Architecture / Art / Parallels / Connections

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9780823002931: Architecture / Art / Parallels / Connections

A visual and intellectual tour de force, this stimulating, copiously illustrated book traces the parallels among painting, sculpture, and architecture through a broad selection of works and sites, both historical and contemporary. The author, an eminent architect, explores the common threads found in a variety of visual experiences. He begins by examining basic design principles as they are revealed in works of art, then relates those principles to a wide range of projects in both the built and unbuilt environment. Drawing his examples from many schools of art and architecture, he reveals his passion for particular works that have influenced his and others' architectural styles, citing world-famous paintings by Magritte and Czanne, traditional Japanese woodblock prints, farm structures of the American Midwest, and other powerful influences from diverse design arenas that impact on contemporary architecture.

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Review:

Squares, circles, columns, pyramids, grids, and the like are the vital constants of any kind of visual representation, appearing not only across eras and cultures but across such media as "fine" art and its more "applied" cousin, architecture. Californian Barry Berkus, a big-time architect as well as a major collector of modern art, is fascinated by how such elemental shapes and forms reflect each other in art and architecture, and in this beguilingly curated volume, a sort of personal scrapbook of the highest order, he explores just that. How? Largely by pairing sumptuous full-color photographs of his own architectural projects--the majority of which are lavish, fanciful, geometrically daring residences in the American Southwest--with some of the great pieces of modern and contemporary art, plus some shots of such lovely antiquities as Italian hillside villages and the whitewashed alleys of Mykonos. It's all in the interest of showing us how said elemental forms echo across time, regions, and craft; to those ends, we have the "female" curves of a charmingly sunny-hued OB-GYN office Berkus designed in Santa Barbara across from the abstracted curves of the woman in Picasso's 1932 Reading, or the archways of a garden court arcade he designed in 1989 for Villa Lucia, a private residence in Montecito, flush up against archways from the Roman ruins, or the one over the doorway in the gorgeously crumbling front façade of an old home in Torgiano, Italy.

Berkus's annotations are unremarkable--many of the ideas are general and overfamiliar, and it often reads somewhat like Rem Koolhaas without the wacked-out, idiot-savant lyricism. But no matter, as the real treasures of this book are the photos of Berkus's architecture itself. It's not without its common themes across projects--namely, a fondness for massing a toybox's worth of warmly colored basic shapes into improbably elegant, sprawling clusters--but it nonetheless dazzles in its diversity, and Berkus seems as comfortable and innovative designing in full-bore geometric-postmodern as he does in neo-Italianate villa or pueblo modular. Pair his own satisfying designs with his cosmopolitan appreciation of everyone and everything from Corbu, Calder, and the Case Study Homes to Zen temples, the agorae of ancient Greece, and the coolly ironic work of contemporary artists like Ed Ruscha and Ann Hamilton, and you have a palette that's at the very least a pleasant spree. At its best, though, it's a literate and often poignant study of those elements of the visual world we just can't stop coming back to. --Timothy Murphy

About the Author:

Barry A. Berkus lectures internationally on the future of the built environment, and is a frequent contributor to Architectural Digest, Residential Architect, Builder, and Professional Builder. The founder of B3 Architects + Planners, a firm with offices all over the world, he and his teams have won more than three hundred design and planning awards. He is based in Santa Barbara, California.

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