page layout; on pages with text the paragraphs actually follow the circles' arcs.

[Hour 25: HKU Architecture Papers | image source]

Thanks to an anonymous comment, another book with holes is Koolhaas Houselife, which is actually a DVD and companion book. (My previous blog post on the film by Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine) Both are about OMA's House in Bordeaux, which features, among other things, circular windows; the cover sees the house's caretaker cranking open one of these oculi. The circular cut through some of the book's pages enable the dvd to be nested within the book.

[Koolhaas Houselife | image source]

Per Trevor's comment, here is a look at Jonathn Safran Foer's Tree of Codes. The publisher's descriptions says the book has "a different die-cut on every page ... Initially deemed impossible to make, the book is a first — as much a sculptural object as it is a work of masterful storytelling. ... Inspired to exhume a new story from an existing text, Jonathan Safran Foer has taken his "favorite" book, The Street of Crocodiles by Polish-Jewish writer Bruno Schulz, and used it as a canvas, cutting into and out of the pages, to arrive at an original new story ..."

[Tree of Codes | image source]

If you can think of other architecture-related "books with holes" please comment. I'd love to add more to this post.


  1. Beautiful books!

    Well, you asked : for my Architectue diploma, in 1990, I made a book with a hole. That was a sandwich with 3 books as the ham, and 2 glass plates as the bread, with a screl in the middle. All the layout inside was playing with the hole, but I have no pictures on the inside.
    For sure, it was not published. But I made 13 of them.

    check here :

    Kind regards,

    Antoine Carolus
    Architecture teacher
    Nancy, France

  2. Koolhaas Houselife, the book! One hole on the cover, one big hole inside and 3 holes on the back...

  3. I came across the chance to preview the last book [Hour25] some days ago in Hong Kong. as far as i understand, the spiral topography resembles the clock as 2 pages = 8 minute = 2 degree rotation. So the book is 360 + 15 = 375 pages to form 24 + 1 = 25 hours.

    seen more here :


    1. Thanks for the clarification, S. It's always good to see a formal maneuver like those holes/cuts relate to something rather than being arbitrary.

  4. I can only support such challenging experiments with the traditionl body of a book- I guess books need to respond to the needs and expectations to th ereaders, the way e-books are doing it. Even the most traditional things in our life can be turned into art, into innovation and dare.

  5. Award for book with most holes has to go to Tree of Codes, Jonathn Safran Foer's "editing" of Bruno Schulz' The Street of Crocodiles.

  6. Check out Olafur Eliassons "Your House"