Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Book Review: Zaha Hadid: Pierres Vives

Zaha Hadid: Pierres Vives
Written by Zaha Hadid Architects, Edited by Stephane Hof, Photographed by Helene Binet
Skira Rizzoli, 2013
Hardcover, 108 pages


At its most general a book presenting a single building consists of three parts: text, photos, and drawings. Each area is aimed at giving readers a greater understanding of a place they may never experience firsthand. A book cannot replicate the body's movement through space or the ability to feel a surface's texture and temperature, but it can use writing and images to describe these and other qualities of a building. It goes without saying that one area—text, photos, or drawings—will outweigh the other in bulk and importance.

With the ever-increasing reliance upon photos to share a building and its architect with others, it's no surprise that this book on Zaha Hadid's Pierres Vives building in Montpellier, France, is loaded with photos of the building, and many of Hélène Binet's color and b/w photos are full-page and full-bleed. The photos account for about 95% of the book, since Hadid's text is only 2 pages and 8 pages of drawings are provided. But rather than serving to give readers an understanding of the building—in terms of orientation within the circulation and other spaces, for example—the uncaptioned photos serve to capture the spirit of Hadid's design as it permeates every part of the building, from the concrete-and-glass elevations to the undulating ceilings inside. They capture a building that Hadid describes in her text as "a light gray concrete futuristic ship softened by a network of colored glass grooves."

At only 108 large (11"x11") pages, the book would be pretty slim, but triple-ply chip board covers pad the book, actually making up about half of the book's thickness. The pages are cut trim to the covers, making for a handsome book that also features gold cardstock for the first few pages at the front and back of the book. Unfortunately these pages are where the text and drawings are located, and the black-on-gold and gold-on-black information can be a strain on the eyes. But of course the focus is on the photos that sit in between, in an attempt to position the building alongside other Hadid buildings given similar treatment.