Sunday, August 18, 2019

A Matter of Art

A Matter of Art: Contemporary Architecture in Switzerland
Jacques Lucan (Editor) with Colette Raffaele, Guy Nicollier and Philippe Mivelaz, advised by Martin Steinmann
Birkhäuser, May 2001

Paperback | 8-1/4 x 10-3/4 inches | 208 pages | French/English | ISBN: 978-3764364458

Publisher Description:
Contemporary Swiss Architecture has gained considerable international reputation with stars such as Mario Botta, Herzog & de Meuron and Peter Zumthor being celebrated throughout the world. This book reviews the current architectural scene in Switzerland, analysing it from three contrasting perspectives. Examined are 18 individual buildings that are considered representative of the high quality of contemporary Swiss architecture. Subsequently, six chapters focus on specific features which are characteristic of this architecture. Concluding the volume are five essays by Joseph Abram, Jacques Lucan, Bruno Marchand, Stanislaus von Moos and Martin Steinmann, each providing illuminating analyses and setting the present-day situation in a historical context.
dDAB Commentary:
In my recent review of Forms of Practice, Irina Davidovici's scholarly analysis of Swiss architecture in the 1980s and 1990s, I mentioned that in those decades "Swiss architecture made a name for itself internationally." I learned about Mario Botta, Herzog & de Meuron, Diener & Diener, and Peter Zumthor in architecture school in the mid-1990s, and by the start of the next decade these and other Swiss architects were being celebrated in books and exhibitions. Swiss Made is a well-known example of the first, while A Matter of Art, an exhibition at Centre Culturel Suisse Paris, obviously falls into the latter camp. I did not know about the exhibition at the time, but I had a hard time passing up the handsome catalog when I came across it in a used bookstore many years later. Like Davidovici's book, A Matter of Art examines what makes contemporary Swiss architecture so appealing, but it does it in a more accessible way. I wrote about the book on my Unpacking My Library blog (now on indefinite hiatus) four years ago so am transcribing that commentary here:

"This book is a companion to an exhibition held at the Centre Culturel Suisse in Paris in 2001, a time when a number of Swiss architects were gaining international exposure. Nearly 15 years later, a few of the 16 architects collected in the book have gone onto even greater recognition. In particular these are Herzog & de Meuron, Peter Zumthor, and Valerio Olgiati. Yet many of the architects, while known by architects in other parts of the world, still practice primarily within the borders of their landlocked country. These include Brukhalter Sumi, Diener & Diener, Gigon/Guyer, Peter Märkli, Miller & Maranta, Livio Vacchini and others. The book addresses these two realms – the local and the global – and all these years later serves as a nice snapshot of some remarkable Swiss architecture. In addition to 16 buildings [not 18, as in the book description above] by the 16 architects are thematic essays, a few interviews, and some scholarly essays. One highlight is a section called 'the logic of plans' which finds some common strands between the architects by looking at floor plans of various buildings."

Author Bio:
Jacques Lucan is a practicing architect, Professor of Architectural Theory at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and co-chair of the ITHA (Institut de Théorie et d'Histoire de l'Architecture). He also teaches as the Ecole d'Architecture de la Ville et des Territoires in Marne-la-Vallée, France, and is on the editorial board of matières - a review published by ITHA.
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