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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Half Dose #112: Graham Bookshop

On Tuesday, December 17, the Graham Foundation is launching a bookshop that occupies the former dining room of the foundation’s historic Madlener House on Chicago's Gold Coast. The bookshop is designed by local architect Ania Jaworska, an installation "comprised of four bold mesh structures that display books and periodicals from the fields of architecture, design, art, and culture," per the Graham Foundation.

[Views of the Graham Foundation bookshop designed by Ania Jaworska, Chicago, 2013. Photos by Travis Roozée.]

At first glance the design seems out of place, not so much for how it relates to the 1901 Prairie style mansion it occupies, but because the mesh forms – especially the arch in the foreground of the above photo – look like garden follies that want to be traversed by plants and/or people.

But when considered as a pop-up bookstore (therefore not permanent) launched in conjunction with Environments and Counter Environments. "Italy: The New Domestic Landscape,” MoMA, 1972 (curated by Peter Lang, Luca Molinari and Mark Wasiuta), the construction and forms seem more appropriate. In terms of the latter, there is a certain Postmodern flair to the forms that provides a strong link – intentionally or inadvertently – with the concurrent exhibition.

Per the architect: "The sheer effect of the material allows for books and objects to populate
the forms in which they become active variables in the installation, while maintaining a lightness
that allows the room to remain a visible and integral aspect of the work. The diamond pattern of the material alludes to the detail of the ornamental ceiling while its soft pale green color complements the warm tones of wood paneling."

I'll admit the "soft pale green color" was a surprise on reading, since the installation (built by Metal Magic) basically looks white. But a closer look at the photos, particularly the areas where the mesh overlaps itself to take precedence over the background, reveals the barely perceptible green. Even though the mesh is not the ideal surface for stacking books (if a permanent shop, people would be buying books with mesh imprints on the back cover after a while), the sawtooth formation is a great way to display book covers – twice as many than if the table were flat.


  1. A clever idea to build such wonderful art! I imagine myself to be in this place someday.

  2. Nice looking house and an interesting exhibit design, but this is a "Prairie style mansion"?

    1. Not sure that I agree, but a beautiful house nonetheless.


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