My favorite book of 2012 is a follow-up to my favorite book of 2011. Both are a collection of essays written by Tom Lubbock that appeared in his weekly column at The Independent. Whereas last year’s Great Works examined painted masterpieces of Western art, English Graphic narrows the focus to smaller works in ink, drawings, and engravings produced in England—work seldom seen in the public eye. Typically no more than four to five pages each, these essays shimmer with sparkling wit and startling observations. Lubbock possesses the supreme gift of making obscure works seem familiar and familiar works seem fresh. In these pages, towering giants of English graphic arts like William Blake, William Hogarth, and Aubrey Beardsley rub shoulders with lesser-known geniuses such as George Romney, Francis Towne, and Thomas Cartwitham. Lubbock’s prose is masterful, and his keen examinations of artistic technique reveal how these images manage to firmly take hold in our imaginations.
Based on drawings from the Le Corbusier Foundation’s archives, Steven Park’s book contains new plans, sections, and elevations for 26 houses designed by the master French architect. Iconic buildings such as the Pavillon de l’espirit nouveau, Maison de l’homme, and Villa Savoye make their appearances. Park provides a brief history of each building and its program; however, the architectural renderings are the star of the book. Each of Le Corbusier’s houses is shown in exterior perspectives, sectional perspectives, sub-divisional plans, site plans, floor plans, and elevations from every cardinal direction. In particular, the sectional perspectives excel at showing how Le Corbusier conceived each building as dynamic spaces where the interior and exterior unify to create “machines for living in.” Steven Park’s minimal draftsmanship is beautiful, and the clarity of the drawings allows Le Corbusier’s architectural genius to shine through.
I’m a sucker for books on tree houses, and TASCHEN’s Tree Houses: Fairy Tale Castles in the Air may be the best global survey of tree houses yet published. No longer relegated to the simple cobbled-together caprices of our youth, the tree houses of today are undergoing a revival of interest for those seeking sophisticated natural retreats, many designed by leading architects. Philip Jodidio’s introduction charts the history of these gravity-defying arboreal structures, and the playful illustrations by Patrick Hruby that accompany each tree house are a joy to behold. Finally, a coffee table book on tree houses that is worthy of your coffee table!