Rigorous and Touching: Peter Bohlin’s Book List

By Steve Kroeter June 5, 2012

Peter Bohlin

Architect Peter Bohlin: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (Wilkes-Barre, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco)

Profile     Book List

Architect Peter Bohlin has given us the elegant glass cubes and steel spirals that have defined Apple stores from New York City to Shanghai. At the same time, he and his firm, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, are known for public commissions such as the visitor center in Grand Teton, Wyoming; civic and academic projects including Seattle City Hall and buildings for Williams College and Carnegie Mellon’s Engineering Institute; and many private residences in wood and stone across the United States that are sensitively integrated into the landscape they occupy. The range of these accomplishments can be seen, most recently, in Bohlin’s book The Nature of Circumstance (2010, Rizzoli International Publications and ORO Editions).

The Nature of Circumstance, 2010 (Rizzoli International Publications and ORO Editions)

The body of work that Bohlin has realized over the past 45 years—for which he was awarded the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 2010—prompted architecture critic Paul Goldberger to describe him as a “romantic modernist, determined to use the form of modernism to achieve the emotional impact of traditionalism.”*

That this is true is as immediately evident in the books Bohlin lists as his “favorites” for Designers & Books as it is in his buildings. “Louis Kahn,” he writes in a comment on Kahn’s Conversations with Students, “has been my favorite American architect, producing work that is both rigorous and touching, of seeming inevitability and gravity yet emotionally laden. He is a man who can, in a project or words, make me tearful.” About a book on the Swedish modernist architect Sigurd Lewerentz from the Architectural Association (featuring a black sandpaper cover) he says, “The first Lewerentz project that I saw was the Flower Store in the cemetery near Malmö, Sweden. After that you never get Lewerentz out of your mind. I find his work so touching.” And he admires Australian architect Glenn Murcutt for his “precise care and thoughtfulness,” citing Murcutt’s book of drawings, Thinking Drawing/Working Drawing, which shows “the drawn string to his work.”

Arcadian Architecture, 2005 (Rizzoli International Publications)

Bohlin writes in the foreword to a 2005 book on houses designed by his firm entitled Arcadian Architecture (Rizzoli International Publications): “We believe in an architecture that springs from the nature of circumstance . . . the nature of its place, whether natural or man-made—the tilt and warp of the land, the sun and wind, rain and snow, its attitude, its spirit, the marks of man on a place, a dense urban world or a landscape that reveals its geological past and vestiges of man’s hand . . . the nature of man—our senses, how we move, how we touch, our intellect and our emotions…” In this spirit, Bohlin cites Finnish architect, theorist, and educator (and Designers & Books contributor) Juhani Pallasmaa’s landmark publication The Eyes of the Skin, which explores the role of the body and senses in architecture. Bohlin comments that Pallasmaa’s book is “particularly valuable and appropriate now. Not many people talk about what he talks about—not many people could—and even fewer can put that into actual practice.” The same could well be said of Peter Bohlin.

*Quoted in Peter Bohlin’s Profile

View Peter Bohlin’s Profile     View Peter Bohlin’s Book List

comments powered by Disqus