Camille Khouri reviews three recent architecture books.
In Search of Bawa: Master Architect of Sri Lanka
By David Robson, photography by Sebastian Posingis.
Published by Talisman Publishing.
Geoffery Bawa was an enigmatic Sri Lankan architect whose work is scattered around the island of Colombo. Acting as both a traveller’s handbook for viewing his work and a kind of eulogy, the book begins with a detailed introduction that describes his life and the progression of his career up until his death in 2003. It is illustrated with some great personal photographs of the architect as a child and as a student at Cambridge, where he seems to have had a lot of style and grace, always impeccably dressed.
Beyond the introduction, the book features those Bawa buildings that still stand today in, or close to, their original state (many have either been demolished or altered beyond recognition). The buildings are impressive, and the photography draws you into the open, leafy outdoor spaces and the high timber ceilings of a number of the interiors.
As the book says, Bawa’s “main preoccupation was the choreography of space – the space within a building, the space surrounding it and the connections between the two.”
Simon Devitt’s Rannoch
By Simon Devitt.
The prolific architectural and art photographer Simon Devitt has photographed both the artwork and the personal spaces within Rannoch, the rambling four-storeyed Mt Eden mansion where philanthropist and art collector Sir James Wallace resides and stores his collection.
The images are preceded by a two-page foreword by David Herkt, which describes the bulding’s history, its meaning for Sir James Wallace and its place in the story of Auckland society, as a venue for public events and an exhibition gallery. Interestingly, this is the only commentary; the images are otherwise allowed to speak for themselves.
Even without captions, Devitt’s arrangement and juxtaposition of images speaks volumes. The quirkiness of the artworks and how they are presented, as well as the voyeuristic quality of looking at Sir James Wallace’s personal arrangements, make this an interesting book.
Where Architects Stay: Lodgings for Design Enthusiasts
By Sibylle Kramer. Published by Braun.
If you want to get lost for a couple of hours while simultaneously doubling the items on your bucket list, this is the book for you. From the very first page, you will be drawn into the images of unusual, often sculptural and dynamic abodes and their myriad settings, from an earth-textured concrete room in Spain to the Hobbit-ish cyclindrical rooms of a home in Denmark, to an angular Slovenian mountain hut.
An eco-villa has been created from the ruins of an abandoned 18th century building in Greece, and the final feature is a cantilevered alpine refuge in Italy that resembles the body of an airplane that looks to have crashed into the mountain face. All the buildings featured in the book are able to be inhabited, even if only for an hour or so, but I feel as though – for most architects and design enthusiasts – the title might relate to more of a dream than a possibility.