Saturday, February 16, 2013

28 in 28 #16+17: Two DOM Architectural Guides

February is Book Month on A Daily Dose of Architecture. The "28 in 28" series features a different book every day of the month.

Japan Architectural Guide by Botond Bognar
DOM Publishers, 2013
Paperback, 552 pages

Taiwan Architectural Guide by Ulf Meyer
DOM Publishers, 2012
Paperback, 268 pages

In a recent review of a "construction and design manual" on townhouses, I mentioned that DOM Publishers has been releasing well made architectural guides since the Berlin-based imprint started business in 2005. Their geographical subjects are not always obvious, such as their two-volume guide to Pyongyang, North Korea. These two recent guides to Japan and Taiwan extend the publisher's interest in Asia. Japan is an obvious choice, given the high quality and popularity of architects in the country and the large number of cultural institutions that have built stunning buildings well outside of Tokyo. Taiwan is a more questionable choice, but as we'll see the guide is as much about the future of the country as is it about its past. Each guide documents contemporary buildings well, but they are not limited to 21st century buildings; they reach back as far as the early 20th century up to the present.

[Japan guide spread]

One of the best things about DOM's architectural guide to Japan is that Botond Bognar is the author. He is a preeminent scholar of Japanese architecture, having written other guides and numerous monographs and other books on Japanese architects. A lengthy essay on the "course of contemporary Japanese architecture" is a valuable introduction to a sweeping guide that covers the country from tip to tip, from Hokkaido to Okinawa. Over 700 buildings are included in his guide, though not all of them are illustrated, and those that aren't are given fairly short descriptions. The norm is like the spread above, with generous text and photographs; the former tend to be formal descriptions, though they are much deeper at times, and the latter are sometimes accompanied by drawings for greater understanding.

Also evident in the above spread are QVR codes that allow iPhone users to locate the buildings on Google Maps. In this sense the book bridges the print and digital realms, though I'm guessing that future guides will have increasingly greater content included in the scanned content, and likewise less content in print. Right now the codes exist to give readers a chance to get directions from one address to the location of the building, meaning that the maps in the book can be more general, orienting the buildings in the city but less concerned with their precisely detailed locations.

[Taiwan guide spread]

The same QVR codes are found in the earlier Taiwan guide by Ulf Meyer (the author of two other DOM architectural guides—Helsinki and Tokyo). With the same publisher it's no surprise that there is this sort of consistency, something that extends to the page layout, evidenced by comparing the above two spreads. As mentioned at the beginning, one of the main differences between the two guides is the way the Taiwan guide includes a lot of future projects. These include OMA's Taipei Performing Arts Centre, Reiser + Umemoto's Taipei Pop Music Centre, and Toyo Ito's Taichung Metropolitan Opera House, the most notable among many others. This is not to say that the buildings in Taipei and other cities in Taiwan are lacking notable buildings; the country has elevated the outside influence through the commission of well known architects, and these are the projects that will shape Taiwan's future and put it even more on the architectural map.