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I love these ten “rules of thumb” painted on the wall of furniture-maker Wendell Castle’s studio, and hope that more than one apply to Princeton Architectural Press books. At least number seven: “If it’s off-beat or surprising, it’s probably useful,” I think that’s a pretty fair description of most of what we do.
Lebbeus Woods (1940–2012)
Of the architects we’re proudest to have published first, and often, Lebbeus Woods is surely near or at the top of that list. Starting in 1989 with his monograph, OneFiveFour, we subsequently published War and Architecture (1993), Radical Reconstruction (1997), and The Storm and the Fall (2004). All feature Lebbeus’ well-known and inimitable drawings, kinetic lines so full of energy that they seem to lift the architecture he so vividly imagined clean off the page. Sadly, I spoke with Lebbeus ten days ago about a new book, this one a history of post-WWII architecture, told from his unique insights as one of the great architectural visionaries of our times. He sounded strong and in good spirits (he’s been ill for some time), and excited about nearing completion of a major built work, a sky lobby in a project in China planned by his close friend, Steven Holl. I hope we’ll be publishing his just-finished history in the next year or so—stay tuned here for details. Although it will be his last printed book, his influence is deeply imprinted in the architectural and visual culture of the early twenty-first century and in legions of devoted students. I can state with certainty that, as sorely as he will be missed, you haven’t heard the last from Lebbeus Woods: he will be with us for a very long time to come.
There are many levels of satisfaction that come from working at Princeton Architectural Press. In addition to working with an insanely talented group of people, there is the simple thrill and sense of pride that accompanies each new book that arrives from the printer. In spite of dummies, color lasers, PDFs, and paper and binding material samples, we really don’t know how a title is actually going to come out, so there’s always some nervous anticipation and, almost every time, elation that the finished book exceeds our highest expectations. It’s the thrill any maker, whether architect, chef, furniture maker, or craftsperson experiences when a project is finally complete. As much as we create these beautiful objects because we love them and believe in what they say, there’s another adrenaline rush that comes when the book finds its audience: gets reviewed, blogged or “tweeted” about, and, in the best of all possible worlds, flies off the shelf. There’s a kind of vindication here: we’re not simply making these handsome, interesting books for ourselves, there is, indeed, an audience for what we do, and sometimes a surprisingly large and enthusiastic one.
Pedro Guerrero (1917–2012)
I was surprised and saddened to read in the paper this morning an obituary on Pedro Guerrero, the eminent architectural photographer and subject of our book Pedro Guerrero: A Photographer’s Journey. In addition to being a prodigiously talented photographer, primarily of Frank Lloyd Wright and his work and, later, Louise Nevelson’s and Alexander Calder’s, Guerrero tells in his book how he stumbled into his career through a combination of luck and naiveté, one that echoes with how I ended up in publishing, which further piqued my interest in this book when it first came in. In addition to the fascinating story of Guerrero’s life, his book offers rare glimpses into the lives of many of our most famous artists: Calder’s over-crowded living room and jumble-sale studio and Nevelson’s spartan monkish bedroom. That these artists felt comfortable inviting Guerrero into the spaces of their private lives says as much about his skills as a person as his beautiful photographs do his expertise as a photographer. There is no doubt that the worlds of architecture and photography are poorer today following the loss of this generous and talented man.
Harris, New York, seems an unlikely place for an art exhibition, especially one of the caliber of The Harris Observatory, by Philadelphia-based artist Richard Torchia. Situated in the southwest corner of the Catskills, in a landscape of dense forests dotted by small enclaves of boarded-up storefronts and factories, prisons, and fallen-into-disrepair summer cottages, many Jewish summer-camps with uncomfortable visual echoes of concentration camps, The Harris Observatory occupies a twenty-foot high geodesic dome building on the campus of The Center for Discovery, a residential and learning community for children and adults with significant mental and physical disabilities.